by Dave Bonta, President & Founder of USA Solar Store. Celebrating 10 years!
A small white sign on the door of Rutland’s CV Solar & Wind says “Rest in Peace Richard Gottlieb, you will be missed.” Owner John Blittersdorf, was an old friend, and fellow solar installer….sometimes a competitor, but more often a cooperative solar educator and advocate. He had collaborated with Richard, training hundreds of young people through a hands-on program that teamed them both up at SolarFest every year.
The sign caught me off guard. It’s hard to grasp that this solar hero is no longer with us. It’s hard to comprehend the scope of his 40 years of solar advocacy; to come to grips with the legacy and the meaning of his life & times.
I called his wife, Carol to make sure I had my facts straight. “Yes”, she told me, “Richard died just about the same time we all heard that Vermont Yankee was getting another 20 years of life.” She said “He went peacefully.” Richard quietly understood where things had either worked out well in this life or accepted with humor and dignified grace those which had not. He had done what he could. For most of those 40 years, paving the way, Richard and Carol made no decent living. “Even when we didn’t have 2 nickels to rub together” says Carol, “Richard still wanted to do solar. He loved it and saw a wonderful future for us.” His mission surpassed solar. Living in Guilford, not far from Vermont Yankee, focused his mind. He was keen to replace the regrettable energy from Nuclear with the renewable energy of Solar. Dedicated to the sanity of the renewable energy choice, he traveled with others to the former Soviet Union after Chernobyl. It was not enough for people like Richard and his friends, Judi & Lou Friedman of a sister organization, PACE, to merely call for the end of this dangerous form of power. Understanding well the skeptic’s question of “What next, then?” they were committed to replacing it.
To honor the message of the man, to pay some kind of meaningful tribute to his memory, then the only proper thing to do is to continue on the path that he cleared for us. We are just emerging from the brambly dark forest of ignorant poor choices. Following the blaze of a path Richard created, we can step into a sunlit day. He labored at this “great work” every day for the last 40 years. All of us in this industry cannot ignore his contribution. I am able now to do what I do for a living, only because of people like Richard. He got us 99% of the way. He was the original Green Guru. His spirit urges us still…we’re just a step or two away. Let us do this together, Vermont, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Let us replace nuclear waste with clean solar photovoltaic’s…electricity from the Sun.
Rest in peace Richard Gottlieb. You will be missed but your memory honored.