Interview by Bill Ferry
The Florida sunshine brightens the parlor where Dick Suddath reflects on his life. Behind him stretches a wall full of century-old classic novels. Floral prints hang cheerily on the wall. A 1905 grand piano stands in the corner ready to play. His home, the Glengarry House in the Jacksonville Empire Point neighborhood, is a magnificent, two story, wooden structure. It is perched proudly on the Arlington River where it has carefully watched river traffic since 1872. A plaque on porch notes its national historic distinction. It is a fitting lair for Dick Suddath, a man steeped in history. As a youngster born in 1919 Jacksonville, he played along Jacksonville's river wharves, spotting sailing ships that had come to call. He watched the grand opening of the Acosta Bridge in 1923. He witnessed civil rights protests in the 1960s. He is a natural historian of his family, the moving industry, Jacksonville and his favorite civic club, Meninak.
"My Daddy was a very important man to me," said Dick. Dick's father, Carl Suddath, grew up on a farm in South Georgia and moved to Jacksonville in 1917 seeking his fortune. He took a position at the Atlantic Coast Line Freight Terminal on west Forsyth Street. Dick's father wore a crisp white shirt, black trousers, and a black bow tie -- his only suit -- every day to work. He worked six and a half days a week. One day, he was late for work and was promptly fired. Dick's mother worried what the family would do for money. "Don't worry, Carrie, there's a lot of work for someone who wants to work," Carl told his wife. Then Carl promptly went off to Confederate Park and played tennis all day. Dick Suddath smiled. The story demonstrated the lighter side of his father's life of hard work and perseverance. Carl Suddath took a job at Ellis Elder, a small storage and moving company. But the owner cleaned out the cash register and left town, so Carl took over the business. It was not easy. The company assets were only two moving trucks, a wagon and two mules and a typewriter. Why the mules? In the 1920s, parts of Jacksonville had only dirt roads. "Without mules and a wagon, you couldn't get there," said Dick.
Within two years, Carl saved the business. But the depression was hard on the Suddaths. "I remember Daddy telling Momma that he didn't know where the next $100 would come from," said Dick. Carl later told a young Dick Suddath being fired was the best thing that happened. He made him start his own business. The turning point for Carl Suddath was the invitation to join Kiwanis, Meninak's predecessor. "He had arrived," said Dick, noting his father's struggles and the significance of the invitation.
Carle Suddath died in 1943 of leukemia, a family milestone that still stirs deep emotions in Dick Suddath. That year, Dick returned from military service and took over the family business in 1946. "I went into the moving business, and I didn't know a thing about it moving," said Dick. But through Dick Suddath's leadership, the operation became an international moving company of 1220 employees in 16 locations known today as the Suddath Companies.
Meninak invited Dick to join in 1952, and he served as president in 1974. "Meninak is an anchor," said Dick. "There are fine people in the club. You are in an organization where you are cared for. You belong. It's an honor that you keep." As president of Meninak, his goals were to "have fun, be brief and run things "ON TIME!" He studied the roster, and within in a month, he met and greeted every member by name. In 1974, some of the city's top leaders addressed Meninak. Mayor Jacksonville Hans Tanzler reported on the future of the city. A senior Texaco attorney spoke on the energy crisis. Sheriff Dale Carson addressed the city's rising crime rate. The new state attorney, Ed Austin, was introduced by Hickory Fant who was eight years' old at the time.
Dick is particularly proud of Meninak's scholarship program. A regular contributor, he has donated over $100,000. Dick also donates to the Suddath Companies' scholarship program.
Most Meninaks know of Dick's business successes, but few know his scholarly side. In addition to spending a year in law school, Dick Suddath is a writer. His published novel, A Simple Thread, is a five-generation tale of his family's life in the Old South during and after the Civil War. With colorful characters and timeless themes, it tells the story of a life that was simpler, harder and sometimes brutal. Dick is working on another novel, "What I learned, how I learned." It is a fascinating diary of a young boy growing up in 1920s Jacksonville. He looks forward to writing another novel, "No Bloodshed," covering his WWII experience. Dick taught soldiers basic training at the Citadel in Charleston, SC.
On April 20, 2009, the Meninak Club celebrated Dick Suddath's 90th birthday. Fittingly, Meninak and the Suddath Companies celebrate their 90th anniversaries the same year as well.
What advice does Dick Suddath have for his fellow Meninaks? "If Meninak is going to mean anything to you, you've got to give time to it and make friends. You've got to join the committees. Otherwise, it will just be a place to have lunch. At my age, you realize what a gift it is to belong."
