Robert W. (Bob) Richards passed away on Wednesday, May 3, 2017, in Hannibal, Mo.
Robert W. (Bob) Richards passed away on Wednesday, May 3, 2017, in Hannibal, Mo. Visitation will be held 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 9, 2017, at the Smith Funeral Home and Chapel, Hannibal, Mo. Funeral services will be conducted 1 p.m. Wednesday, May 10, 2017, at the First Presbyterian Church Hannibal, Sixth and Center Streets. The Rev. Douglas Darnold will officiate with Pastor Matt Ver Meer assisting. Burial will follow the funeral service in Grand View Burial Park. The American Legion Post 55 color guard will present the colors and then retire them after a brief ceremony during the graveside service. The family is being served by the Smith Funeral Home and Chapel, in Hannibal.
Bob was born Dec. 5, 1915, in Aurora, Ill. He was preceded in death by his parents; his first wife, Ester J. Pecoy Richards; a son, Robert; a daughter, Judith Lee; and his second wife, Eunice Fern Todd Richards.
Surviving Mr. Richards are one daughter, Mary Jane Wilgus of Hannibal; two grandsons, David (Estelle), who have two children, Jacob and Zoe, of Colorado Springs, Colo.; and Michael Jackson of Santa Jose, Calif. Also surviving are one brother, William (Rita) Richards of Tequesta, Fla.; and two nieces, Pat (Bill) Nichols of Salt Lake City, Utah and Barbara (Steve) Moore of Ashville, S.C.
Richards graduated from L.E.U., Chicago, Ill., preparing for a CPA career. He later attended Harvard University, completing his advanced management training. He retired in December, 1975, from the BNSF Railroad as Assistant Vice President of Purchasing and Materials. He began his railroad career in Chicago in 1934 with the former CB&Q Railroad. In 1968 he was appointed one of the Directors of this railroad. In 1968, a merger committee was active in establishing the Burlington Northern Railroad by merging the CB&Q with the Great Northern Railroad, the Northern Pacific Railroad, and the Spokane, Portland & Seattle Railway Company. Mr. Quinn, President of the CB&Q appointed Richards to this committee representing the CB&Q. An unusual experience for Richards prior to the appointment was generated by the State Department in Washington, D.C. They had accepted a South Korean Railroad representative to study the procedures used in the U.S. by the various railroads. They chose the CB&Q as one of the railroads to be used in this study. Mr. Quinn chose Richards to coordinate the education of this Korean in the purchasing, handling, storage, distribution and accounting of all materials required to keep the railroad operational. Before approving him for this venture, the State Department made an extensive background check of Richards and his wife, Fern, in the city of Aurora, Ill. It was an experience never to be forgotten, even by the city and neighbors, as the FBI, the CIA and other U.S. government representatives combed the area very thoroughly, checking every facet of their lives before approving this appointment.
Early in 1970, the merger committee completed its work, and the four railroads merged in April, creating the Burlington Northern, with headquarters in St. Paul, Minn. Mr. Robert Downing became President, and soon after appointed Richards chairman of a committee consisting of one officer of each department to tour the new railroad system of over 30,000 miles, including British Columbia. They met with every Division Superintendent and their key employees to help correct problems and recommend possible improvements that could be made toward a more efficient operation. He continued on this assignment until he retired in 1975.
Bob was recognized and named to the “Who’s Who in Railroading” from the years 1968 to 1976. This publication was researched and published by Simmons-Boardman Publishing Corporation of New York.
Richards was a member of the General Committee of the Association of American Railroads, a life member of the Western Railway Club, American Wood Preserver’s Association, Railway Tie Association, Northwest Maintenance of Way, Traffic Club of Chicago, Transportation of Material Management Association, the Chicago Association of Commerce and Industry, BN Northliners and BNSF Veterans Association. He was also a life member of the B.P.O. Elks Lodge 1198 in Hannibal, the American Legion Post 55 for over 60 years and Loyal Order of Moose Lodge 400 in Aurora, Ill., since 1942. Mr. Richards belonged to the New London Lions Club, Hannibal Arts Council, Hannibal Concert Association and the Hannibal Country Club. He became a life member of the Hannibal Regional Hospital Auxiliary. He also belonged to some social organizations, including the Tennessee Squire, Kentucky Colonel and I.O.O.B. International. He served as a Sargent in the U.S. Army during World War II.
