Saturday, December 12, 2009

In Which We Lose An Extraordinary Man

I thought I would share the touching obituary my Aunt Laura wrote for my grandfather with you. While no obituary could ever begin to touch on the full scope of a man's life, it does give you a sense of the kind of person that Papa Daddy was.

Dr. Charles A. Richardson died at home with his wife of 65 years at his side on Wednesday, Dec. 9, from complications of longstanding heart disease and a recent stroke.

Visitation is at Restland Funeral Home on Monday, Dec. 14 from 6 to 8 PM, and a memorial service will be Tuesday, Dec. 15 at 12:30 PM at the Wildwood Chapel at Restland.

A resident of Richardson for 54 years, Richardson was a community and business leader whose legacy includes service to the city’s schools, library, hospital, parks and recreation facilities. In the early 1950s, Richardson worked for the Dallas County Health Department and taught at Baylor Dental School, then began 25 years of private orthodontic practice in Richardson. In middle age he returned to school and took a degree in finance, then in 1974 organized Richardson National Bank, and later established one of the earliest of Texas’ bank holding companies.

Richardson was elected to the board of the Richardson Independent School District in 1968 and served throughout the 1970s. In the early 1960s he also served on the city’s parks and recreation board and on the local hospital board. In later years he was a member of the board of directors of H&R Block. A 32nd degree Mason and a Hella Temple Shriner who worked with DeMolay, he was also active in other civic and professional service organizations.

In his private life he was a man of boundless curiosity and fierce intelligence. He had played football in high school and boxed in college, and always maintained an imposing physical presence and a high degree of athleticism. He took up downhill skiing after his 70th birthday, when he became eligible for free lift tickets: he was thrifty all his life. He was a passionate outdoorsman, a hunter and fisherman who passed on his enthusiasm and skill to his children, grandchildren, and many friends. A master gardener, he shared the harvests of his fruit trees and vegetable gardens with friends, family, and the local food bank. He loved to barbecue, choosing his smoking woods with care and creating delicious, spicy feasts to serve his many guests.

He had a tender heart for animals and was unfailingly kind to the numerous, occasionally bizarre, creatures that his four children brought home. He especially loved the Labrador dogs, Count and Kate, that shared his old age.

Richardson was born July 12, 1923 in Saratoga, Texas, the youngest of the five children—two girls and three boys-- of Lemuel Archibald and Sally Lee (Wright) Richardson. His boyhood in Cleveland was marked by poverty and hard work, as well as by dangerous, unsupervised adventures in the Big Thicket of East Texas, which became the stories with which he regaled his children and grandchildren. He went to work at the age of five, washing dishes in his mother’s cafĂ©, and by age eight was an employee of wide experience. He was, variously, a bootlegger's runner (hiding the prepaid "orders" at designated spots around town and hidey-holes near railroad tracks), a carpenter's helper, short-order cook, and postal worker. In late adolescence he ran a few slot machines and rode the rails around the state.

A regular student at the University of Texas at Austin, he met Gene Marie Davis in 1942 on the first day of summer school physics class at Sam Houston State in Huntsville. Drafted into the Army and sent to dental school under the accelerated program to meet war demand for medical personnel, Richardson married Davis in August 1944 before he was shipped overseas.

Stationed in Saipan, he formed warm friendships with his Chinese Army colleague Dr. Zhang (also part of the occupying force) and with Chamorro fishermen, who took him and his young wife along on numerous expeditions. Here begin his intense, lifelong interest in Asia, which led him in his 70s to begin learning Mandarin and to travel to Shanghai to study. When China reopened to the west with the end of the Chinese Cultural Revolution in 1976, he reconnected with his friend Zhang. Eventually he sponsored the immigration to the US of Zhang’s god-daughter, Cho Ping, who became an integral member of the Richardson family.

He and his wife traveled extensively in the US and in Latin America, and made extended visits to friends and family in South and East Asia, Europe, Turkey, Egypt, and New Zealand. They rode hard sleepers across China, and drove from New Delhi across Pakistan to the Chinese border. Everywhere they went, Richardson met the unexpected with interest and aplomb. At one point, visiting friends working in a leprosy hospital in Nepal, he was asked to perform emergency oral surgery without anesthetic or even a proper drill, which he did. Successfully.

He is survived by his wife, Gene; four children-- Linda (James Gillespie), Laura (Rone Tempest), Will (Teresa Kanan) and Dee (Rob McManamy); his god-daughter Cho Ping (Ning Ling); five grandsons, six granddaughters, two great-grandchildren; two nieces, three nephews, and many grand and great-grand nieces and nephews.



Galen said...

What an extraordinary man, indeed! I know your life is richer for having such a grandfather.

Julia O'C said...

What a legacy he leaves! I'm so sorry for your loss. Is there anything you need?


Anonymous said...

A life well lived. This beautifully describes a life that most of us will only dream of.
Thank you for sharing.

xraevision said...

What a remarkable life your grandfather led! It's no wonder you hold him in such high esteem. Thank you so much for sharing.

Julia said...

Wow. An amazing life, obviously embodying the values and strength that propel you as you face your daily challenges. So that's where you get it from. I was wondering. My grandfather, too, was a pretty amazing guy who had a profound influence on me; I was devastated when I lost him a little over three years ago. That's why I didn't comment when you first announced your grandfather's passing; it hit a little too close to home for me. I wish you peace and solace at this difficult time.

Wherever HE Leads We'll Go said...

What a beautiful tribute! What a rich life he lived! He lived a life that many people dream of living and he left an incredible legacy.

Colleen said...

I'm sorry to hear about your Grandfather's passing. He sounds like a wonderful man who lived life to the fullest.

Anonymous said...
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sara said...

"He took up downhill skiing after his 70th birthday, when he became eligible for free lift tickets."

My grandfather was a huge fan of the "70+ ski club" and skied until he died at 93. The new skis and season pass he left behind were in his obituary too.

My grandma didn't learn to ski until she was 59... I can't imagine starting at 70.

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