Give Your Heart To The Hawks
RAS — An Obituary for My Father
But he thought the things he didn’t speak.
He turned them around in his head — his
years in the mountains, and beyond, on the
ocean. He didn’t stick words like labels onto
his memories; they belonged to his whole
body . . . “Give Your Heart To The Hawks” (Win Blevins)
Mancos, Colorado — Richard Arthur St. Onge died peacefully after a fulfilled life at his ranch surrounded by his family on November 11, 2021. Dr. St. Onge had been battling cancer for the past several years.
Born on July 8, 1944 in Boston to Alcide and Julia (née Healy) St. Onge. Predeceased by his brother, Stephen, Rick (a.k.a. “Dick”), the eldest son, came from a family of five, including his surviving brothers Bob of Telluride, Colorado, and Greg of Burke, Vermont, and his sister Suzanne of West Tisbury, Martha’s Vineyard.
His education began in Haverhill, Massachusetts, raised on 30 Ringold Street, at Haverhill High School (Class of 1962), then to Harvard College (Class of 1966) where he excelled in academics and played on the Varsity Football and Lacrosse teams. St. Onge was the first recipient of the prestigious “Jack Fadden Award,” which he received from the Harvard Varsity Club in 1966 for “overcoming physical adversity and contributing to the football team” — an honor for which he was duly proud.
In an autobiographical essay, St. Onge reflected that his “elementary school years were generally uneventful, punctuated periodically with childhood adventures and accidents in the fields and brooks surrounding our home . . . Once in high school at Haverhill my interests and activities increased . . . I generally studied and enjoyed the challenge of playing football, which was a Haverhill tradition — and maintaining high grades . . . My Harvard years were very good to me. I met people and was exposed to ideas and differences which I will always consider a very crucial component of my education.”
Presciently, he stated: “I feel as though I have many areas of interest and many activities I would still like to pursue.” Rick was “on the way to find out,” the music and lyrics of his favorite artist Cat Stevens speak a hard-won truth:
Well I left my happy home
To see what I could find out . . .
So on and on I go, the seconds tick the time out
So much left to know, and I'm on the road to find out
In the end I'll know
But on the way I wonder
Through descending snow
And through the frost and thunder . . .
Yes the answer lies within
So why not take a look now
After Harvard, St. Onge matriculated to Yale Medical School, graduating with a M.D. in 1970. From there, Dr. St. Onge conducted a surgical internship at the Beth Israel Hospital in Boston (1970-71) in general surgery followed by a surgical residency (1971-72) and orthopaedic residency in the Harvard Combined Program at the Massachusetts General Hospital, Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, Robert Bent Brigham Hospital, and Beth Israel Hospital (1973-76). During this period, St. Onge also served in the U.S. Army as a Battalion Surgeon from 1971-1974, retiring at the rank of Major. Soon thereafter (1975-76) he began a Post-Graduate Fellowship at the University of Glasgow, Scotland at the Center for Rhematic Disease in the Canniesburn Hospital Plastic Surgery Unit where he served another Fellowship in Hand Surgery. Dr. St. Onge was Board Certified by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons in 1978 and made a Fellow of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgery Class of 1983.
Dr. St. Onge started a medical practice, Pentucket Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine, in Haverhill in 1979; he was also affiliated with Sports Medicine Resources in Brookline, Massachusetts. In 1996, St. Onge moved to Utah and joined Alpine Orthopaedic Specialists in Logan. St. Onge was licensed to practice medicine in the states of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Utah, Wyoming, and Idaho; and he practiced medicine abroad in Scotland and Nepal. He was the member of numerous professional societies, including the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (Emeritus), Arthroscopy Association of North America (Emeritus), Thomas B. Quigley Society of Sports Medicine, the American College of Sports Medicine, the Western Orthopaedic Association, the Massachusetts Medical Society, and the Boston Orthopaedic Club. He was also affiliated with the U.S. Ski Team as an Orthopaedic Consultant; the Lake Placid Sports Medicine Society (Board Member); and the American Alpine Club; and served as the Medical Officer on the “Picton-Castle” sailing barque at sea in 2009. Dr. St. Onge published scores of medical journal articles; made dozens of presentations to medical societies and colloquia; holds a medical patent for the Universal Fracture Clamp System; and acted as a medical consultant and advisor for the Tottenham Hotspurs, f.c. Whiteheart, London Premier League English Football 2010, as well as an expert witness in a variety of legal cases.
