Born in Belfast, Maine, January 16, 1928, Richard spent his early life there and in Lewiston, where his father, George H., managed the Hotel Littleton, a long-gone four-story structure on the bank of the Androscoggin River. There were many visits to grandparents, Henry and Pearl Hills, in Northport Maine, with his brother George and sister Janey, then and in his high school days at Boys Latin School in Boston. Entering Harvard College, he then enlisted, stationed in Japan in the Army of Occupation from 1946-48. After graduating Harvard (AB 1950), he entered the Western Reserve School of Medicine. During short summer breaks he built trails with the National Forest Service and fighting forest fires as a smoke jumper in Montana. Graduation (1954) led to a two-year internship at the Rhode Island Hospital, then a year of family practice in Bristol, Rhode Island. After a year of general medical practice in Camden and Southwest Harbor, Maine, Richard, his wife Jean, and their children Richard Jr. and Susannah, spent two years in Belgrade, Yugoslavia where Richard served in the U.S. Department of State as the Embassy Medical Officer. On return he joined the Health Service at UMass/Amherst, before entering a four-year psychiatric residency at Boston City and Beth Israel Hospitals. He served as College Psychiatrist at Mount Holyoke College, with later faculty appointments at Harvard, Boston University, Tufts, and UMass Medical Schools. He also practiced medicine and psychiatry privately, as well as at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, Westfield Mental Health Counseling Center, and at Wing Memorial Hospital in Palmer, MA. Returning to Maine in 1997 he was on the staff at Augusta Mental Health Institute, and later at Maine General Medical Center until retirement in 2004. The ensuing years in Fayette, Brunswick and Hampden, Maine, were marked by a deep and consuming awareness of, and concern about, the changing climate, and all that that portends, not for him, but for his ten grandchildren, Brittany, Erik, Heather, Brian, Nicole, Caitlin, Wyatt, Isaac, Madeline and Carolann.
Off time over the years included training Peace Corps volunteers, as well as travels to Central Asia, Alaska, and the Caribbean, and bicycling, including the Tour of the Scioto River, the Pan Mass Challenge and TREK Across Maine. He volunteered with Beyond War, the Climate Reality Project, LakeSmart Maine, and the local soup kitchen in Brunswick, Maine. He served on the Planning Board and was president of the Lovejoy Pond Association in Fayette. His early affiliation with Montana and the Forest Service continued for many years, as he participated in trail maintenance “volunteer vacations” into the late 1980s, and visited into the 21st century.
Richard was an avid gardener, chess player, skier and kayaker, an excellent cook, and a skilled artist, poet, carpenter and calligrapher.
Of his children, five survive. Melissa, daughter of Elizabeth, died at age 12 in a carpool auto accident in Wilbraham, MA, and Richard Jr., son of Jean, at age 42 of a brain tumor. Nathaniel and family are in New York, Luther and family live in Delaware. Susannah and Rebecca are in Massachusetts. Angus, wife Kristen, and daughter Carolann are in Newburyport, MA. Of his marriages, ending in divorce, Jean Ruth Burbank died in 1983. Elizabeth Jennings Pekkala, mother of Melissa and Angus, survives. His friend and companion, Terre Burke of Topsham, Maine, predeceased him in 2015.
Richard was a great friend to animals, and cared deeply for many faithful dogs (and even some cats) over the years and through his final days. On July 9, 2021, Richard died of heart failure at Lawrence General Hospital at the age of 93. A remembrance will take place on Friday, August 27th at 11am at the Glendale Cemetery in Wilbraham, MA, E. Scott Dow, officiant. Wilbraham Funeral Home, 2551 Boston Rd., Wilbraham, MA 01095 is in charge of the arrangements. Donations in Richard’s memory may be made to any charity.
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