“If you believe in something, battle for it.” –Richard A. Weiland
Richard Weiland passed away January 19, at age 93, leaving behind his loving family and a legacy of activism and social justice.
Dick was born and raised in the Avondale neighborhood of Cincinnati in the heart of the Jewish community. His family was of Russian and Polish descent. “We were a very closely knit family, we had all our holidays together,” said Dick. In the first grade, he asked his parents to have his name legally changed from Alan Richard to Richard Alan because there were three other Alans in his class. He went on to Walnut Hills High School where he was on the varsity basketball and tennis teams and made a lifelong friend, the tennis immortal Tony Trabert. He also became the first Jew of Eastern European extraction to not only join but lead his fraternity, which had previously included only German Jews.
Dick first met his late wife Marcia when she was in the seventh grade and later proposed to her when she was a counselor at Camp Livingston. They raised three children: David, Jeanne, and Fred. Dick and Marcia loved to dance and were the life of any party they were part of.
Dick’s sense of justice, and willingness to fight for it, established itself early. He attended Williams College in Massachusetts and was soon leading change there. After being required to attend non-Jewish services, Dick asked the dean if he could lead Jewish services, and he became an “unofficial rabbi” on Friday nights for as many as one hundred and fifty Jewish and non-Jewish students.
He began his career as a lawyer practicing with his father and then evolved into real estate development. Following an incident of fraudulently charging for unauthorized fees and serving a brief stint in federal incarceration, Dick soon found a calling he truly loved, as a lobbyist. This experience ingrained in him a passionate dedication to always giving people a second chance. He lobbied on behalf of numerous companies and organizations but never charged a fee to any Jewish organization.
Throughout his life, Dick was an activist, fighting for causes in which he believed. Dick’s commitment to civil rights is an important part of his legacy. “I got involved in civil rights at an early age, I thought it was very important that we support Black causes,” he said. He was involved in a group called The Checkmates that worked with young leaders in Cincinnati’s Black community. He walked in the Selma to Montgomery March with Martin Luther King Jr. He gave a five hundred thousand dollar endowment to Cincinnati State in memory of Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, one of the giants of the civil rights movement. He said that he learned that crucial lesson of allyship: “we have to work together; you can’t work separately.”
Dick stood up with clarity and passion for humanity throughout our community. As “the people’s advocate,” he got things done. Dick was well known for working tirelessly for the betterment of those in need in the halls of Columbus OH and Washington DC. He was known for his relentless determination and effectiveness. He believed deeply in helping people from all walks of life.
Dick worked arm in arm with a wide swath of influential American leaders for decades, especially advocates for making people’s lives better. These included Fred Shuttlesworth, Bobby and Ted Kennedy, John Boehner, and Senator John Warner and Elizabeth Taylor. One of his favorite memories was flying in John Glenn’s private airplane. It was clear: he surrounded himself with people who made a difference, who would make change; yet no matter your background, if you had a good cause, he would listen and try to help.
Dick’s lifetime of work was truly a blessing to Cincinnati’s Jewish community. Over the course of his life, as a lobbyist, consultant, and often as a volunteer, Dick was singlehandedly responsible for channeling more government dollars going to Cincinnati’s Jewish community than anyone else. In addition, Dick was a guiding force behind the creation of Halom House, a local residence for Jewish and non-Jewish adults with disabilities, and continued to raise funds for it throughout his life. Dick worked tirelessly to help what is now the Nancy & David Wolf Holocaust & Humanity Center establish itself as an independent organization after being spun off from Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion in the early 2000s.
Dick started soliciting for the Jewish Welfare Fund, which became the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati, in his teens, and headed the Young Leadership Division in 1967. For many years he personally raised hundreds of thousands of dollars through his annual “Peace of the City” luncheon, which honored a deserving individual or organization in the community. He became a dedicated long-term leader of the Jewish Federation’s Jewish Community Relations Council, and a lifetime member of the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati Board of Trustees.
Dick’s significant endowments through the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati are also a powerful legacy. They will continue the Jewish Community Relations Council in perpetuity, protect the security of the Jewish people, combat hate and racism, and more.
Dick Weiland had an iconic look: he carried multiple flip cellphones, and always had a “filing cabinet” of papers stuffed in all the pockets of his suit jacket. He wore “Save the Children” ties, and then switched to his signature Williams College scarves. He was also well known for having an impressive “Rolodex in his brain”; he had thousands of phone numbers memorized. Dick loved all of Cincinnati: notably Graeter’s, Skyline Chili, and the Cincinnati Reds.
He believed: “If we don’t worry about everyone, we are worrying about no one.” Dick, thank you for your example of caring about everyone. You will be sorely missed. May your memory be for a blessing.
There will be a memorial service for Dick Weiland at 2 p.m. January 29 at Wise Center, with visitation beginning at 12:30 pm.