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John Richardson had the last laugh

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Saturday, Jan. 5, 2013, at 7:59 p.m.
  • Updated Wednesday, March 13, 2013, at 7:53 a.m.

His obituary in The Eagle is rife with humor.

John Dennis Richardson, 71, was “born at a very early age,” the remembrance says. “He grew progressively older until he stopped on Sept. 14, 2011, at the age of 70. He resumed life one week later after quadruple bypass surgery.”

Mr. Richardson was “happily married for six of 38 years,” his obituary goes on.

Friends say Mr. Richardson, who died this week, had a great sense of humor.

“I highly suspect he wrote that himself,” Eric Cale, executive director of the Wichita-Sedgwick Historical Museum, where Mr. Richardson volunteered, said of the obituary.

Indeed, he did, a family member said.

Mr. Richardson, born in Wichita, was a longtime volunteer, offering his time not only to the historical museum but also the Allen-Lambe House Museum and the Great Plains Nature Center. He led historic trolley tours and was one of only five people trained to maintain the clock in the bell tower at the historical museum. Mr. Richardson was a fellow of the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors.

“He was probably the most stalwart of the clock volunteers, in my memory, anyway,” Cale said.

Cale remembered a time when a hand on the clock came loose, and Mr. Richardson went to great pains to get it fixed.

“Imagine Harold Lloyd,” Cale said, alluding to the actor shown hanging from a clock in the silent movie “Safety Last!”

It wasn’t quite that dramatic, but Cale said he could imagine Richardson in that type of scene.

“His main work here was either with the clock or with our education department in providing tours,” Cale said.

Mr. Richardson helped train other people to care for the clock in the bell tower, Cale said.

“He had a succession plan,” Cale said.

Mr. Richardson earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Wichita State University. His obituary says he took a cut in pay when he left Farha Brothers Grocery to become a social studies teacher. He retired in 2001.

Although the obituary jokes about his marriage, Mr. Richardson stood by his wife, Brenda, as she fought cancer, Cale said. She preceded him in death.

“He ushered her through all types of treatment over the years,” Cale said.

Mr. Richardson suffered a heart attack while volunteering at the nature center.

The bit in his obit about how he “resumed life” after surgery — that was true, Cale said.

Bob Gress, former director of the nature center, said Mr. Richardson’s heart attack occurred during the Kids Care About Nature three-day program.

“He was a volunteer instructor, and he had a heart attack at that event,” Gress said. “His heart stopped and everything. EMS was able to get him back. I visited him at the hospital later, and they literally had him on ice. He had no recollection of that whole week, period.”

Gress called Mr. Richardson a “great volunteer,” the type who “was always there when you needed him.”

Mr. Richardson also served two terms on the board of directors for the Friends of the Great Plains Nature Center, Gress said.

Memorials are suggested to the nature center, the historical museum, the clock collectors group and the Kansas Humane Society.

Services will be 3 p.m. Sunday at Trinity Presbyterian Church, where Mr. Richardson was a new member.

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