Francis Gordon “Rick” Richardson passed away Saturday, July 3, 2021, at home in Brainerd with family at his side.
He was 92.
He had the blessing of a long life and though health issues related to prostate cancer added challenges at the end, his mind remained sharp along with his wit. He embraced being a Minnesotan, but his life began far from the landlocked Midwest.
He was born April 6, 1929, in Cambridge, Maryland, to Ernest Richardson and Beulah (Smith) Richardson. His father worked for the railroad and his mother worked in a shirt-making factory. He was their only child. His childhood was highlighted by fishing on the Choptank River, a major tributary of the Chesapeake Bay. He especially enjoyed fishing excursions with his grandfather. His boyhood days included time with friends and adventures on his own with his beloved faithful canine companion, Bobby, who he often referred to as his brother.
He grew up when the globe was embroiled in World War II. In 1947, at age 17, he and a friend joined the Navy. Perhaps improbably, he was stationed in Minneapolis. It was there, purely by chance, where he met the love of his life, Isabel Ann Raboin. Their meeting was also improbable as a last minute, blind date to fill out a Saturday night double-date for their respective friends. The match to the spark was ignited. They were married for 71 years.
Their married life took them across the country and the world. They had five children and endured the heart-breaking loss of a 6-month old son Tommy in 1953.
He spent three years in the Navy, then tried a variety of jobs. He sold encyclopedias door-to-door in Minneapolis, selling a complete set to one family largely because he knew sign language and could communicate with the parents. He worked in a box factory in Cass Lake, his wife’s hometown, and at a nearby sawmill, as a temporary police officer, all before working first for the railway at Kelly Lake, then for a short time in the train yard in Duluth putting trains together and before becoming a fireman on the train. He was always looking for something better. Following the start of the Korean War, he went to re-enlist in the Navy. When they weren’t taking married men, the Air Force recruiter stepped forward and he joined the Air Force in 1951. He was stationed at Travis Air Force Base in California. He became a radioman before being sent for training as an aerial photographer and he became the photographer for a B-36R reconnaissance plane with a crew of 15.
The flights included top secret missions where the film, or photos that could be developed on the plane, could be off-loaded before the plane landed in case of a mishap. He later became a drill instructor at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. The service took him from Greenland to Guam, from Europe to Asia. For three years, he and his family lived off base outside of Yokota Air Base near Tokyo, Japan.
He spent 10 years and three months in the Air Force, rising to staff sergeant before a boyhood dream meant exchanging the Air Force uniform for a Minnesota State trooper’s. As a boy in Maryland, he would watch a uniformed police officer pass his home on a motorcycle and thought that was what he wanted to do. He finally got that chance. The family moved back to Minnesota and he was accepted into the Minnesota State Patrol, serving from Oct. 4, 1961 to Oct. 4, 1984. His first post took him to southwest Minnesota and the family made a home in Springfield. He worked through blizzards, investigated crashes and was among those assigned to patrol the construction of the high-voltage powerline in west central Minnesota, which had prolonged protests by farmers to prevent the work. When he was promoted to sergeant, the family moved to Austin while he worked as a supervisor out of the Rochester district, later rising to the rank of lieutenant there. He served on Gov. Al Quie’s security detail.
For many years he was a champion league bowler, traveling across the country to tournaments. In 1979, he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from St. Mary’s University in Winona. After his retirement, he worked as a security officer at the new Canterbury Park horse racing track in Shakopee. He enjoyed spending time with horses and took care of the family’s two horses, Cherokee and Kahlua Joe, at the home in rural Austin, along with an abandoned rooster named Henry, cats Cheeks and Willie along with an assortment of strays and the family dog, Tony.
Harkening back to his early sales days, he started a number of his own small business enterprises, including selling essential oils. He had a consuming interest in science and health. He loved watching science fiction and classic monster movies, feeding birds, and creating impromptu rhyming poems. In 2000, he and his wife retired to Brainerd to be closer to family.
He was an intensely private man, exceedingly generous and possessed a deep faith, spending time in prayer and dutifully saying five rosaries a day for years on end. He will be greatly missed by his family.
Survivors include his wife, Ann; son, James (Pam) Richardson; three daughters, Patricia (Dennis) Austin, Pamela (Joe) Biermaier, and Renee Richardson; grandchildren, Tiffany (Jeff) Johnson, Christina Austin, Ben (Nikki Knaffla) Biermaier, Chris (Christina) Biermaier, and Amy (Mike) Vogsland; great-grandchildren, Madie Johnson Sloss, Austin Johnson, Sam, Henry and Will Spare, Arlo, Finn and Nastya Biermaier, Brooks Shatto, Bailey Biermaier, Oliver and Aiden Vogsland.
Mass of Christian Burial will be 11 a.m. Friday, July 16, at St. Francis Catholic Church in Brainerd. Visitation will be from 10-11 a.m. before the service and there will be a rosary prayer at 9:30 a.m. A luncheon will follow mass. Interment will be in Evergreen Cemetery in Brainerd.
Arrangements by Nelson-Doran Funeral Home in Brainerd.
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