After all, the man was 83 years old when he queried me, and none of us get younger, no matter how vital and enthusiastic we are.
He was 87 when I sold his book MARCHING UP MADISON AVENUE, a look back at the world of advertising in the 40's, 50's and 60's. What the real world of advertising was like, not what you're seeing on Mad Men (a show that drove him NUTS.)
And he was 93 when he died yesterday. His son told me this morning and suddenly this bleak rainy day in New York City is bleaker still.
I knew this day would come but I hadn't prepared for it. I don't have an obituary stored away like they do at the New York Times (a paper he read without fail.)
I don't have a list of his accomplishments, awards or accolades. After all, he was so much more than that.
What I can say is that he enriched my life in ways beyond measure. And not just mine. There will be hundreds of people in New York, and around the country who will feel this loss as I do. The man who gave me his confidence and trust, who believed in me, may be gone, but what he accomplished lives on.
He queried me with his memoir when my agent shingle was still shiny and new. Thank goodness for that, because he made every query mistake in the book and invented a few of his own, right down to not numbering the manuscript pages. Of course, they went flying in a breeze as I read on the couch. I sent them back and asked for another copy -- with numbers this time. (We laughed about that for years.)
And re-send he did. Cheerfully. Exuberantly even.
Exuberantly was how he did everything. When a revision came in, his cover note to me would inevitably be "what's next?" It was my own small version of working with Jed Bartlett. It took years for "next" to be "send to editors" but he never wavered in his enthusiasm or belief in me.
And it did sell. Twice in fact.
As the years marched on, Mrs. Gilbert passed away and we mourned that event here. I was afraid he would join her more quickly than any of us were ready for, but that vibrant enthusiasm didn't waver even with the loss of his beloved wife of more than 60 years.
He visited our new offices on 29th Street to work on the electronic edition of his book, now called I Was a M/ad Man (an homage to Mad Men that he wryly accepted) even though he needed a wheelchair to get around.
I'd get notes from him with his editorials for the Riverdale paper, and he mentioned that breathing was getting tougher.
I knew this day would come but that sure doesn't make it any easier.
Richard L. Gilbert was a friend, a client, and a true New Yorker. He will be missed as deeply as he was loved.
Requiescat in pace