Villagers were deeply saddened in February 2015 when Evan Richards, a man known for his endless energy and a deep devotion to multiple causes, lost his battle with cancer.
Richards, who moved to The Villages in 2000 with wife Mary Ann, had battled the disease for several years and was moved to the hospice house in The Villages shortly before his Feb. 6 death.
A native of Shelby, Ohio and a graduate of both Ohio Northern University and Ohio State University, Richards was a past president of The Villages Homeowners Advocates (formerly known as The Villages Homeowners Association) and a dedicated and long-term member of the Rotary Club of The Villages.
Then-Rotary Club President Ric Hutchens recalled working alongside Richards on many projects, including scholarship efforts for area students. He said he would miss Richards’ always sunny disposition.
“He would always meet people with the greeting ‘you look marvelous,’” Hutchens said.
While Richards had many passions, those who knew him were well aware that that serving at The Villages Regional Hospital ranked near the top of the list. He was a board member of the hospital’s parent company, Central Florida Health, and also devoted countless hours to the facility’s auxiliary foundation.
Richards also was a member of the Sumter Republican Executive Committee, a volunteer with the American Cancer Society, a driving force behind the Moffitt Cancer Center coming to The Villages and a mentor with Take Stock in Children, where he mentored 13 young men in the last eight years of his life.
Richards’ death hit his good friend, fellow Rotarian and former Villages Community Development District Manager Pete Wahl, particularly hard.
“I had the privilege and honor of knowing and working alongside Evan in many efforts in improving The Villages community,” Wahl said. “If Evan said he would do something, you could consider it done. He was forever positive in his approach to everything, including his last battle against prostate cancer. I appreciate and will remember all the times we were able to spend together.”
Villager Warren Kiefer also expressed grief shortly before Richards passed away.
“He was a friend to so many and devoted much of his life for the betterment of all of us Villagers,” Kiefer wrote on a local online message board. “(He) was involved in nearly every local charity. I have never known a more loving and generous man.”
Two years before his death, Richards was honored by Shelby (Ohio) High School as a Hall of Distinction inductee. A post on Facebook from the school credits the member of the class of 1960 for his work on cellular phones with Ameritech Mobile Communications as vice president of engineering.
“In that role, he led the building of the world’s first cellular phone systems,” the post says, adding that Richards, who earned degrees in electrical engineering and business administration, also worked at Ohio Bell and AT&T in New Jersey.
The post also says that in 1990 Richards worked in New Zealand to develop the phone company there into a world-class system. And in 1996 he guided a start-up wireless communications system in Belgium.
Richards was remembered in a memorial service at Hope Lutheran Church. In addition to wife Mary Ann, he was survived by two sons, Troy (Laura) Richards, Delaware, Ohio; and Trevor (Marsha) Richards, West Des Moines, Iowa; five grandchildren: Emily, Erik, Luke, Melissa and Blake; and one great-granddaughter, Audrey. The Richards family requested that in lieu of flowers, memorial donations be made to The Villages Regional Hospital Auxiliary Foundation.