September 21, 1920 – August 18, 2019
Lee J. Richards ’47 died Aug. 18, 2019. He was born Levi Richert near Manfred, North Dakota, on Sept. 21, 1920. At the age of 4, he moved with his German-speaking parents, Jacob and Sarah Richert, and his older brothers, Gideon and Ray, to Shafter, California. He later studied at La Sierra College, where he met Esther Blakely, whom he married on Aug. 24, 1941.
His relationship with the College of Medical Evangelists (CME) began in 1941 when he was hired to work in the histology and neuro-anatomy lab. There he became well acquainted with E. Harold Shryock ’34, and within a year or so, he decided that he did not want to spend the rest of his life working as a lab technician. With the help of Dr. Shryock, Dr. Richards was able to go to medical school.
Shortly before graduation, Dr. Richards was urged by Dr. Shryock’s mother to anglicize his name to prevent possible discrimination against him, so upon her advice, Levi Julius Richert became Lee James Richards.
After a year of internship and another year of teaching at CME, Dr. Richards joined the U.S. Army. In June 1948, Dr. Richards arrived at Fort Sam Houston in Texas for basic training. He later relocated with his family to the Bay area. They spent the next two years there, during which Dr. Richards was head of the OB-GYN department in the hospital at Camp Stoneman. After his discharge in May 1950, he moved his family back to Loma Linda, where he had accepted a position teaching in the neuroanatomy department.
Dr. Richards later completed a surgical residency at Kern Medical Center in Bakersfield, California. At the end of his residency, he and his step-brother, Gordon L. Tohm ’56, built a three-suite office building to begin a private practice. Dr. Richards continued to train new residents at Kern Medical Center and was on the teaching staff there for a number of years. He remained in practice until 1999 and continued to assist in surgery until his 95th birthday.
Although health problems began to slow him down later in life, it was difficult for him to admit defeat. In April 2019, he suddenly became ill and spent several days in the hospital. This last illness rendered him an invalid, and the last four months of his life were difficult for him even though his faith remained strong.
In March 2006, Esther died in their 65th year of marriage. About a year later, Dr. Richards reconnected with Glyndon Nixon, whom he had known while growing up in Shafter. They were married from June 2007 until January 31, 2013, when Glyndon passed away. In April 2014, he married Sachiko Wilbanks, who survives him.
In addition to his wife, Sachiko, Dr. Richards is survived by his son, Ralph; daughters, Beverly Phillips and Luna Martin; 16 grandchildren; and 20 great-grandchildren.
(Source: Family of Dr. Richards)