Dec. 5, 1923 - Sept. 2, 2020
Richard Hamlin Romney
Born December 5, 1923 --- Died September 20, 2020
Born in Odgen, Utah as the third child of Miles Alonzo Romney and Laura Eccles Romney, Richard Hamlin Romney joined older siblings Quintin and Joyce. With his outgoing nature and engaging grin, he quickly found many friends and adventures outside the home. Driven by a curiosity about people, he easily engaged with people everywhere and he maintained these friendships with travels and letters. His thick address book attests to many friends he stayed in touch with around the world.
In 1936, the family left Ogden and relocated to Vienna, Austria, just in time for Richard to shimmy up a lamppost to watch Hitler arrive during the Anschluss. Living in Vienna, traveling around Europe, and attending camp in Hungary endowed Richard with a life-long enjoyment of European culture, fluency in German, and many abiding friends.
The family returned to Los Angeles in 1939. After high school, Richard attended UCLA, where he was a member of the ROTC. In 1943, he enlisted in the Navy and served in the Pacific theater. Overseas for the final two years of World War II, he became an avid letter writer. Weekly letters to his mother and his much-admired older brother Quin crisscrossed the globe. This correspondence grew, and the pages of his address book began to fill.
After the war, Richard finished his degree, then tried banking, and then pursued an MBA at Stanford University. After graduation in 1950, Richard and best Stanford buddy Joseph Klammer cycled around Europe, meeting Richard's Danish relatives, Stanford classmates, and Viennese friends.
Richard's first job after Stanford was in sales with Carnation Milk Company in southern California. He was quickly promoted and sent to Australia to introduce condensed milk to a new market. For his nephews, Kenny and Richard Stermer, Carnation Milk has always been a fond childhood memory.
In 1956, Johnson Wax hired Richard to manage their fledgling salesforce in Germany. In post-war Hamburg, he sold car-loving Germans "super shine" wax.
His direct, gregarious approach impressed his colleagues and his clients, and once again many more friendships were formed. More addresses entered his book. His first boss, the jovial Englishman James Howarth and wife Mary, became dear friends – so much so, that when their son Gerald ran for Parliament in England in 1997, Richard hit the campaign trail for the Margaret Thatcher favorite.
He met his first wife Hildegard Gerhardt in Hamburg while looking for a sublet. They married in 1958 and were joined by daughter Vivian a year later.
In 1965, Richard moved to Switzerland as general manager, where he loved "being a big fish in a small pond", and where he enjoyed hiking, skiing, and fondue.
Richard took over Johnson's German subsidiary in 1969, reuniting him with many of his colleagues and friends. In Solingen, he finally joined Rotary, a long- cherished ambition which had been instilled in him by his Uncle Dave Romney.
Next came Paris, where he joined Johnson's pan-European executive team. There he refreshed his French, developed a fondness for pâté and cheese, and introduced favorite nephew Bob "Rubbertoes" Romney and niece Lauralon Sandell to the "real" European experience.
In 1972, via the State Department and Ogden, a letter from Hungary reached Richard in Germany. The writer was Paul Felix, whom he had befriended in summer camp in 1937. Paul had never forgotten his outgoing friend, and despite the Iron Curtain, he sought to reconnect. So, Richard drove to Budapest behind in his baby blue Mercedes to meet Paul and his family, returning sans hubcaps. Many reunions followed.
Richard returned to San Jose, California and acquired a manufacturing business in 1976. And that same year he joined his brother-in-law John Sandell and his mother Laura Eccles Romney in a successful real estate partnership.
Richard rang in the new year in 1977, by marrying Hannelore Christiansen, whom he had met while in Europe. She had emigrated to the US in 1968.
His outgoing personality and international experience were best applied at the Rotary Club. With Hannelore at his side, he dedicated enormous energy and time to Rotary and became a fixture at their events and programs. His experience as mentor, gained in fostering German salesmen into international careers, served him well as he worked tirelessly on Rotary's International Scholarships program. For many years he wrote "Rick's Picks" -- recommendations on Rotary programs to share among the clubs. Richard's service to the community also extended through participation on the Grand Jury in San Jose.
Richard and Hannelore traveled widely, often stopping to see the friends around the world. In return, many traveled to San Jose. Visitors were treated to one of Richard's favorite pastimes – picnics at Big Basin. Always popular with the ladies, Richard was a fine and energetic dancer. He attended Rotary galas in a tux complete with a top hat and a silk scarf. For many years, Richard and Hannelore attended the musical series at Foothill College with a group of friends. Richard always accompanied Hannelore to the opera and the symphony, whether he liked the music or not. He was a member of the Piledrivers investment club in San Francisco, enjoying to company as much as the investing.
With increasing age, there were fewer and fewer people to write to, and now with his passing at age 96, there are not many people in his well-worn address book to inform. But he is on his way to see them again.
Richard is survived by his wife Hannelore Romney, and his daughter Vivian Romney.
Memorial Celebration will be held when safe. View the online memorial for Richard Romney