Bob was very active in the Presbyterian Churches of the many cities in which he lived, serving as Sunday School Superintendent, marriage counselor and financial chairman. He was ordained a deacon in 1945 in St. Joseph, Mo., and an elder in 1951 in Hannibal.
After retirement, Richards became active in the Republican Party of Ralls County, serving several years as their treasurer. He also became a committeeman for Spencer Township. He belonged to the state and national Republican Parties, was a life member of the senatorial committee and a charter member of the Presidential Task Force during the Reagan years. He was Jack Danforth’s representative for Ralls County during Danforth’s first campaign for the U.S. Senate.
In 1987, Richards was appointed a commissioner of the Ralls County Welfare Department, Division of Family Services and was elected president of the commissioners from 1987 to 1990. He was forced to resign in 1990, when he moved into Hannibal in Marion County.
He always enjoyed singing with the church choirs wherever he lived. He also was a member of the Mark Twain Chorale, serving as their librarian for many years. He loved working in his flower gardens and was especially protective of over 53 species of birds that fed continually, including winter months, at two bird baths with heated water.
His great delight was reading poetry and sharing with others. He also liked to draw, using his draftsman pens and black ink, and to paint, using both oils and acrylics, until his eyesight started to fail due to macular degeneration. He loved people and was grateful for their kindness, especially after his wife, Fern, passed away in 2001.
After having hip replacement surgery in 2001, his doctor at Midwest Orthopedics encouraged him to start a serious walking program. After a few years, he was able to maintain a pace of 165 steps per minute. At the age of 88 he was fortunate to win the Hannibal Cannibal 5-K walk in the 80 age group. He repeated in 2005. In 2006, being 90 years of age, he received a beautiful special award plaque, a portion of which read, “The most senior senior ever to defeat the Hannibal Cannibal at the age of 90 and win his age group.” He was humbled by this presentation from the Hannibal Regional Hospital Foundation. Due to surgery in 2007, Bob was unable to compete, so the Foundation honored him as the Grand Marshall of that year’s event, but he won again in 2008 in the 80+ class and again in 2009 at the age of 93. Finally in 2015 the Hannibal Regional Healthcare Foundation requested that Bob start the race with a few words. His advice was to stay healthy by daily exercise and to bring a friend for the 2016 race.
Richards was also a participant in the 50+ America’s Hometown Senior Games. He won a gold medal in the 1,500 meter walk in 2005 in the 80+ age group and in 2006 won a gold for the age group of 90+ in the 1600 meter walk. In 2007 and 2008 the race returned to the 1500 meter walk and he again won both years in the 90+ age group.
Bob had a bout with cancer in 2000 but recovered fully. Bob was a constant booster for research programs striving for a cure for this disease.
In 2005, Richards reached 90 years of age and, in appreciation of the great musical programs presented by the Hannibal High School music department, established the “Richards Music Appreciation Award.” The award is made in early spring and is awarded annually. Richards hoped the program would increase monetarily, as the students who win this award are most deserving.
Pallbearers will be Jack Whitaker, Jim Behrens, Dick Motley, Howard Burton, Jon Obermann, Henry Sweets, Bob Galloway, Dr. Phillip Foreman and Logan Rhodes.
Honorary pallbearers will be Dirk Sauer, Dan Griffen, Harold Haycraft, Dr. Curtis Burton, Dr. Stephen Halpin, Dr. Michael Bukstein, Dr. Ed Ha, Dr. Kevin Imhof, Dr. Blaine Thomas, John Briscoe and Bryon Burton.
Bob requested after his death that memorials be donated directly to the Hannibal High School music department, specifying the Richards Music Appreciation Award or to the First Presbyterian Church of Hannibal, in care of the Smith Funeral Home and Chapel.
Online condolences may be made and video tribute viewed on Bob’s memorial page at www.smithfuneralhomeandchapel.com.