Homeward Bound

The Inspirational Journey of a Once Homeless ‘Retiree’

Adam Conley | Apr 23, 2012, 2:32 p.m.
Richard LeMieux’s stirring memoir tells the inspirational story of how, nearing age 60, this once successful businessman faced and recovered from homelessness

Read the inspiring true story of a local man snatched from success to homelessness and back again. According to a report from the National Alliance to End Homelessness, the number of homeless senior citizens will rise by a third in the next ten years and jump 54 percent by 2050 -- unless something is done now to prevent the increase. Statistics show that 10 percent of seniors live below the poverty level, one million seniors (or 2.6 percent of people over 65) live in extreme poverty and more than 44,000 of them are currently homeless. www.endhomelessness.org

A well-heeled Audrey Hepburn dined in elegant, refined style as Holly Golightly in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”.

Richard LeMieux was once lucky enough to “go lightly” through life with a waterfront home, cars, yachts and all the attendant luxuries of a successful businessman, but when faced with complete financial ruin just over a decade ago, even his family abandoned him.

At almost 60 years of age, Richard found himself homeless and alone after losing his medical directory publishing business with the advent of the internet. In a dizzying downward spiral that still clearly pains the author to talk about, Richard’s new reality was living out of the back of a van. His sole companionship took the form of the loving face-licks and curled-up warmth of his little dog, Willow, who helped comfort him through many a cold and frosty night. As each relentless bleak and unwelcome dawn glared through the fogged up windows of his mobile (as in Oldsmobile) home, it was Willow who coaxed him to pop the locks and pound the pavement for yet another day of. . .living?

Cruelly stuck in an isolated no-man’s land somewhere between numb and number, Richard contemplated terminating his nightmare for good. But when he found himself teetering quite literally on the edge of life and death, clinging to the railing of the Tacoma Narrow’s Bridge, it was a hysterically yelping Willow that miraculously called her master back from the lure of the abyss; back to the driver’s seat of their two-creature family van and ultimately, back into the driver’s seat of Richard’s life.

So begins a raw and honest tale of one man’s journey through the terrors and even a few unexpected joys of homelessness. After peeling away from the sight of near-suicidal tragedy through an onslaught of rain and tears, Richard and Willow eventually found themselves in the Navy town of Bremerton, Washington, the blue-collar, blue-blooded heartbeat of Puget Sound.

Richard’s story is retold in his recently published book, Breakfast at Sally’s (which is about as far from the world of Breakfast at Tiffany’s as you can get). Set against the richly textured backdrop of Bremerton, Richard brings the town to life as a funky, quirky personality in its own right. The memoir is as much an inspiring tale of recovery and self-discovery as it is a vivid portrait gallery of spectacularly colorful and earthy characters. At its heart, the book is a celebration of friendship and community, and a testament to the truth that what rescues and feeds the human spirit is not individual fortitude, but our connection to each other.

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