Who was Hal Reichle?
On February 20, 1991, Chief Warrant Officer Hal "Hooper" Reichle 27, was killed while piloting an OH-58 helicopter during the Desert Storm war. Hal was returning from a reconnaissance mission. Hal's death has started a slowly spreading movement across the United States involving an anonymous and secret society performing anonymous good deeds for perfect strangers. Why? Who was Hal? Why did he have such an effect on people?
An Unusual Combination
When someone first heard about Hal Reichle and his giving nature, one often pictured a quiet, mild-mannered individual considering the priest hood as a calling. Upon learning that Hal was a rambunctious rascal with a love for life tantamount to Robin Hood and his merry men, many people were somewhat mystified. Add to this contrast an Army helicopter pilot searching the Kuwaiti desert for the enemy knowing that only a few hours earlier he was behaving like a mischievous elf by secretly placing money in stranger's pockets in a crowded open-air market. Most busy public areas require diligence to deter pick pockets; with Hal your pocket's may well find themselves replenished.
No, Hal Reichle was not a saint, but rather a cross between John Wayne and a leprechaun. He was filled with patriotism and loved America, yet he was an impish prankster, a devil-may-care adventurer, and never missed an opportunity to do everyday things in a most unconventional way. At a party, for example, instead of mixing the ingredients for a martini in a shaker, he would pour the ingredients in his mouth and then shake his head. Instead of calling a girl on the phone and inviting her out to dinner, a messenger would arrive at her door dressed as a Canterbury squire handing her a scribed invitation impaled on the end of a sword. Instead of washing a car on a warm and sunny day, Hal would wash his car during a gully-washer thunderstorm. "Saves water and creates an instant rinse."
Hal was intense, grandiose, and flamboyant during his quieter moments. Perhaps some day I will be able to describe him when filled with energy.
Total strangers would like Hal within a few minutes of meeting him, but after half an hour of his effervescent personality, they would be hooked – they had a friend for life. To further illustrate this, Hal heard about a student at Hiram College (Hal's alma mater) that was turned down for a Guaranteed Student Loan by a Warren, Ohio bank. One hour later, Hal walked out of the bank's president's office shaking hands and laughing with the chief executive as they patted each other on the back. The student loan had been approved.
A Special Hidden Spirit
Among the swords and laughter of this cavalier individual there was hidden a most unusual spirit, for Hal spent much of his time giving to others, anonymously, under the cloak of incognito and often accompanied by the stealth of darkness. But when Hal gave his time or money to someone else, he did not write out a check and mail it to a charity. Instead most of Hal's good deeds involved planning, risk, and lots of adventure. Each act was almost a separate quest, as if rescuing a maiden from a dragon or fulfilling a favor granted to a fine lady of the realm. Hal's deeds were deliberately made into a sport, a form of entertainment for himself, a personal undertaking rewarded by a special inner peace and satisfaction. Hal also performed his deeds simply to enrich the amount of goodness in the world. Most of his chosen recipients were total strangers, and their financial status was often not a factor in becoming a target for one of Hal's exploits. Rich or poor, you had an equal chance of being graced with Hal's adventurous escapades.
Examples of Hal's Escapades
Around 5:00 am on a snowy, winter morning, if you were outside in such weather and looked carefully into the blizzard, you could have discerned a figure, dressed in white for camouflage, shoveling a schoolteacher’s driveway. Once the job was completed, the shadowy image would quickly disappear leaving no trace of his identity. A fading sound of giggles, heavily muffled by thousands of snowflakes, would be the only clue as to his direction of flight.
While working at a warehouse to earn money for college, Hal heard about a fellow worker whose car, a beaten-up, old wreck, had broken down and was beyond fixing. The bank had just called the fellow worker informing him he was turned down for a $2,000 loan for another used car because of poor credit and low income. He now had no way to drive to work and was in danger of losing his job. Five minutes after Hal’s ten-minute coffee break, the fellow worker received another call from the bank stating his loan had been mysteriously approved. Next to the pay phone in the lunchroom was a telephone book opened to the page where the bank was listed. Next to the phone book was a freshly emptied coffee cup, still warm, depicting a picture of an apache helicopter.
