To say I loved Dick Laneau the moment I met him would be no exaggeration. Sitting on the couch at Clearview Oaks Clubhouse, one leg crossed over the other as he casually reads The Gabber and looks happy and right at home, he’s a sight to behold. I immediately want to hug him. I pause for a second and take him in.
I think of my grandfather, so solid and sturdy, who always smelled wonderful and gave big, hearty belly laughs. I know if he’d gotten to meet Laneau, he would love him too.
As we begin talking, I learn there are a plethora of interesting things about Dick Laneau: He was once worth one million dollars and one year later he was worth one dollar. He spent decades of his life as a professional magician and clown. He once danced the waltz with Carol Burnett in Hawaii.
What I met with Laneau to discuss today, however, is simpler than that — at least on the surface. Today, Dick and I are here to talk fishing.
Dick Laneau is so passionate about fishing — and about helping kids — that he’s given over 1,000 rods away and is now busy working on a fundraiser to build a pier behind Kenneth City’s Town Hall so that the local kids will have a safe place to fish.
His devotion is unparalleled; he raves about the projects and even offers to go take a picture of the lake for me to include in the feature. 91 years old and taking digital photos on a tablet to email to me? Color me impressed.
Laneau’s first fishing trip as a kid himself was anticlimactic. His father, a fly fisherman, accidentally caught a triple-barbed hook in Dick’s ear, which landed the family in the Emergency Room. An experience like that, I would think, is more than enough to keep a child away from the mere sight of a fishing pole.
Give up on fishing? On the contrary.
“No, that’s how I first got hooked,” Laneau laughs.
Laneau has lived a fascinating and full life, and at 91 years old is nowhere close to stopping.
“I am busier now as a retiree than I ever was while working,” he says. Dick has spent the last two and a half decades giving free fishing rods to kids and teens to keep them out of trouble. Finding good deals on fishing rods at flea markets and garage sales, Dick cleans and oils the rods, replaces parts as needed, and finds a good home for a kid in need.
“I give to the needy, not the greedy” is his mantra.
Dick had a goal of 1,000 rods, and after recently achieving that goal, he turned his ministry over to Bennett Rodriguez, a friend who works for the Florida Department of Fish and Game. Now, raising funds to build the fishing pier is Laneau’s primary focus.
“Kids that fish in their spare time will keep out of trouble. Kenneth City has a nice lake, but it is not accessible for fishing because the banks are too steep and dangerous.” So Laneau started a fundraiser with a $1,100 donation from the Kenneth City Social Club treasury. The rest, he is looking to raise through flyers, social media, and word-of-mouth.
The fishing pier will cost an estimated total of $35,000 — but the number does nothing to deter Dick, just as getting a triple-barbed hook caught in his ear did nothing to deter him from fishing as a kid. Laneau is convinced they will reach their goal and build a nice pier for local kids. After spending a couple of hours getting to know this incredibly accomplished, driven, generous man, I have faith they will pull it off too.
After meeting Dick Laneau, with his charming grin, quick wit and warmth, I am convinced of two things:
There are still really, truly good people in this world.
And Dick Laneau is one of them.
For questions about the fundraiser or to make a donation, contact Dick Laneau at firstname.lastname@example.org or 727-345-4323. Checks can also be dropped off at City Hall, made payable to Kenneth City Fishing Pier.