>Almost Paradise…


Today would have been my Grandpa Chet’s 85th birthday. He’s been gone for 22 years now, yet sadness still seems to wash over me when I think about him. I was young when he passed, but I remember loving every minute I got to spend with him.

The song “Almost Paradise” from Footloose always reminds me of Grandpa. He once told my mom that it was the only “rock” song he ever liked! As I was listening to music during my long commute this morning, “Almost Paradise” came around on the iPod. I immediately remembered that today was Grandpa’s birthday, and wanted to spend some time remembering him...

  • I remember spending the night with Grandma Alice and Grandpa Chet. They had a huge bed! My parents only had a double bed, so it was a special treat to spend the night with Grandma and Grandpa and get to sleep in the “Super Bed!” I think it was a king bed…it felt like it took up the entire room! I remember what the house smelled like as we got up in the morning and started getting ready. It was the perfect combination of a fresh shower, toothpaste and brewing coffee. Their house was right near a Dunkin Donuts, and I remember Grandpa bringing home blueberry cake donuts for us.
  • I remember watching game shows like The Price is Right and Wheel of Fortune with my Grandparents. I seem to remember Grandpa especially liking Wheel of Fortune…I think he had a thing for Vanna White!
  • Grandma and Grandpa used to have these chairs at their dining room table that were brown leather, no armrests, and they SPUN! I would love sitting in those chairs, and having Grandpa spin me around and around and around!
  • I think Grandpa really loved sweets, because he was always spoiling us with cookies and candy! Those Keebler fudge covered cookies always remind me of him.

  • Grandpa was a car salesman – Oldsmobiles for as long as I could remember, although I’m sure he sold others earlier in his life. I remember visiting his dealership, and getting Chicklets out of the gum machine!
  • Grandpa ALWAYS had a camera! I remember him with his camcorder and Polaroid. We loved that Polaroid – we couldn’t wait to shake those pictures! He must have loved his family so much to want to capture us all on film all the time.
  • I remember going shopping with him one day. I think we were at the mall, because I remember the store we were in as a department store. I found a sweater that I really liked, and he bought it for me. I was in 1st grade when he died, and I kept that sweater until I was at least in 5th grade. I couldn’t bear to get rid of it. He was such a generous man.
  • I remember the day that he died. I was home with Dad, and Kelly and Robert (who were 4 and 1) were playing in Robert’s playpen. I answered the phone when it rang, and sensed immediately that something was wrong. Mom was on the other end of the line asking for Dad. I remember refusing to let her talk to him until she told me what was wrong. I cried and cried when she finally told me, and I remember feeling upset with Kelly because she didn’t seem to notice that I was crying.

We all miss Grandpa. We talk about him often at family gatherings. There is a portrait of him in my Grandma’s house that looks over us all as we celebrate Christmas and birthdays. He has been gone for a long time, and I am sad that so many of my younger cousins never got to be with him. It occurs to me now, though, that Grandpa still lives on with us…through us. My mother has his jubilant spirit and dedicated work ethic. My aunts Gwen and Gayle have his generosity. My uncle Dan has his quick, infectious smile, and my aunts Janice and Janine have his fun-loving attitude. Grandpa may be gone, but he is definitely not forgotten.

Some of my family members read this blog. If you’re here today, please take a minute to share some of your favorite Chet memories! Let’s remember him today…


    • Gayle Richards Disbro

      Katie, that was such a beautiful tribute to dad. You got me tearing up again. YOU are such a beautiful person and he would be sooo proud of you. Yes, I miss him and talk with him every day in my prayers. I believe he is still here with us all.

      I see a lot of him in all of us. I liked how you distributed his special traits in all of us. He had so many.

      SPECIAL TIMES WITH DAD — Sandy Beach, Easter Sundays, Christmas, Birthdays, New Year’s Eve, Lunch at L. S. Ayres, Lunch at Allison Gas Turbine, Lunch at Rolls Royce, Lunch at Dick Hunt Chevrolet & Accapoco Joe’s, Boydens Bakery, Richards Reunions, Teaching me to water ski, Drive-in Movies, Going to State Fair in a Pink Surrey with a Fringe on Top, AND MOSTLY, EVERYDAY LIFE WITH HIM!!

      Much Love Dad!



      October 19, 2009 at 10:31am ·
    • Gwen Richards White

      Katie, that was such a wonderful tribute to Dad….but it is hard for me to write with tears in my eyes as I think about him today on his 85th birthday! There is so much that I remember about him & I could write on forever. He truly loved his family & adored our beautiful mother! I just wish my grandchildren would have had the opportunity to spend time with him. Some of the things I remember most were his love of boating & the water; how he always brought home sweets & shared them with us; teaching me how to drive but not until I was 18; standing at the door when I came home late from a date; sitting at the table in the late evenings eating crackers in milk after a long day at the dealership; our vacations, especially to Gray Goose Lodge with the Ringenbergers; but mostly our Christmases…..he always made them so special & fun! “HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAD” I love you & miss you so much!

