A tribute to Richard Criss

Dear Editor,

My name is Jean Cook. My husband Ken and I purchased the old Marion Press Building, so we are fairly new to town. We live on a farm on M-61, 3 miles west of Harrison, so we live close. We love the town, and being on the river is great. We cleaned up our little part of the river front and put a bench and fire ring for a quiet place. We always tell those who come by to fish to feel free to use the bench.

We opened a little shop which has some antiques, some gently used pieces, and some lace and silk floral.

We have met lots of very nice people and have made friends. Our neighbors from Harrison, Ted and Gail Mathis, helped us get the building ready. They brought in some things to sell, and have joined us on our venture.

One day when I wasn’t very busy, a young man came in, introduced himself as Richard Criss; he lived a little ways down Main Street from the shop. He was a Veteran and had served 2 tours in Afghanistan. He had achieved the honor of being an Army Ranger in a combat unit.

He had a lot of problems, shrapnel in his back, a badly injured hand, and brain damage from concussion, which caused short term memory loss and depression.

Having been a Sunday school teacher for 50 years and having grandsons his age, I offered to pray with him, he gladly accepted. Afterwards, he showed me his dog tags. On the back of the one with his name on it was engraved one word – Christian. Then he told me he had kind of lost God over there. I showed him the bench by the river and told him to use it anytime, which he did.
One day he brought his girlfriend, Jennifer Barrees, in to meet me. They were planning to get married, but he was having trouble finding work. He was building a fish aquarium and hoping he could sell some, he also wanted to offer to teach computer classes, but even after advertising had received no response.

Right now, disability payments to our returning injured vets take a while to receive after applying.
He stopped in the shop one day when my friend and business partner, Gail, was working; I introduced them. Richard had his Army Ranger hat and t-shirt on. Gail, whose husband Ted had served in Vietnam, stepped forward, shook his hand and said, “Thank you for your service.” He looked so proud that day.

This morning his girlfriend Jennifer came in and tearfully told me Richard had taken his life last Monday. We hear of this all too often. I wondered, could I have done more? I will miss him.

Jean Cook

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