Venesha Richards: A Dream of Paris
When Venesha Rodgers caught a short ride home from work at Bradlees in North Brunswick, N.J., her lift, Hopeton Richards, instantly realized she was just the person he had been looking for: fun, smart, an active Christian and, like Mr. Richards, an émigré from Jamaica. Not only that, she lived around the corner. In July 1998, four years after that five-minute car ride, they were married.
Mrs. Richards was a one-woman power plant. As a young mother, a student in technology systems at Pace University, holding a full-time job, she still helped run trips for her church youth group.
Before baby Kayla was born last year, she and Mr. Richards traveled to Mexico; Key West, Fla.; the Bahamas; and the Poconos. "Ven always wanted to go to Paris," Mr. Richards said.
Mrs. Richards, 26, "was more of a mama to me than I was to her," said Lelith Grant, her mother, who worked night shifts as a nurse so she and Mrs. Richards could swap child-minding chores. On school holidays, Mrs. Richards took her little brother and sister to work at Marsh & McLennan on the 100th floor of 1 World Trade Center.
Heading home, she always made a beeline. "She couldn't wait to see Kayla take her first step," said Mr. Richards. "She took it three days after the incident."
Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on December 28, 2001.
Venesha Richards, 26, mom who led a vibrant life
During the Brunswick Church of God's annual Labor Day picnic, Venesha Richards was where she loved to be -- surrounded by children.
"She was playing ball with the kids. . . . You always would see her with the kids," said Ivette Cox, a family friend.
As the church's assistant youth director, Mrs. Richards, 26, spent a lot of time around young people.
"What I loved about her most was that she was so energetic," said Cox, who referred to her as her niece. "When she was pregnant you couldn't tell that she was pregnant even when she was big. She would walk and dance and you couldn't believe it. She was vibrant."
Mrs. Richards enjoyed an active lifestyle, her family and friends said. Among her favorite things to do were to travel -- having been to Europe and more recently to Mexico -- and to chaperon children from her church on an annual South Jersey camping trip.
Mrs. Richards, who moved to New Jersey from Jamaica when she was 9, graduated from Franklin High School in Franklin Township and later received her bachelor's degree from Berkeley College in Woodbridge in 1995.
She landed a job as a secretary at Marsh & McLennan on the 100th floor of the World Trade Center, working in the risk management division. She also was to receive a graduate degree in computer science and information technology at Pace University in New York next year.
"She was the best friend I had. We talked about everything," said her mother, Lelith Bergen of Franklin Township. Because she cared for Mrs. Richards' infant daughter while she was at work, Mrs. Bergen said they saw each other every day.
A whiz with computers, people often turned to her for help. Mrs. Richards helped design and print her church programs. Last month, she helped her mother organize a fashion show fund-raiser by printing the tickets and programs.
The last time her mother saw her was the day before the Sept. 11 attacks. "My last words to her were 'I love you,' and I didn't know it would be the last time I would say that," she said.
Mrs. Richards, who lived with her husband, Hopeton, and her daughter, Kayla, in North Brunswick, spoke about her family often, especially her daughter.
"Not a day would go by that she didn't talk about her family," said Hopeton Richards. They were both looking forward to celebrating their daughter's first birthday on Oct. 24.
"The one thing she really wanted to do was celebrate her daughter's birthday," her husband said. "She wanted to see her walk."
In addition, to her mother, husband and daughter, Mrs. Richards is survived by three brothers, Omar Rogers of North Brunswick, Shaun Rogers of Lawrenceville and Naquan Bergen of Franklin Township; a sister, Queena Bergen of Franklin Township; her father, Stanley Rogers of Baltimore; her maternal grandparents, Hagle Brown of Jamaica and Lloyd Grant of Franklin Township; and her paternal grandmother, Ida Rogers of Jamaica; and several nieces, nephews and other relatives.
A memorial service will be held at 5 p.m. Sunday at Brunswick Church of God, 48 Lee Ave., New Brunswick.
Profile by Alicia Grey published in THE STAR-LEDGER.