New York City: If you can make it there … Oregon should be easy.
Author Richard David Bach was born in New York City, was raised with a younger brother by a widowed mother on the south shore of Long Island, and sleepwalked his way through an uneventful but stable and happy childhood wondering when life would begin.
For Richard, life began at 17 when, in a post-war America obsessed with modern technology, he left home for Troy, New York, to pursue a Civil Engineering degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and an ROTC commission as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force. It was the time of the Korean War, and while the mechanical engineers from RPI were building weapons, the civil engineering students were preparing to build targets. College was a hint of freedom from the stifling confines of a structured upbringing, and a two-year active duty tour in the Air Force overseeing design and construction of anti-missile radar sites in the Arctic followed by an uninspiring job as a highway design engineer made him yearn for more adventures.
The Pursuit of Adventure: Oregon or Bust
That pursuit of adventure began unexpectedly during an accidental migration to Portland, Oregon. An old friend asked Richard to drive him from New York to Portland where the friend–a recent medical school graduate–was to begin an internship. Richard took his two-week vacation and a week’s leave of absence from his job and drove across country camping out and sightseeing along the way, planning to turn around and head back to NY once he had dropped off his friend. That never happened. Richard fell in love with Portland, called to extend his leave of absence (which he may still be on) and kept putting off going home until his family stopped asking when he’d come back. Years of self-introspection and therapy led him to the realization that he had probably never intended to return.
Once in Portland he continued to work as an engineer, first for the Portland Development Commission designing Portland’s first urban renewal project, and then for Pacific Power & Light Company as a right-of-way-agent, where one of the power company’s attorneys encouraged Richard to try studying law. He enrolled in the Northwestern School of Law of Lewis & Clark College’s night-school program, excelled in his studies, and (despite working full time for the power company and trying to help his wife raise their two small children) loved every minute of law school.
After passing the Oregon Bar, Richard joined Stoel, Rives, LLP, Portland’s largest and most prestigious law firm, where he founded and chaired its Environmental Law Practice Group, practicing environmental law until he retired to take up writing and spend time with his family–a loving wife, four productive children, nine grandchildren who make him very proud, and one adorable great-granddaughter.