Fred Richards embodied a person many of us aspire to be, but few of us ever become in a lifetime. A true Renaissance man, young Fred lead a rhythm and blues band, was drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks as a goalie, went on to teach Royal Canadian Air Force pilots how to fly jet planes, became a captain for Air Canada and an aircraft crash investigator, only to retire and begin a new life as a cattle rancher and farrier. Fred learned quickly, gave generously and laughed easily. He was a man, quite simply, who could do anything.
Born in 1945 in Stow Bardolph, England to a war bride, he was named after his Canadian father, an RCAF spitfire pilot who had been shot down over Holland and gone missing behind enemy lines. Fred’s father eventually escaped, and the family moved to Toronto at the end of the war. Fred preferred chatting and playing Bridge over school work; this behaviour lead him to join the Air Force at 20 years old, where he flew Tutors and T-Birds. He married Kathy in 1967 after meeting her at a University of Western Ontario dance. He was one of the best-looking people Kathy had ever seen.
While instructing pilots in Gimli in 1971, Fred’s son Matthew was born. The family was then transferred to a Navy base on Vancouver Island where Fred flew patrols over the sea, tracking everything from American submarines to oil slicks. In 1973, he joined Air Canada, where he earned $800 for his first month of work as a second officer. His daughter Sarah was born that same year.
The family eventually moved to Winnipeg in 1978. Fred enjoyed Winnipeg; he felt it was a good place to raise children. Every year, he participated in the Franco-Manitoban Festival du Voyageur, donning a voyageur’s blue felt coat, red sash and tuque to ride his horse Midnight in the parade. Summers were spent at a cottage near Kenora; fishing, reading, swimming and picking ‘blubes’ to make blueberry pie with his kids.
To his family, Fred demonstrated a fatherly devotion few have the fortune to experience. In 1992, he fulfilled Kathy’s dream of owning a cattle farm by moving to Alberta. Fred became a skilled farrier and loved the challenge of shoeing, which required a keen understanding of a horse’s temperament and health. He also enjoyed roping and cutting and was an active member of the Rimbey Rodeo Board and Rimbey Agricultural Society.
His wit was quicker than a rattlesnake’s strike, and could be equally as barbed. Nevertheless, Fred reserved judgment for the most egregious. His temper could be stronger than a tsunami, but was almost always fueled by the unrealistic standards he set for himself.
As his health grew increasingly poor, Fred continued to live his life for others, whether it be helping neighbours or skating with his grandson.
During his final hours, Fred never complained as his family, unable to let go, sought every treatment or medication to save him from the effects of a stroke and failing heart. Fred wanted to live, but he was not afraid of death. For years, he had eased the suffering of his own animals, a responsibility that deeply affected him, but that he insisted taking on. He knew he could do it right, and do it best, as he did with his own death.
His disappearance has left an immense hole in the lives of those who knew and loved him.
His funeral will be held at the Rimbey United Church today, Tuesday, June 21, 2016 at 1:00 p.m., with the Reverend David Holmes officiating. Interment will follow in the Iola Fairview Cemetery, Bluffton. If friends desire, memorial tributes in Fred’s Memory may be made directly to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, #202, 5913 – 50 Avenue, Red Deer, Alberta T4N 4C4 (www.heartandstroke.ab.ca). Condolences to the Richards Family may also be expressed by e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Service and Cremation Arrangements for the Late Fred Richards entrusted to the care of
OBERHAMMER FUNERAL CHAPELS LTD.