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Artemas P. Richardson II

Artemas P. Richardson II of Exeter, NH, formerly of Fremont, NH, Philadelphia, PA, and Brookline and Needham, MA, died quietly of age-related complications at the age of 96 on January 18, 2015.


Known to friends and family as Art, he was born in Philadelphia, PA, on May 24, 1918, to Mr. and Mrs. E. Stanley Richardson (Jessica C. Ripple). Many knew him as a talented landscape architect who came into the profession with the generations that followed Frederick Law Olmsted and other pioneers of the 19th and early 20th centuries. It was a profession he chose almost on a whim, having always had a talent for drawing and an appreciation for how people shape the land. After graduation from Germantown Friends School in Philadelphia, he attended Williams College, majoring in fine arts. As an undergraduate, he was required to take a biology course which included a requirement that he provide drawings of various studied plants. Through this, he discovered both a fascination with plants and a particular talent for capturing them individually and in context. Upon graduation from Williams in 1940, Art headed off to Pennsylvania State College for a second degree in landscape architecture “because it seemed like a right thing to do at the time.”


The war interrupted his plans. He spent World War II as a Navy Intelligence officer, engaged in the planning and execution of a full range of Allied landings in North Africa, Italy, and the south of France. He served at sea, ashore, and in the air above enemy territory. Assigned late in the war as a photo analyst and strategic targeter in Washington, DC, he met Frederica McAfee, a former Woman Air Service Pilot (WASP), then serving with the OSS. Following a three-month courtship, they were married on V-J Day, September 2, 1945. After leaving the Navy, Art continued his earlier study of landscape architecture at Iowa State College, receiving his degree in 1947.


Mr. Richardson was invited to join the firm of Olmsted Brothers, in Brookline, MA, in 1948. In 1952, Fredrick Law Olmsted Jr., the younger son of Fredrick Law Olmsted, made Mr. Richardson a partner in the firm. Over the next several decades, Art acquired sole proprietorship of the firm, becoming its president and treasurer. In the course of his 50-year tenure at the Olmsted office, he was key to the creation and development of hundreds of designs credited to the Olmsted firm, including portions of the U.S. Capitol grounds, the Jefferson Memorial, Rock Creek Park, the National Cathedral, the National Catholic Cathedral, and the various campuses of the Mississippi College system, including the campus master plan of “Ole Miss”.


In 1981, Mr. Richardson transferred the buildings and grounds of the Olmsted firm, including its fixtures and more than a million documents, photos, and architectural drawings, to the National Park System. It is now maintained as the Fredrick Law Olmsted National Historic Site, in Brookline, MA. As a landscape architect, Mr. Richardson was licensed to practice in thirteen states. He was a former president of the Boston Society of Landscape Architects, a director of the New Hampshire Landscape Association, director of the Granite State Landscape Architects, and director of the Herb Society of America. He was recognized as a fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects, and was a lecturer on the art and profession at Harvard University.


Many of Art’s acquaintances knew little of this rich career. They saw a side of him that was dedicated to civic activity. His professional interests drew him into local land planning issues. He was chairman of the Needham, MA, planning board and a member of its conservation commission. In his later years in New Hampshire, Mr. Richardson became actively engaged in local and state interests, including election as a Fremont, NH, trustee of trust funds, chair of the Exeter River advisory committee, and chair of the Fremont, NH, conservation commission.


When his sons entered Cub Scouts in the 1950s, Art and his wife, known as Freddie, became enthusiastic leaders, staying with the Boy Scouts long after their sons had moved on. They held workshops to train scores of adult leaders, and Art became a district chairman of the Boy Scouts of America, and a member of the Boy Scouts’ Boston Council executive board. He held scouting’s Silver Beaver award for extraordinary service to the organization.


Art’s greatest enjoyment, however, came from Rotary International. He joined the local Rotary Club in Brookline, MA, in the late 1950s, went on to be its president, then district governor and finally, a director of Rotary International. As a Rotary International past director, Art Richardson initiated the Rotary International/World Health Organization joint program, Polio Plus, a highly successful, ongoing effort to eradicate polio worldwide. He and his wife traveled throughout the world as he represented several presidents of Rotary International. The walls of his apartment were covered with photos of his meetings with colleagues in Japan, Australia, New Zealand, throughout Europe, and across North America. In the course of his travels he befriended prime ministers, presidents, and international leaders at every level. He took particular joy on the occasions of meetings with the actress Helen Hayes and with Pope John Paul. He was a Paul Harris Fellow and a recipient of the Rotary Foundation’s Citation for Meritorious Service.


In semi-retirement after 1979, he moved to Fremont, NH, where he continued to do design projects for his favorite clients but became increasingly involved in the Exeter Rotary Club and in helping to start several other clubs in the area. The final fifteen years of his life were spent in Exeter, NH, as a resident of Langdon Place, a managed care facility. True to his lifelong pattern of civic duty, he was immediately engaged in the activities of his new community, where he was the president of the Residents’ Association. In addition to running movies each day for the enjoyment of all the residents, Art shared his extensive nutcracker collection each Christmas, a collection well enough known that he was profiled on New Hampshire Public Television’s “Chronicle” as “the Nutcracker Man.”


Mr. Richardson’s sons and daughters recall their father, with a depth of love and respect, as a premier role model as they grew and raised their own families. They remember him as a gentleman who could command a room, in business or at leisure, with a smile, sincere courtesy, and quiet tones, and as a father who was always available for a scraped knee, bedtime story, or school event. He did not, in their recollection, ever raise his voice.


His son, Stanley, in one anecdote indicating the character of his father, recalled that “…during the summer of 1966, when I was not quite 12 years old, my father took me on a trip by road through parts of Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, and Kentucky. We began only a week or so after the activist James Meredith had been shot. While Meredith lay in the hospital recovering, his March Against Fear was spontaneously completed by numbers of followers that grew and grew daily, ultimately to around 15,000. The March Against Fear ended in Jackson, Mississippi, the small city where we began our own journey. Along the way, my father pointed out landmarks of the Civil War, of the Civil Rights movement, and of the ways that poverty and privilege existed in the South during that difficult era. My father had traveled through the South of the 1940s through 1960s many times. He had lived, also, in Europe as the Allies liberated North Africa, Italy, and France. He was, perhaps by his nature - or perhaps by early Quaker teaching – viscerally pained by the pain and poverty of others. I believe that he hoped through his family, through his friends, and through Rotary International, to make a true difference. He did not see a better world as impossible. He was sincere in this. He did, truly, make all that he touched better.”


Mr. Richardson is survived by his sister, Susan Richardson Hinkel of Markham, VA; his five children, Ann R. Howland of Danville, NH, Vida Nichols Butterfield of Deerfield, NH, David R. Richardson of Exeter, NH, Stanley A. Richardson of Bennington, VT, and Steven M. Richardson of Winona, MN; as well as eight grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. Mr. Richardson was predeceased by his wife, Frederica, by more than ten years.

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