Wesley Gardiner Richardson, my dad, passed peacefully from this world to his eternal home today. He was born January 10, 1933 in Philadelphia. As a child, he lived across the street from Patti Patton (my Mom) in Prospect Park, PA.
The day the war ended, he flashed her signals with his flashlight from his attic bedroom. His family moved to Chicago and Detroit before moving back to the same house in Prospect Park to finish out high school, where his Latin teacher made him promise to never take another foreign language again.
He always loved cars and trains and anything mechanical, especially if it moved. He enlisted in the Air Force after a year at business school, married my Mom, and served in Greenland during the Korean War.
He was in Greenland when my brother Kurt was born, but was out of the service when I came along. We lived in Oxford, Maryland and later moved to Harmony, Maryland. Dad had a difficult childhood with an alcoholic father, which affected him greatly. But his life was transformed later (still with his characteristic gruffness intact), after his kids were grown, when he gave his life to Jesus.
Dad worked as a mechanic and then a truck driver. He loved tinkering with stuff or driving on the open road, content with solitude most of the time. He had a dry sense of humor, was always generous and hard-working, and showed his love best by asking how our cars were doing or slipping us a $20 bill. Whenever we’d come home to visit, Dad would pick up our suitcases and say, “What do you have in there? Your rock collection?” When the time came to leave and we’d say when we were coming back, Dad would say, “Thanks for the warning.”
Three of the happiest moments in his life came when his three grandchildren, Alex, Mark, and Lisa, were born. Dad quickly made cement steppingstones for each of them with their names and birthdates recorded. And he talked my Mom into uprooting from Delaware and moving to Arizona to be near them.
Dad wasn’t a big talker, so the words he spoke were especially significant. When I boarded the plane for Eastern Europe to move there, not even knowing which country I would live in, both my parents let me go and entrusted me to God’s care. That could not have been easy; the times were tumultuous. Dad said, “There’s no safer place for you to be than where God wants you.” The first time I returned on furlough, Dad met me at the airport with a box of peppermint patties and a clock he made by hand, shaped like a piece of bread with “Bine aţi venit” written on it. He’d called the Romanian Embassy to find out how to say “Welcome home.” When I married Steve, Dad had one piece of advice for me, summed up in one word: “Bend.”
More than eleven years ago, my father had a stroke which made him unable to drive. The man who loved being on the road now had a life confined to a chair in a small apartment. For the last year, he’s suffered from vascular dementia. It’s been one of the biggest honors of my life to walk beside him on this hard path, and we have shared some sweet moments I will treasure forever. Before he came down with dementia, he told me a joke: The best thing about having dementia is you can hide your own Easter eggs.
In July, we placed him in a wonderful home for memory care, up in the North Carolina mountains. It was an adjustment at first, but then Dad would say, “I have a lot of friends here.” And he did. When he went to the ICU in November, the nurses lined up to cheer and cry when he was wheeled back in. They truly loved him and I will always be thankful to them for that.
His last car ride was me driving him up the mountain to his new home. He kept saying, “Wow!” at every curve as he saw a new stunning green view with the blue hills as a backdrop. Oh, the sights he is seeing now!
Dad’s years of suffering are finished and we are grateful for that. Now his faith has been made sight and he is whole and healed and filled with joy in the presence of Christ, all the rough places vanished. I will miss him. The last time I saw him, we were talking about the home Jesus has prepared for him. He said he’s ready to go there. I said, “Before you know it, we’ll be there, too.” I look forward to that day.
In Arizona, Dad’s pastor asked a group of men what they want people to say at their funeral, hoping for something profoundly spiritual. My dad answered, “Look! He’s moving!” That is classic Wesley.
A friend of mine reminded me that he IS moving now. More than moving, he is now able to leap as though he has hinds’ feet on high places.