OBERLIN — Richard Pierce Lothrop, a lifelong resident of Oberlin, Ohio, died peacefully at Welcome Nursing Home on Aug. 18, 2015, under the gentle care of hospice and the nursing home staff. His age was 89 years, eight months and five days.
He was born on Dec. 12, 1925, in Washington, D.C., the son of Alfred Pierce Lothrop and Florence Augusta Osborne. Shortly thereafter the Lothrop family moved to Oberlin where his parents had met as Oberlin College students and where his father, Dr. A. P. Lothrop, became a professor of chemistry. The family took up residence at 279 Elm St. Richard always considered Oberlin his hometown.
A 1944 graduate of Oberlin High School, Richard served in the U.S. Naval Reserve at the end of World War II. Following this term of service with the Navy, Richard attended Wooster College as a history major where he was awarded a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1949. His love of history began when he was a boy gathering every piece of information he could find on the presidents of the United States and the kings and queens of England. For a time he served as an admissions counselor first at Illinois College in Jacksonville, Ill., and then Beloit College in Beloit, Wis. After seeking further education, Richard received a Master of Education degree from the University of Illinois in 1954. He then served as an admissions counselor with the Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. After serving in the capacity of teacher, dean of men, and director of admissions, Richard returned to school once more and earned a Master's Degree in Library Science from Case Western Reserve University in 1967. He was hired by Lake Ridge Academy in North Ridgeville, Ohio, in 1968 as the school librarian and served in this capacity until he retired in 1988.
Ever the consummate civic-minded citizen, Richard was elected to the Oberlin city council where he served terms from 1974-1983, 1986-1991, and 1994-1999. He served as the chair of council in 1978-1979, 1986-1987, and served as vice chair several times. He was acting city manager from November 1978 to July 1979.
As a child and teenager he was an active member at Oberlin's First Church (Congregational – now United Church of Christ) however, during this time he also sang as a boy soprano in the Christ Episcopal Church men and boy's choir under the direction the Rev. Canon Louis E. Daniels. He became a member of Christ Church in 1961 through the rite of confirmation. During his 50-plus years at Christ Church, he served in two significant long-term roles: clerk of the vestry and "historiographer." During his city council years, Richard was truly a man about town, visiting his constituents on Sunday mornings by attending worship services not only at Christ Church but also at First Church and the First United Methodist Church where he also held an associate membership. Richard served on the Friends of the Oberlin Library board for many years in the capacity of secretary. He served as a member of the board for the Oberlin Cable Co-op and, for a time, hosted a once-a-month 30-minute television show, "Conversations with Lothrop." The format of this show consisted of interviews with local civic, religious, and college leaders as well as other persons of interest.
In the early 1960s, Richard re-purchased his family home on Elm Street and lived there until 2013 when the infirmities of age necessitated that he could not live alone. For several decades, Richard wrote an occasional column for the Oberlin News Tribune entitled "Elm Street Thoughts" in which he mused about everything from Oberlin's history to his own take on living life in a college town. In one of the most endearing columns, Richard described his life-long love for brown cocker spaniels in general, and seven such canines companions in particular — all with the given name "Rusty."
During his lifetime he never lost his love of learning and enjoyed traveling and music, especially the Bach festivals at Baldwin Wallace College in addition to Oberlin Conservatory offerings such as the Baroque Performance Institute. Richard's legacy included an almost obsessive trait to save newspaper clippings and document people, places, and events. He kept hundreds of files on subjects ranging from Oberlin events, Oberlin residents, and Oberlin College students, faculty, and staff to trains, planes, automobiles, and stamps! Many of these files are now in the protective repository of the Oberlin Heritage Center for future generations to use.
He belonged to several to several civic, educational, and academic organizations including the Oberlin Spectrum Club, the American Guild of Organists, and Beta Phi Mu, International Library Science Honor Society.
During his senior years, Richard was awarded many accolades celebrating his contributions and life interests. In 1999, Richard was made an honorary Oberlin firefighter in recognition of his interest in the department and his work in helping to get the present fire station built. The same year Richard was also awarded a certificate of appreciation by the Oberlin Historic Improvement Organization (O.H.I.O.) in recognition of his years of public service. Likewise, in 1999 Richard received a proclamation by the Oberlin city council celebrating his 22 years as a public servant. In 2002, Richard was feted as a "Community Historian" by O.H.I.O (now the Oberlin Heritage Center). In January of 2012, the vestry of Christ Church recognized Richard's many hours of volunteer service to parish and bestowed on him the honorary and revered title of archivist emeritus. But the honor which really surprised and pleased Richard the most was being named "Oberlinian of the Year" for 1996. The article lauding his selection sums up the spirit of his life best by reflecting: "If we had to pick an ambassador to talk about Oberlin to any group, we would surely pick Dick Lothrop." He loved to tell stories. He had stories to tell.
Richard leaves to cherish his memory a host of acquaintances, friends, and colleagues.
Memorial contributions may be made to Christ Episcopal Church 162 South Main St., Oberlin, OH 44074; or the charity of one's choice. Burial will take place at Westwood Cemetery next to the graves of his mother and father on Sept. 11 at 11 a.m. followed by a memorial service at Christ Episcopal Church, Oberlin, which will begin at noon. The Rev. David Hill of Oberlin's First Church UCC and the Rev. Fr. Brian K. Wilbert of Christ Church will officiate.