Title Mainely Mushrooms

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Remembrances of Sam Ristich

12-26-1915 — 02-11-2008

Holding one hand up and using the other as if scratching he’d repeat , “Wrist-itch.” You could never forget that name.

My very first mushroom foray I came home and told my husband,“picture an ancient, wiry and weathered peasant in duct taped Wellingtons ecstatic, literally bouncing up and down over a huge stand of armillaria mellea, reeling off Latin terminology as if it were his native language.” I was hooked.

Perfect diction—Duct tape as a fashion statement—Speaking of boots—Sam stood at the Portland airport and I introduced my husband to our mushroom guru. As we drove away a puzzled hubby asked “How does he get away without wearing any shoes?”

I met Sam at an Audubon meeting on mushrooms that he was leading. He took a bunch of us under his wing and trained us on his own. Eventually the group got big enough so that we formed the Maine Mycological Association. Sam has been an ever presence through it all. He would help us identify mushrooms on forays, but you could also go see him on a one on one basis for help. Then he started the winter botany walks. He was always teaching us about nature.

He always made me want to learn more.

Welcome and greetings at almost every foray and program. “Welcome to the togetherness folks!” “Hello, lovely people!” It took a while to realize Sam wasn’t just gathering mushrooms; he was gathering people and bringing them together in a kind of shared wonder.

His enthusiasm and joy spilled over into the souls of everyone near him.“What magic we have wrought, some could articulate, others not.”

I liked staying close to Sam during a foray. He could find so much of interest without going very far down the trail! The best guy to go in the woods with and learn—Ever ebullient—

Getting the wrong answer to a question but pretending he heard the right answer. “WOW! This is new to science” (Stalling for time) Then giving you the genus and species name of the mushroom.

Could you duplicate in print his “WHOOOPEEEEE!” whenever anybody brought him an unusual specimen? Then he'd add “Wow, THAT'S a 5 dollar specimen!” “Time is flying, and Lo! The bird is on the wing!”reminded us to pay more attention to him because his time was running out. He was right and we all should have tried harder.

Sam Ristich had Charisma. He encouraged and stimulated individuals to be aware of what was around them, to observe, study, and achieve their potential. He had great depth in many disciplines--insects, plants, birds, and fungi, and was generous in sharing his knowledge. The woods will be silent in this coming foray session, but in our hearts we will feel the excitement and hear the sounds of “Whoopee!”, “New to science!” “It's a miracle!” So dear Sam, mentor and friend, we will miss you very much and wish you well as you “walk the endless galactic path”.