Richard Spear has breakfast in the Mercy Hospital cafeteria five days a week. He eats there before heading up to the eighth floor to visit with oncology patients.
“I go in and introduce myself to the patients,” he said. “And a lot of times they spill their heart out to me. Unfortunately for me, I get close to a lot of these people and sometimes it makes it very difficult.”
Spear has a master’s degree in sociology and counseling, but he spent most of his career as a baseball coach at Duquesne University. He said after 24 years coaching, he was ready for a change and became the head of intermural sports at the university, which gave him a little extra free time. That free time was quickly filled by volunteering at the hospital.
More than two decades later, he’s still making the rounds. And that’s not the only volunteer work Spear does.
“I also wanted to do something to help children,” Spear said.
That desire took him to one of the most violent cities in Colombia. It was in Cali, Colombia that he helped found an orphanage that he still visits several times a year. He also spends numerous hours raising money for the orphanage in Colombia and two more in Haiti that he adopted right around the time a catastrophic earthquake in 2010.
“It’s a heartwarming place,” Spear said, referring to one of the Haitian orphanages, which cares for girls between the ages of 4 and 14.
“All 20 of the girls had lived on the streets of Port-au-Prince,” he said. “They had been sexually and physical abused. The girls are very happy now and they all go to school. It’s quite remarkable.”
Spear said he couldn’t see himself spending his retirement sitting on a beach or doing laps at the mall. He said he just has to stay busy.
“I must say, I probably get a lot more positive things from this than I give,” Spear said.