      October 19, 2009 at 2:09pm ·
    • Janine Richards Lilly Thank you for this Katie. So many memories of my awesome dad. Everyone LOVED him and he taught us all the importance of family. He could get anyone to do anything, a real sales guy. But my most special moment was our father-daughter dance at my wedding. I wouldn’t trade that memory for anything in the world. It WAS paradise.

      October 19, 2009 at 2:40pm ·
    • Gloria Richards Kermeen That’s my girl, Katie. Way to start blogging again. My special memory? Telephone calls. I can still hear his voice, saying, “Gloria!” with such excitement that I was on the other end. My other special memory is the day Robert was born. In those days no one but the father could be anywhere nearby, but my Dad hung around and sweet-talked his way into the recovery room. No one could say no to Chet Richards – they were putty in his hands.

      October 19, 2009 at 4:44pm ·
    • Alli Richards Makes me sad, wish i could have met him! 😦 happy birthday grandpa!

      October 19, 2009 at 6:32pm ·

      October 19, 2009 at 6:54pm ·
    • Nicole Richards

      So, I remember many of those things… the brown leather, spinning chairs! The polaroid camera. The HUGE bed that took up the whole room. I remember cookies in a red and yellow package. And unfortunately, the day mom and dad came to pick me up from school the day that he died 😦

      Sure do miss him, but was so lucky to know him.

      October 19, 2009 at 8:26pm ·
    • Samantha Lilly awhhl.

      October 21, 2009 at 4:11pm ·
    • Katie Kermeen Swisher

      Here’s an e-mail Mom got from Cousin Barb:

      Dear Wonderful Cousin Gloria

      Thank you so much for sharing Katie’s and the other remembrances of Uncle Chet. I, too, have wonderful memories of your father and would like to share just a few with you.

      I remember when we were getting ready to move to Florida and we bought a 1956 Buick from him when he worked at Monarch Buick. It was really funny when we were all in the car getting ready to take a test drive. As we started out the door, there was a raggedy older woman standing there with a wagon full of newspapers. All of a sudden, my Dad yell, “Duck” because he did not want us to be recognized by that woman selling papers. Uncle Chet said, “I don’t know who that woman is, she hangs around here all the time. Well, long story short–that was “Cousin Lulie” a distant cousin on my Dad’s side of the family. We never let Uncle Chet know that she was a relative. Anyway, we moved to Florida in that car in 1957. When I graduated from college and began teaching, my Dad gave me the Buick to use as a trade in on a red mustang–my very first car.

      I remember when your Dad conned us into taking a “hike” down Sugar Mountain in North Carolina. It really was a lot of fun and a LOT of exercise. I was smart enough, however, to bring some change in my pocket and when we got to the bottom of the mountain, I went into the Lodge and called Bud to come pick us up.


      One time when you parents were here, I lent my Olds to you Dad. The front seat was broken (won’t tell you how it got broken). Do you know that he took my car to King Olds and had that seat repaired for me.

      I remember when he came to Tallahassee when I received my doctorate. He brought you Mom and Grandma, and Katie, who was toddler. We had a great time and I remember him laughing so hard when I provided some entertainment at a get together at my place. I was doing a one-man band playing a harmonica, and a washboard. I had Mom join in with a Bombay Taxi Horn. We were doing, “She’ll Be Coming Round the Mountain.” Well, Mom could not get her part right–failing to “Honk” at the right times. I thought that we were going to have to carry Uncle Chet out. He always enjoyed the setting that he was in.

      I get to have a few more memories—just because I am 67!!! Watching you Dad go through the Candy Barrel in Valle Crucis, North Carolina was a thing to behold. He got some–no—lots of every kind of candy they had. He came away with grocery bags full of candy. After that, all the years we vacationed in NC, including on our way home from our last trip to Indy, we always recalled your Dad roaming freely through the Candy Barrel and hitting every fudge shop within a 20 mile radius of Sugar Mountain.

      Gloria, I have nothing but wonderful memories of Uncle Chet. He was truly fun to be with and he always made sure that everyone had a good time. He is truly missed but he will always live in our hearts through the beautiful memories that he left with us. The very best that he left, however, are my beautiful cousins, Gwen, Gayle, Gloria, Janice, and Janine. He lives through you all. Happy Birthday, Uncle Chet.

      Love To All

      Cousin Barb

      October 22, 2009 at 5:03pm ·
    • Gloria Richards Kermeen She mentioned later that she forgot Danny when she listed her cousins.

1 thought on “>Almost Paradise…

  1. >My Grandpa was the camera king, too! Polaroids, Canon's with long lenses, you name it! Don't you think they would've loved all this new camera technology?! Great post!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s