Ray Gene Richardson
Ray Gene Richardson died Sunday, June 18, 2017, at his home. He was 95.
He was born Jan. 1, 1922, in Mt. Vernon, the oldest of three children born to Hal Ray and Laura Jane (Butrick) Richardson. Except for his military service, he spent his entire life in Mt. Vernon.
Ray Gene began working before he could drive, molding concrete blocks for an addition to the Strand Theatre; pumping gas; unloading railroad cars full of wheat at the mill; helping an electrician wire homes as part of rural electrification; and doing farm work at the county poor farm, among other jobs. After graduating from Mt. Vernon High School in 1940, he went to work for Carnation Company for 25 cents an hour.
On Oct. 5, 1942, he married the woman he described as the love of his life, Betty Jo Loe, and four days later he was inducted into military service. Ray Gene said he had nothing but $3 and a 1934 Chevrolet when he and Betty left to get married. He gave his last dollar to the preacher. The marriage lasted more than 74 years.
Ray Gene served as a T-4 in the Army Air Force during World War II in the European Theatre and often spoke of how proud he was to have worn the uniform of his country. His duty locations included Washington, Utah and Iowa, where he served on the refilling crew for B17s, as a staff car driver and aircraft dispatcher. While overseas, he was a truck mechanic and driver in North Africa and Italy, and also served in Germany and England.
After the war, he worked on the expansion of Lambert Air Field in St. Louis then went to work for Remmert-Werner, which was converting DC-3s into executive aircrafts. He attended school at the same time and graduated from Bailey Radio & TV School, St. Louis. He and Betty returned home to Mt. Vernon to open Ray’s Radio and TV.
He was later employed as an electrician for Carnation Milk Company and General Electric Company until his retirement in 1984.
Ray Gene had a lifelong passion for building, collecting and repairing radios and electronics, and was heavily involved with ham radios with the advanced class license Wø1BL. He built their home and constructed a 65- foot tower there, which replaced an even larger tower he’d built earlier. He served as Lawrence County Civil Defense director and was part of the Ground Observer Corps during the early years of the Cold War.
He and Betty worked together to restore and preserve cemeteries in Lawrence County and northern Missouri, where Betty was raised. He developed a system to repair old tombstones and continued with that heavy concrete work well into his 80s. They served on the board for Mt. Vernon IOOF Cemetery for many years.
Among numerous recognitions for those preservation efforts and community work, the Missouri Alliance for Historic Preservation presented him with its McReynolds Award and the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution awarded him a Historic Preservation Medal. In 2015, Missouri DAR named him Patriot of the Month.
He has published three books: Memoirs of WWII, 95 Years (an autobiography) and, with Betty, Cemeteries: A Labor of Love & Respect. He was working on his fourth, a compilation of local history stories.
He was preceded in death by his son, Joe R. Richardson, in 2014; and his brother, Hal James Richardson.
Survivors include his wife of 74 years, Betty; a sister, Rosemary Rodgers, Republic; two grandchildren, Katie Richardson and Michael Richardson and his wife, Tracy, and their mother, Virginia Richardson, and a great-grandson, Joseph Barry Richardson, all of California.
A funeral service under the direction of the Fossett-Mosher Funeral Home in Mt. Vernon will be at 2 p.m. Thursday, June 22, at the First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), with the Revs. David Nordyke and Jack Daniel officiating. Burial will be in the Mt. Vernon IOOF Cemetery. Visitation will be held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 21, in the funeral home chapel.
Memorial donations may be made to the Mt. Vernon IOOF Cemetery in care of the funeral home.
Online condolences may be shared this website.
5:30 - 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 21, 2017
2:00 p.m. Thursday, June 22, 2017
Following funeral service