Frederic (Rick) Ludwig, Captain, USN (Ret), pictured on the left, passed suddenly on Sunday, April 16, 2023 in San Diego in the company of those who mattered to him most, his family. Rick had several titles in life: Son, brother, husband, father, grandfather, friend. He was also a legendary naval aviator (call sign Wigs), a veteran of some 300 combat missions over Vietnam, and qualified on a laundry list of fixed and rotary-wing naval aircraft. He even had a stint as the Commanding Officer at Top Gun. For more on his military career, check out this interview. To borrow some aviation slang, Wigs lived life with the burners on until the landing...the day before his death, he was belatedly celebrating his 78th birthday with his family over some pizza. Way to go.
His younger brother is my dear friend, Bill Ludwig. These two bonded deeply and early in life. Raised in the small town of Woodbridge, Connecticut, their childhood was like something from the pages of Boys’ Life magazine. Every account of it I heard from either of them was nothing short of idyllic. Being raised as best friends makes for a connection that only deepens over time. I think it fair to say that to the end, the company they preferred was each other’s. Living on opposite sides of America did nothing to deter that preference. In addition to frequent visits, they spoke on the phone daily, and they’d just made plans to cross the Atlantic together on a cruise from Spain this coming autumn.
Over the past few weeks, Rick had experienced some vague health issues. Bill and I spoke of this a few times, and he thought that maybe despite some plans to the contrary, he ought to go to California instead. It quickly became an imperative...as I see it, a calling. Sudden. Urgent. Go now. Two days later, they were hanging out in San Diego. Rick’s birthday celebration followed with nothing foreboding on the horizon. Next day found Bill at his brother’s side as he passed. How else to see this but as an act of Grace, to see them as being held in the hand of something so great, so perfect? As for me, I’m done with coincidence and chance.
I count myself among Bill’s friends, and we are legion. There is something about this guy. I know we’ll hold him close each in our own way. I’m certain he will feel this almost as deeply as his loss. We are never alone.
With you, brother.