Mark Twain once wrote, “Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”
Richard “Rich” Nowakowski of Hartland, who has a speech impediment because of a stroke 12 years ago, is an example how kindness can also speak.
His vocal random acts of kindness over the past several months have brightened the work days for construction workers building the Riverwalk apartments across from his home on Lawn Street.
In turn, because of the construction workers’ kindness, Rich, 63, and his son Ryan, 37, of Ixonia, have an all-expense paid trip to Lambeau Field this weekend, including tickets to the Packers’ game against the Houston Texans.
Gary Aide, a mason with Benoy Masonry of Verona, explained, “In August and September, when it was warmer, every morning he would come out of his house, carrying his coffee mug, and he would walk to a bench by the river where he would sit.’
“He would always wave at us and shout 'beautiful job' or 'You’re doing great.'”
“He is a very nice guy. His laugh and smile are super contagious,” Aide added.
During the fall, Rich and his wife, Pat, would sit on the front porch of their home.
Rich, wrapped in a Packer blanket with coffee mug in his hand, would shout words of praise or encouragement to workers as they walked back and forth across the job site.
Because of his speech defect, Rich can speak only in short phrases that sometimes are difficult to understand.
Pat explained that while Rich is mentally competent, the stroke damaged the portion of his brain that enables him to turn thoughts into words.
Apparently undamaged are the vocal cords that provide him with a powerful and melodic baritone voice.
During his 32-year career with the U.S. Postal Service, he often sang while delivering the mail and was known in New Berlin as “the singing mailman.”
To the masons, he was known as “The Rock Man” because of the collection of rocks around the house on Lawn Street.
One day he persuaded the masons to use a forklift to move a large boulder, uncovered during construction, from the job site to a front corner of his yard.
Aide said the workers were discussing what kind of gift to give to Rich when Aide noticed two Packers tickets on sale on Craigslist.
“They were $150 each. So, we started taking up a collection. Andy Benoy, who owns the company, told us he would donate $200 to pay for the travel and other expenses, “Aide added.
Two weeks ago, on a sunny autumn day, the two dozen masons took their lunch break by walking across the street and presenting Rich with his surprise.
Tucked in a green bag were the two Packer tickets, a Packer sweatshirt, a Benoy Masonry company sweatshirt, and enough cash to pay the expenses for the trip to Green Bay.
“Oh, my gosh…holy far out,” Rich, an avid Packer fan, repeated several times when he discovered what was in the bag.
“God bless each of you,” he said.
He shouted with glee when he pulled the Packer shirt of the bag.
And, he and Pat proudly showed off the Benoy shirt after he pulled it out of the bag.
The hard-hatted masons applauded as he thanked them profusely each time he pulled another surprise out of the bag.
“I am very, very proud of my men for the act of kindness they have shown this gentleman,” said Andy Benoy.
There were two more acts of kindness moments before Rich was presented with the gift bag: cash contributions from J.D. McCormick of Madison, developer of the apartment project, and Billy Coolie of Next Step Builders in the town of Delafield, who is also working on the project.