SUDDATH Richard Harvey ( Dick ) Suddath, 94, passed away of old age on August 24, 2013, dying peacefully at home. He was born in Jacksonville on April 22, 1919, the same year that his father, Carl Suddath, founded Suddath Moving and Storage Company, now known as The Suddath Companies. A lifelong Jacksonville resident, Dick graduated from Lee High School in 1937. As a youth, he joined the Boy Scouts, later becoming an Eagle Scout and a member of Order of the Arrow. He began college at the University of Florida but transferred to the University of Colorado (CU) and graduated there in 1941. At CU in Boulder, he met his wife and life companion, Barbara Anne Johnson, a Colorado native. Dick completed his first year of Law School at CU but left in 1942 following the bombing of Pearl Harbor to serve in the Army. Trained in tactics and map reading, he became a military instructor of recruits at the Citadel in Charleston where he and Barbara were married in 1943. Toward the end of the War, his father Carl died of leukemia and instead of returning to law school Dick came back to Jacksonville to take over running Suddath Moving and Storage, where he remained for his entire career until he retired in 1989 from his position as Chairman of the Board. Dick, also known affectionately by his grandchildren as Daddy Bear, is survived by his loving wife of 70 years, Barbara Anne Johnson Suddath, their four children, Barbara Suddath Strickland (Robert Strickland), Julia A. Suddath-Ranne (Micheal Ranne), Richard Lee Suddath, M.D. (Arlene Hegg, M.D.) and Stephen M. Suddath (Danielle Suddath); and by eight living grandchildren, Jessica Anne Lee, Joy Anna Lee, Kirsten Marie Suddath, Erik T. Suddath, Anika Kelsey Suddath, Kelly A. Suddath, Christian M. Suddath and Jack V. Suddath. He is also survived by his half-brother, Carl Z. Suddath. He is predeceased by his granddaughter, Anne Elizabeth Suratt. His close friend and companion, Oscar Randolph, and his three Angels and caretakers, Cheryl Cabot, Catina Rodriguez, and Nicole Cabot Parrillo, provided the devotion, love, encouragement and persistence that kept him alive and actively involved in the life around him during his last three years. He loved them and was deeply grateful for their presence in his life. Dick was a multi-faceted person, patriarch of his family and a strong leader in his personal, business and community activities. He is best known for his private and public generosity, for his passion for those he loved and for his determination to excel wherever he focused his energy and resources. He was an intellectual, a visionary, emotional and tenacious. He had a great capacity for intimacy. He valued hard work, stewardship, and having fun. He endeavored to pass some of these qualities on to his children and grandchildren. A competitive businessman, Dick established a strong team that transformed Suddath Moving and Storage Company from a small local company to one that has branches and agents throughout the country and the world. Early in his career he helped found Atlas Van Lines and his company became its largest agent. He was a member of its board of directors and also served as President of the American Movers and Warehouseman s Association (AMSA). Dick believed strongly in the values and lessons taught by the Boy Scouts and served as an adult troop leader and as President of the Northeast Florida Council of the Boy Scouts of America. For more than sixty years he was a devoted member of The Meninak Club and served as its President, reflecting his commitment to the growth and development of Jacksonville and service to its children s needs. Over the course of his career, he also served as President of the Jacksonville Museum of Arts and Sciences (MOSH) and the Northeast Florida Division of the Children s Home Society. He served on many community boards, including the Jacksonville University Council, the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, the Jacksonville YMCA, the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra, the Jacksonville Water Color Society and the Jacksonville Commodores League. He was a loyal member of the congregation of All Saints Episcopal Church for over 65 years. Recreationally, he enjoyed boating, canoeing, and camping out, not only in Florida but throughout the US. He was a longtime member of the Florida Yacht Club. He was an active member of the Over the Hill Canoe Club and the Florida Trail Association. He took up competitive running in his fifties, finished a marathon in his early sixties, and completed his last River Run at the age of 72. He loved history, wrote numerous stories and poems and published a novel inspired by his interest in the civil war, A Simple Thread, and a children s book called Ohio is Purple. A memorial service will be held at All Saints Episcopal Church, 4171 Hendricks Avenue, at 5:30 PM on Saturday, September 7, 2013. A reception will follow in the parish hall. In lieu of flowers the family requests that donations be made to The Sulzbacher Center, 611 East Adams Street, Jacksonville, Florida 32202 or to The Meninak Foundation, 5932 North Caribbean Court, Jacksonville, Florida 32277. Words of comfort can be left at www.hardage-giddenshendricksave.com Arrangements are under the care and direction of Hardage-Giddens Funeral Home 4115 Hendricks Ave. Jacksonville, FL 32207. (904) 346-3808. Please Sign the Guestbook @ Jacksonville.comPublished in the Florida Times-Union on August 28, 2013