On a sunny Sunday morning, shortly after an elderly couple left their home for church, a pickup truck comically displaying temporary signs on its doors, arrived in the couple’s driveway. Written in crayon on shirt cardboards, the signs read “Expert Lawn Service.” Underneath these words in much smaller print was “Don’t call us, we’ll find you.” During the next hour, Hal, with a borrowed lawn mower (the pick-up truck was borrowed too), cut and trimmed this couple’s lawn. He was unshaven and wore a droopy fishing hat and sunglasses for disguise. An oversized, dark-blue work shirt, hanging open and unbuttoned, revealed a torn t-shirt with a picture of Big Bird from Sesame Street. Hal slowly shuffled behind the lawn mower like a tired, hunchbacked, migrant worker. If you listened carefully over the sound of the mower, you could have heard frequent giggling accompanied by a little skip or two-step in Hal’s walk, which betrayed his subterfuge for those astute enough to notice. Then, just before the couple returned from church, our makeshift immigrant disappeared as quickly as he had arrived.
Carefully Planned Good Deeds - A Question of Legality
How did Hal know when this couple went to church? How did he know when they were to return? How did he know they didn’t have their own lawn service? How did Hal know the snowy driveway belonged to a schoolteacher? Who did Hal know at the bank in order to get the car loan approved? The point being is Hal’s anonymous acts of kindness were not random, but carefully planned and executed within specified time frames. Some of his escapes took weeks of planning. Others were more spontaneous.
Stalking people to watch their movements and learn of their activities is usually illegal. Such actions are often associated with predators, burglars, and kidnapers. Such actions are also associated with careful planners of anonymous good deeds. Is it against the law to stalk the activities of an elderly couple so you can cut their grass while they are attending church? It might very well be, not to mention trespassing on their property while cutting their grass. One couple returned from vacation to find their modest house had been freshly painted. There was some stalking and trespassing involved with that good deed to be sure.
I've heard rumors of the police, at 3:30 am on a foggy Wednesday morning, unsuccessfully chased a prowler from the back yard of a private home. Being unable to apprehend the fleeing suspect, the police returned to the house to check for clues. They found twenty-five freshly planted flowers, two empty flats, one flat filled with twelve Johnny Jump-ups, and a small garden spade. Three blocks away, emerging from the mist, there came a jogger running at a slow to moderate pace along the sidewalk used by many joggers in the community. This particular jogger, for an unknown reason, was giggling and wearing a pair of gardening gloves. As he jogged around the corner, he discarded his gloves in a garden of wild flowers and mountain laurel growing on the corner lot. His giggling continued - go figure.
Checking Out An Area
Most of us drive to work thinking about the day's activities ahead of us. Hopefully we notice the spring flowers and the sunrise on our way and the sunset on our return. As Hal Reichle drove along, he not only noticed the sunsets and flowers, but also carefully studied the surrounding area. His head would fill with little notes: "...that garage needs painting; that house needs flowers; that person could probably use some groceries, that yard needs mowed."
Hal's unusual lust for life, for fun, for adventure, and for being a harmless prankster are cavalier qualities, when mixed with his natural goodness and his love for mankind, created a most unusual man. In part, other than attacking windmills, he resembles Don Quixote, taking on any quest, even if impossible, to help almost anyone, "...to walk into hell for a heavenly cause." As previously mentioned, Hal also possessed Robin Hood characteristics, and several times his adventures required many of his friends to accompany him - his band of merry men. Hal also had an enchanted elf-like quality about him, often knowing things through premonition alone, often disappearing like a ninja, and frequently accomplishing things one would think required magic - a most intriguing, mysterious, and wonderful individual.
Carrying On the Magical Tradition - SSSSH!
Hal is a perfect example of how a controversial rascal, one likely to be reprimanded for setting off fire crackers or toilet papering a tree on Halloween, can still harbor a loving and giving heart. Perhaps we should all possess less of a tendency to judge others, for there may be many mischievous scallywags out there possessing a spirit of gold.
How did Hal have such influence over people? I can only state that Hal's personality carried about it an easily-detected glow of safety and reassurance. It somehow exuded great trust and a peaceful feeling of well-being. Even more remarkable was a magical sense of warmth and wonderment that simmered within the hearts of people Hal was around, as if the aura from an enchanted sorcerer's incantation was enshrouding them with virtue.
Always smiling, usually laughing, frequently clowning around with his silly antics, Hal made everyone he came in contact with feel good about themselves. Mystifying to be sure; I suspect even magical - as if a frolicking sprite whose destiny was to show others how to spread goodness by creating fun-filled and adventurous exploits. If true; it worked!
When Hal was killed in 1991, I decided to continue his anonymous giving to others coupled with his sense of adventure. In this way, Hal's good deeds would continue and his loving spirit would live on to benefit the lives of thousands. After forming SSSSH (Secret Society of Serendipitous Service to Hal) in 2003, people all over the United States are starting to do anonymous good deeds for total strangers in Hal's spirit. SSSSH has come to pass and is soliciting your participation! What a wonderful tribute to an almost mystical person, Hal Reichle, a man from which legends are made.