My Uncle Jim Richards has always been a soft spoken man. To me he always seemed shy, and maybe he is, but over the last year, have come across information that has made me realize that while he might have been shy, he was also a very strong man…a man of deep convictions, who valued has family and took care of them when they needed it the most. I can’t imagine growing up without my dad, and yet when Uncle Jim’s dad died, an eight year old Uncle Jim stepped up to the plate, and did his very best to fill the shoes his dad had left behind. I’m sure that at first the whole head of the household thing seemed almost cute to his mom, but as the years went on, and he continued to show a leadership ability far beyond his years, his mother learned to depend on this son who was the man of the house before he was even old enough to be a man. He proved himself to be the person everyone could count on.
Just a year before his dad’s passing, while the nation was in the middle of World War II, Uncle Jim found himself the younger brother of a war hero who had been killed in action while storming the beaches of Normandy, France…his brother, Dale Richards. There was not much that a young boy of seven years could do to ease the pain his parents felt, and there was not enough money to bring his brother home, so he was buried in Normandy along with many other war dead. I can’t imagine the pain that must have inflicted on the family, and how one seven year old boy felt helpless to stop the hurting that had come upon his family. Then to add to the pain, his dad passed away just one year later. The sadness must have been overwhelming for them. I think too, that it probably shaped Uncle Jim’s life into the kind of life it was…one of close family ties, and helping each other whenever possible.
I don’t know if Uncle Jim will ever be able to go over to France and visit the grave of his war hero brother, but after hearing about the facts surrounding the loss of his brother, I set out to find out what I could. I didn’t have very much to go on…just his name, but before long, with the help of Aunt Sandy Pattan, Ancestry.com and Findagrave.com, I found what I was looking for…the location of the grave of Dale Richards, and even better, a picture of his grave. At the family Christmas party, I was able to give that picture to Uncle Jim. It was an emotional moment for his whole family, and I was so happy to be able to give him that gift, because he was such a sweet man who had done so much for so many others, asking nothing for himself. The picture will never replace the loss of his brother and dad all those years ago, but for the man that had become my uncle, I hope it was a comfort, because his brother’s grave is in a beautiful, well kept honorable place, and I’m sure that is just what Uncle Jim would want for his brother.
Uncle Jim will always be a quiet, soft spoken man, who carries a big load on his shoulders. It’s not that his life these days is so hard, but rather that he is the family patriarch…a lot like my dad was. The family looks to him for leadership, guidance, and emotional support. When things go wrong, he shows them the way to go, and when all is well, they all share in the joy of it together. Today is a day of joy. Today is Uncle Jim’s birthday. Happy birthday Uncle Jim!! Have a wonderful day!! We love you!!