An avid outdoorsman and adventurer, Rick had a lifelong love affair with the wilderness, especially in the oceans and mountains, which began as a youth in the Glades at Minot Beach in Scituate, Massachusetts, where his mother’s family have a summer cottage (“Sunnyside”). As a boy, he sailed a dinghy and swam in the open ocean for miles by himself; and he skied the White Mountains with his next-door neighbor and best friend Roger Buchika (US Ski Team 1965), in places like Mount Washington’s Tuckerman Ravine. A passion for rock climbing and alpinism was born in the Scottish Highlands in the late 1960s and ‘70s, around Glencoe and Ben Nevis, where he developed mountaineering skills later honed in the White Mountains of New England, ice climbing Huntington Ravine and rock climbing on Cannon Cliff and Whitehorse Ledge with his partner John Bouchard — one of America’s pre-eminent alpine climbers. These exploits led him to the biggest, most beautiful, distant, and challenging ranges of the world, including the Himalaya and Andes. His climbing highlights include numerous expeditions to the Himalaya (Lantang 1978; Himalchuli 1979, 1984; Island Peak, Khumbu 1987; Everest 1990) and Karakoram (Pati Peak 1995), as well as ascents in the Andes (Patagonia 1986; Cordieralla Blanc, Peru 1988; Alpamayo 1988; Iliniza Norte 1997); Africa (Kilimanjaro 1989); Alaska (Denali 1992; St. Elias ski mountaineering 2003); and many forays into the Western Ranges of the Rocky Mountains, such as the Wind River Mountains in Wyoming and Monument Valley, Utah.
St. Onge could also be found paddling white water rivers across North America (Allagash, Machias, and St. John’s of The North Maine Woods; the Colorado of the Grand Canyon, Salmon, and Green out West); sea kayaking the Scottish Hebrides and South Coast of Newfoundland. During the 1980s, Rick was a competitive marathon canoe racer (New England Masters Champion 1986). He continued to sail his entire life, racing off Marblehead, Cape Cod, and the Caribbean; cruising Downeast in his gaffed-rigged dory “Namaste”; crewing off the Scottish Western and Hebridean Coasts (1976) and the Trans-Pacific Cup Race (2010, 4th place); and Antarctica, where he also sea kayaked and ski-mountaineered with his son Joe, a mountain guide. The last few years of his life were spent sailing solo for weeks at a time on the Sea of Cortez, Baja del Sur, on his beloved sloop, the “Saga II.” A life in the wilderness began and ended, full circle, in the ocean he loved.
St. Onge gave his sons, Andy and Joe, many things, above all a taste and love for all things wild and true. He led by example and took his boys into the wilderness — mountain and sea, forest and river — on many expeditions where they learned about natural beauty, sublimity, self-reliance and struggle: to “endeavor and enjoy” was their motto; so, too, did he often remind his sons of his favorite quote from his venerable Grandma (Hannah) Healy: “Do all you can today, because no one promises you tomorrow.” According to these mantras Rick’s sons’ have devoted their lives with gratitude and in honor for the father they love and admire.
In retirement, Rick and his devoted wife Kate put their heart and soul into racing dog sled teams, and explored the best of the West, riding their horses together. The ranches they built in both Utah and Colorado were a testament to the mutual devotion and bond they shared. Rick and Kate wandered mountains, meadows, and tundra all over the Mountain West and Canada, enjoying an extraordinary life together. At both the beginning and end of the day, Rick deeply loved and admired Kate, the one who helped and supported him more than anyone else over the decades to evolve into the authentic, compassionate and wise person he became.
Rick is survived by his loving, intrepid wife of 41 years, Kate (née Malynn) — his “Eagle” as he called her admiringly — and his two sons, Andy, of Sunset Beach, Oahu, and Joe, of Hailey, Idaho, as well as his granddaughters Bruna (Hawaii), Neve and Soleil (Idaho). Rick’s extended family include many adoring nieces, nephews, and cousins, as well as countless close, admiring, grateful friends across the globe. No funeral service is planned. Namaste.
Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,
But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.
Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;
For tho’ from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crost the bar.
— “Crossing the Bar”
Alfred, Lord Tennyson