ITHACA/RICHLAND CENTER — Orlen E. Richards, age 86, passed away on Monday, April 6, 2020, at the Richland Hospital due to complications from Myasthenia Gravis, a condition he suffered from for many years but did not let slow him down. He was born Jan. 28, 1934, to Alta and Clyde Richards and raised on the rural farm north of Ithaca. Orlen graduated from Ithaca High School in 1952 after receiving the State Farmer Degree from the Future Farmers of America, he promptly married his high school sweetheart, Alice Winslow.
Orlen farmed for many years on the family farm. He and Alice were recognized as the Richland County Outstanding Young Farmers in the late 60s and hosted the Richland County Holstein Twilight Meeting in the early 70s. During this time Orlen served on the Consumers Coop Board of Directors for over 15 years, the Associated Milk Producers Board of Directors, the Ithaca School District Board of Education, and for over 25 years he served on the Franklin Farmers Mutual Insurance Company Board of Directors. Beginning at the age of 16, Orlen began playing piano and organ at the Willow Valley United Methodist Church for services; he taught Sunday school and served on many committees for the church. Early in his life he also took over the Richards Insurance Agency when, in 1959, his father passed away. He became the 3rd generation serving neighbors and friends through the business his grandfather, O.E. Richards, started, and that continues today.
In the late 1980s, Orlen increased his time dedicated to the insurance business and took over the dual role of caregiver and tiger-wrangler of daughter Joy. For 11 years he was the primary caregiver for Joy, a role he was well suited to fill with his extensive patience and empathy for others. Since keeping Joy under control was only a ¾ time job he took on bus driving duties at Ithaca Public Schools driving many children to the school and their sporting events. After 30 years of driving a school bus, he retired to a celebration typically reserved for returning championship sports teams.
Survivors include his wife and life partner, Pastor Alice Richards; one daughter and three sons, Annette Louis, Ron Richards and his very special friend Debbie Mitchell, Robert (Cheryl) Richards, and Marty (Teri) Richards; 10 grandchildren, Chris Louis, Bret (Carrie) Louis, Aaron Richards, Courtney Richards and fiancé Kyle Hemphill, Owen (Emmy) Richards, Jenny (Brian) Waldner, Nathan (MacKenzie) Richards, Holly (Chris) Hoagland, Laurel Richards and special friend John Archiquette, Leah Richards; five German and Swiss exchange grandchildren; 14 great-grandchildren, with one on the way; brother, John (Lynette) Richards; sisters-in-law, Ruth (Neal) Anderson and Mary (Jim) Connors; and cousin, Paul (Barb) Denman.
He was preceded in death by a daughter, Joy Richards; grandsons, Gene Phillip Richards, Kyle Richards; sisters-in-law, Charolette (Tom) Williams, Carol Amelong; and close cousin, Eleanor Poole.
Our Dad was a remarkable man; he brought meaning to the term “Servant Leader” before it was a term used in corporate circles to coach executive’s leadership styles. He was not one to seek credit, strongly dispute philosophies of the organizations he served, or strongly debate with his children regarding their life decisions (that was Mom’s role). Dad was more one to come along side of everyone and support through actions and tasks. Everyone liked and respected him, and he liked and respected everyone he met.
A graveside committal service will be held on Sunday, Aug. 9, 2020, at 11:30 a.m. at the WILLOW VALLEY CEMETERY in Ithaca Township. Memorials may be given to the Ithaca School Foundation and the Willow Valley United Methodist Church.