North Adams is a small town in western Massachusetts which has been home for a number of Assumptionists. One of these was Edmund Alfred Richards, born on May 18, 1923 in Westfield, Massachusetts.
He entered the Assumptions novitiate in Quebec in 1943 as Richard Richards and completed his theological studies in Rome, where he was ordained to the priesthood on December 23, 1950 in the Basilica of Saint John Lateran. He died in Worcester, Massachusetts on Saturday, October 30,2004 at the age of 81. The funeral Mass was celebrated in the Chapel of the Holy Spirit at Assumption College, after which he was laid to rest with his Assumptions brothers at Saint Anne Cemetery in Fiskdale, Massachusetts.
Father d’Alzon encouraged his brothers to commit themselves in a particular way to “education in all its forms.” Richard was, first and foremost, an educator.
His teaching career actually began at Assumption Prep School in 1946 as a teacher of Geometry. Most of his active life (from 1951 to 1985) was spent at Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts. In the classrooms of Assumption, Richard taught English first … and added his interest and knowledge of the world of Fine Arts to his classroom work. With his help, students learned to “see” the world of the arts in a way they never knew possible. They learned to recognize architectural styles, understand artistic schools and recognize various styles … they grew in their experience and appreciation of beauty in their lives.
In addition to the classroom, Richard brought his interest in literature and the arts to his students on the stage and in the auditorium at the College. Many of his students spent tiring but wonderful hours as members of The Genesians (a group of Assumption College student actors).
Richard was also a man of history, The artist and the historian in Richard collaborated to produce, in 1961, a scale-model of 4th century Rome. Certainly his love for history was evident in the courses which he taught concerning the history of Art and the arts … and in his passion for music, especially classical music. Very few Saturday afternoons passed with Richard far from a radio where he could listen to most of the operas ever written by the great masters.
The history of his religious family was also very important to Richard, who produced a number of publications which presented that history to the modern day reader. His brief life of Emmanuel d’Alzon has been read by hundreds … and his history of the North American Province of the Assumptionists continues to be a significant resource
He was also very interested in the history of his blood family. Many travels, vacations and outings (with his sister, Mary) and files of genealogical documents filled many of the shelves in his room. It was his passion for genealogy which pushed him into computer technology (in spite of his reticence early on).
Richard was a devoted amateur philatelist. Many of his Assumptions brothers will recall receiving letters (especially from Rome and the Vatican) with a message inscribed on the envelope: “Please save the stamps for Richard!”
After retiring from the classroom at Assumption College, Richard accepted to serve the North American Province of the Assumptionists as the Director of the Assumption Guild, the Mass Association which had been originally founded by Father Albert Brochu. For years Richard continued to provide Mass Cards to the thousands of Guild members … and continued to remember these benefactors in his prayers and correspondence. We are certainly grateful for the financial assistance which this ministry has provided for so many years for recruiting Assumptions vocations and training and educating young Assumptions brothers and priests.
Richard’s last years were marked by his commitment and devotion to the task of gathering and maintaining archival materials for the North American Province of the Assumptionists (and often for the General Congregational Archives as well). His passion for history, his eye for the true and the beautiful, and his commitment to detail and perfection made him an invaluable Archivist. And often Richard would invite Assumptionists and friends into the Archive Room where, to the background of a classical symphony or the soundtrack of the latest Broadway musical, he would share the life and treasures of his small kingdom.
Donald Espinosa, AA