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Remembering Clarence "Badger" Richey

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Dan Plutchak | November 11, 2013

Delivering a newspaper isn't as easy as most people would think.

Then again, it's not rocket science, either. Although if it was, that wouldn't have bothered Delavan's Clarence Richey, who died Oct. 21, 2013  at the age of 81.

Richey delivered our newspaper in Delavan up until a few years ago and I'd shoot the breeze with him off and on during the week as he'd wait for his bundles of newspapers. He supposedly attended Harvard in his younger years, and even earned a Ph.D., but delivering newspapers seemed to suit him just fine at that point in his life.

Richey, or Badger as many called him, was well known in the community, however each knew him in a slightly different and unique way.

A memorial service was held for him Nov. 10 at the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Lakes, 319 Broad St., Elkhorn.

I have to admit I didn't know many of the details of his life until after he died and I began reading what others knew about him.

All I knew was that when I occasionally would give him a lift downtown to his apartment, I could always look forward to a thoughtful conversation that invariably would end too soon.

I've always been fascinated by people who are more complex and interesting than they let on to be. Clarence certainly was one of those people.

One of his friends, John Finley, was at Richey's funeral Oct. 27, 2013. He shared the following milestones:

-He was born April 7, 1932 to a struggling family of migrant farm workers in Texas.

-He ran away from home at 12 years of age.

-To stay warm in his wandering, he spent a lot of time reading in public libraries.

-He learned to speak and read in German, French, Latin, Hebrew, Spanish and could recite many classics from memory. He was very fond of the writings of Mark Twain.

-He drifted into a position on Wall Street and figured out how to make money at it.

-Not having gone to high school he tested for and was enrolled at Harvard and attained three degrees including a Ph.D.

-He spent some of the 1970s as a teaching professor at U.W. Green Bay.

-He never owned a car or got married. He walked everywhere all of his 81years.

-He was a long distance runner, setting one record that still stands at 350 miles in six days at 60 years of age.

-In his 70's he walked nine paper routes around Delavan delivering the Shopper Advertiser.

-He died on Oct. 21, 2013

-As time goes on he may be best remembered for funding a small homeless shelter in Delavan run by the River Church.

It's hard to saw which of the above items are fact or urban legend, because Richey didn't seen to have much interest going over his own history.

Lisa Schmelz, another friend of Richey's and frequent contributor to Walworth County Sunday, wrote in a lengthy obituary that, "pretty much, when you pressed Badger for any precise details about his life, his answers were vague and sometimes cryptic.

The Gazette's Catherine Idzerda interviewed more of Richey's friends for a profile.

We should all hope to be remembered for living a rich and fascinating life that touched people in a positive way. We can look to Clarence Richey for inspiration.



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