Richardson, Wilford René
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Born in the midst of World War I and destined to be part of what journalist Tom Brokaw called the "Greatest Generation," eleven pound Wilford René Richardson was born on November 19, 1917, as the eldest son of Effie Mae Lee and Edmund Wilford Richardson in Cactus Flat, Graham County, Arizona. His father was a farmer and his mother was a teacher. Some would say that René grew up in rather humble circumstances. In reality it was a hard scrabble existence like that endured by a number of children from his generation who later excelled to become the backbone of the community. He was painfully aware while growing up, that he and his family were con
sidered part of the poorest of the poor. This circumstance led to his having a tremendous bond of affection for his immediate family that lasted his whole life. This experience also drove him to ultimately be the best of the best. René attended grade school variously in San Jose, Lebanon, and Thatcher. He attended Safford High School and was graduated early. Once out of high school, René attended college at Gila Academy (now Eastern Arizona College) and ultimately attended law school at the University of Arizona. He concluded his law school studies in 1940 and passed the bar examination that same year. At his passing, he was one of two living members of the class of 1940. He and his classmate held the longest tenure (72 years) as members of the bar. On August 11, 1941 René was called to serve in the United States Army where he served with, among other units, the celebrated 176th Infantry. He received a battle star while serving in Alaska when the Japanese bombed Dutch Harbor. He was honorably discharged in 1946 and served for decades in the National Guard where he ultimately retired with the rank of Major. The war changed the lives of many Americans and sometimes in unexpected ways. It was while en route from Alaska, that the Kappa Delta sorority at the University of Washington decided to sponsor a dance for the soldiers. It was there that René met the love of his life. At first rebuffed, he persisted until Helen Frances Kennedy agreed to be his wife. They were married on Oct. 2, 1943, and sealed for time and eternity in the Mesa Temple on May 1, 1946. To this union were born six children Ed (Brenda Brimhall), Lynne (Robert Jones), Nicole Richardson, David (Janet Barney), Bill (Debbie Johnson) and Kathy (Brad Farber). They had 26 grand children and 32 great-grand children. René was a faithful member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and served in various capacities. He is probably best remembered for his service as Bishop of Safford 1st Ward and as the Patriarch of the Mt. Graham Stake (later Safford Stake). Service was always an important part of René's makeup. He served two terms as a State Senator from Graham County, two terms as County Attorney, 18 years on the Safford School Board (six years as president) and 15 years as the Safford City Attorney. René was preceded in death by his wife Helen, his parents, his son David Richardson, his sisters Ruth (Ross) Christensen, Lorraine (Cliff) Manderscheid, and his brother Grant Lee (Kathleen) Richardson. He is survived by his five remaining children, his grand children and great grand children, his sisters Carmen (Omer) Smith, Dixie (Roy) Powell, Clarelle (Don) Kristofferson his brother Newell Kay (Illa Mae) Richardon. René died in Mesa, Arizona on June 23, 2012. A viewing will take place at the Bunker Family Funeral Home at 33 N. Centennial Way in Mesa on July 5, 2012, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Services will be held on July 7, 2012 at the Mt. Graham Chapel at 3722 S. Hwy 191 in Safford with a viewing beginning at 9:00 a.m. Funeral services will commence at 10:00 with a burial to follow immediately afterward at the Safford City Cemetery. Many thanks to Julia, Brad and the staff at Citrus Manor in Mesa for the love and kindness shown to our father. Thanks also to Sunrise Hospice for their tireless and gentle care. Not least, we give thanks to Safford 1st Ward and bishop Montierth for their love and support.
Published in The Arizona Republic from July 3 to July 5, 2012