Friday, December 11, 2009

In Memory of my Grandfather

I feel the need to pause in my recollections of our wedding day to pay a small tribute to my grandfather, who passed away on Wednesday.

I find it hard to put into words exactly what my grandfather was to me.

When I was very young, I stayed with my grandparents every afternoon after pre-school. My grandfather, known to me as Papa Daddy, built me this sweet little play table predominately from plywood, with a pull-out drawer to stow my drawings, and the top neatly covered in wallpaper in a farm animal theme. It still sits at one end of their kitchen, exactly where he placed it when I was 3.

Together, we'd dig small red potatoes from a raised bed bordered by railroad ties, in their plentiful backyard garden. I wanted to take home all the potatoes I dug up (after all, I found them!) but that was a no go. I definitely took home my fair share then, and later, of the harvests of their garden.

When I was older, and my visits were no longer daily, my grandparents bought a pool table and plopped it down in the middle of their upstairs living area. The TV where we used to watch Wheel of Fortune (which I was mighty good at as a 3 and 4 year old) got moved downstairs. I played many a game of pool with my grandfather, with Bob Wills, Hank Williams, and a little creole and Dixie Chicks thrown in for good measure. My pool game is always off if there's not old-timey country blasting in the background.

I also had the pleasure of going on many a fishing trip with my grandparents. We'd load up in one of the many extended bed, extended cab F-150s that he owned in his lifetime, with me either sitting in the tiny seat between them, or more often in one of the little red hard plastic pull down seats behind them. My grandmother would make sandwiches so we wouldn't have to stop (they never stopped on road trips, no matter how long) and we'd truck out to Canton. We'd fish all day and then stay in their friends' mansion on the same property. We were roughin' it.

I have so many wonderful memories of my grandfather. It's been difficult watching him decline these last few months since his stroke this summer. It's been hard seeing him in that state, when he's always been this monumental, strong, proud man in my life. We all will miss him so, but no one could accuse him of having not lived life to its fullest. In an attempt to demonstrate just how well my grandfather seized the day, I've included the obituary my Aunt Laura wrote for him.

I love you and I miss you, Papa Daddy.

Charles Allen Richardson
July 12, 1923 – December 9, 2009

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.

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 café, 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, Qiu 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 Qiu Ping (Ning Ling); five grandsons, six granddaughters, two great-grandchildren; two nieces, three nephews, and many grand and great-grand nieces and nephews.

1 comment:

Aunt Becky said...

I am so, so sorry to hear of your loss. He was an amazing man and he will be missed.