A hallmark of Lawrence Arthur Richards' life was the quality of the human relationships he fostered everywhere he went—from
childhood to the day he died. "I was always impressed," his widow Jeanne
writes, "by his natural, informal diplomacy that made for many enduring
friendships with colleagues, foreign military officers, and civilians." Jeanne
continues to hear from Larry's friends in many places. Wherever he lived, Larry quickly became involved in community activities, coaching soccer and
softball, teaching scuba diving, and the Boy Scouts.
Larry was born at Ft. Monmouth, NJ, the son of Daniel A.
Richards '37 and Jane Richards, nee Twinting. Larry has an older sister,
Judith, and a younger brother, James '69. His boyhood was spent at Army posts
far and wide. Larry and Judy learned to ski in Germany where, his father
remembers, they would strap on their skis in the dining room and trundle out
through French doors directly onto a slope. Judy remembers Larry's model
airplanes, his go-carts and his tumbling at play with his pet Boxers, "just as
he did later with his children, 'Tom and Mary.''
At USMA, Larry tolerated academics, but his enthusiasm lay
in sports. He participated in gymnastics, soccer, and track. He loved spicing
up life with friendly little competitions, and his roommate, Quincy Holton,
remembers such as who could hang on a bar the longest. Larry treated
all with a graciousness that softened his underlying competitiveness.
Upon graduation, Larry went into the Infantry, training as
a paratrooper, ranger, and pathfinder, and serving four years with the 101st
and 82d Airborne Divisions. Larry took a leave of absence during 1965-66 to
take pre-med courses. His objective of becoming a doctor was frustrated,
however, by two tours in Viet Nam. Larry received the Bronze Star, the
Commendation Medal, and the Combat Infantryman Badge for his service in Viet
Nam. In 1972, Larry earned an MBA from Golden Gate University in California.
After tours with NATO, Southeast Headquarters in Izmir, Turkey, and CDCEC, he
left Active Duty as a major in 1975.
In civilian life, Larry continued to serve in the Army
Reserve while becoming a manager in 1976 of the comptroller's office in the
Bechtel Corporation, where he developed computer software. Larry's career at
Bechtel overlapped with his father's "second career" with them, and the two
enjoyed a number of lunches in San Francisco. Larry worked at Bechtel until
As a plebe, Larry met pretty 15-year-old Jeannette Dilg.
"As if by prior arrangement," she writes 42 years later, "Larry stepped out
from behind one of those suits of armor." He was a smiling, tall,
handsome, well-built 17-year-old in cadet gray with a charmingly crooked nose.
Classmate Lynn Bender recalled, "I was dating a girl and
asked Larry to "drag" her friend. Larry was dubious, so they agreed I would
show the girls around the West Point Museum and Larry, unseen, would check
them out. If he liked what he saw, he would approach and introduce himself.
Larry took one peep from behind that suit of armor and stepping out to meet
Jeanne was Larry's smartest move in life. It was a most happy relationship.
They married in 1964 and raised two children—Tom and Mary. Larry's friend, Sam
Burney '64, speaks of the extraordinary pride and affection Larry always had
for his family. Sam reminisces with a tone of awe at the deep level of
involvement Larry had in his children's lives.
"When I ruptured my kidney playing football," his son Tom
recalled, "he was on the field within seconds. After the doctor told me I
should stop playing football and focus on swimming, Dad brought home a
waterpolo ball. When I played my first game in college after he died, I looked
up into the stands only to realize that, for the first rime, no one was
In 1983, an x-ray revealed a dark spot on one of Larry's
lungs—it was cancer. For four long years, Larry valiantly fought that disease,
through surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation treatments. He focused on two
things during that time—his family and the disease. As the end approached in
the spring of 1987, his appearance took on that of a man decades older than
his 47 years.
Four dates became important for Larry—his son Tom obtaining
his Eagle Scout status and graduating from high school; his daughter Mary
completing her championship season as catcher on her school softball team
(Larry never missed a game); and his parents' 50th wedding anniversary. They
all occurred during May through June 1987. Larry made all four events, but
died shortly after, on 28 Jun 1987, at 47 years of age.
Larry left behind his beloved Jeanne, Tom, and Mary. Jeanne
went on to law school and is now a lawyer. She guided both Tom and Mary off to
Yale University. Tom is now at Harvard Medical School, and Mary is at UC-San
Diego Medical School. It is easy to see why Larry was so proud of all three of
Larry's continued presence in their lives is poignantly
captured by his daughter, Mary. As her wedding day approached, she writes, "I
feared his absence would leave me sad on what should be a happy day. But it
turned out I felt his presence more strongly than any day since he died. He
was there with me as his father walked me down the aisle, as my uncle gave a
memorable toast at the reception, and as my mother competently oversaw the
Similarly, Tom writes, '"When I hear myself encourage
somebody, I hear my father speaking through me."
That Long Island girl who supported him through thick and
thin, Jeannette Dilg Richards, writes, "Reporting what Larry did doesn't begin
to measure the man. He had a remarkable mix of qualities that truly enriched
the lives of all around him. He had great strength—physical and mental. He had
an eagerness for challenge, a high tolerance for risk, an inability to
complain, and a great sense of calm during crisises. He exuded confidence and
optimism. He inspired courage in the weakest of us that knew him. He had an
unerring sense of direction most welcomed by his family when caught in desert
thunderstorms, mountain blizzards, and Turkish bazaars. He enjoyed buying
paintings from the artist, hiding Easter eggs in fields of wild flowers,
exploring wilderness areas, and spending an arctic night in an igloo of his
own making. He was romantic, kind, compassionate, and supportive. He could
establish immediate rapport with shy youngsters, frightened animals, and
crotchety seniors. He was generous, enthusiastic, always encouraging. He was a
wonderful husband, father, son, and brother. He had energy, humor, and an
irrepressible joie de vivre. Life with Larry was fun."