Instead of being known as Friend Richard, Richard might have been called Father Richard. After growing up in a Catholic family and going to a Catholic school, Richard enrolled in a Catholic seminary to become a priest. Partway through his seminary training, he become disenchanted with the separation between clergy and the laity and withdrew from the seminary. He then went to college.
Silk screening romance
While enrolled at University of Rhode Island, Richard met Suzanne at a summer job sweatshop. They toiled on the fourth floor of a non-air conditioned old building squeezing dye through a mesh onto sweaters and shells. The work experience was terrible, but it resulted in a lifelong relationship.
Richard graduated from college with a degree in sociology and a minor in community organization. His first job after graduation involved working for the Urban League in Rhode Island, focusing on housing issues. He also gained experience in planning programs by working for the United Way and then entered the state government in a financial role assisting with the state budget. This was a stepping stone for a job as Chief Financial Officer for the Department of Corrections.
Richard’s role in Corrections for 20 years put him at the policy table and gave him an opportunity to emphasize the importance of nonviolence training for correction officers and to focus on the impact of violence within the prison community. Outside of his job, he volunteered to work within the realm of victim/offender, a form of restorative justice. The program addressed the human dimensions of the harm created by the offender and got the victim and offender together for a facilitated discussion aimed at insight, remorse and forgiveness. Richard also spoke to faith communities throughout RI about the role they could play in a restorative form of justice.
As Richard’s familiarity with the Department of Corrections grew, he recognized the critical importance of what happens when the inmate is released back to the community. He realized that three factors are critical for a successful reintegration process: a job, housing and positive connections. He spent the last 2.5 years of his working life dedicated to establishing reintegration councils statewide, pulling together the police, probation, social service agencies and faith communities.
Suzanne and Richard have two children: a daughter who lives in Seattle and teaches eight grade math in an alternative school, and a son who is a journalist at a Massachusetts newspaper and lives in Rhode Island.
When the couple are not in Fort Myers, they live in a 480 square foot Rhode Island cottage that originally was part of a tent village on a farm a walk away from the beach. This seasonal cottage is on leased land, and has a definite season. The water and mail are shut off on Columbus Day and everyone scatters until the following May. The Frechettes spend much of their time outside during the 5 months a year they are there. The Frechettes have family in Rhode Island. In addition to their son, Richard’s parents are in Rhode Island.
Discovery of Quakerism
“Isn’t that a nice historic building” the couple thought when they passed the Smithfield Monthly Meeting, 5 miles from their house. One day they discovered cars in front of the meeting on a First Day and realized it was more than a historic building. When Richard first started attending the Quaker meeting, he realized he was always a Quaker. His beliefs fell into place as he recognized that the Meeting had what he was searching for. He could not articulate what he needed until he became immersed in the Quaker community. Within 3 months, he applied for membership.
In 2009, Richard and Suzanne made plans to visit friends in the Big Pine community in Fort Myers. Although they planned to arrive on a First Day, they came a day early and decided to check out the Fort Myers Monthly Meeting on First Day. A group of Friends gathered for lunch afterwards, and spend a few hours talking. Richard and Suzanne realized they could be very comfortable within the Fort Myers Monthly Meeting community. When they discovered their friends wanted to sell their space in Big Pine, Richard and Suzanne leapt at the chance to buy it and within days, completed a closing on the property.
Richard is drawn to several of the Quaker values: the universalist sense of God within, the ability to connect to God without an intermediary, and the sense of community. He realized he was first a member of a Quaker community, and then he could declare he was a Quaker.