Dr. (Norma) Lee Richards, 80, passed peacefully on Feb. 14, 2013 at home, surrounded by friends and family, in Mandeville, La. Self-described as "a Kansas hick who happened to get educated," Lee was born June 3rd, 1932 in a farmhouse in Gove County, Kan. She was raised in Colby, Kan. and at the age of 18 left home for college with money she had saved from working. She earned her B.A. in 1954 from Emporia State, an M.A. in sculpture from New Mexico State University in 1968, and her Doctorate in Art Education at the University of Kansas in 1972. She was one of the first women innovators in her fields of metal work and teaching. From her first high school teaching job in 1954 until her retirement in 1990 Dr. Richards dedicated 38 years to her students. Nothing pleased her more than seeing them become successful. She taught metal arts and Art Education for 15 years and was Head of the Music Department for five at NMSU. She continued to be an active part of the arts community and volunteered creating murals in several Las Cruces schools. A master metal smith with 61 years' experience, Dr. Richards continued working in her studio until she passed. Her progressive jewelry and metal sculptures showed regularly in the 70's and 80's and received many awards. She was generous as she continued to work privately and many lucky people have received a piece of her work. Prior to her death she wrote, "I've had a wonderful life filled with a terrific family and fantastic friends, a very satisfying career, and a son and his partner who take superb care of me – who could ask for anything more." Lee was preceded in death by her parents Floyd and Ada Brown and two sons Rhys and Russ Richards. She is survived by her family: brother Russell and Chris Brown and their family; nephew Roy and Marcia Brown and their wonderful families Marcie Nevarez, nee Brown, Ernie, Ernie Jr., Nicholas; T.J. Brown and daughter, Zoe; her "near son" Ronnie Derk; and her son Ryan Richards and his partner Craig Inman. She was loved by many friends including Beth, Charlotte, Chris, Linda, Marianna, Marie, Raz, Romie, Sandy, Sil, Steph, and Stormie. Lee and Ryan would like to acknowledge St. Joseph's Hospice for her care and Vicki Martin for her care and friendship. A teacher of life and art, both in and beyond the walls of Academia, Lee enriched everyone lucky enough to be near her. For those of us touched by Lee's many teachings we will carry with us a lifetime of skills, devotion and love no diploma can ever impart. The acts of learning and teaching were the road we, the family, friends and students, were honoured to travel with Lee and will continue to carry forward and share with others. There will be a memorial gathering to celebrate Lee's life on Sunday March 31, 3 to 6 p.m., with speakers at 4:30, Meson de Mesilla in Las Cruces, call 985-789-3322 for additional information.
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Published in Las Cruces Sun-News on Feb. 23, 2013