Liberty, I broke down ... and all of a sudden I was frightened," she told an interviewer a decade ago.
That was the last time she felt that way, said her daughter Evelyn Richards. From that moment, Richards set out to build her life from the ground up, embracing America and its opportunities. She earned a physical therapy certificate from Northwestern University, then worked at St. Luke's Hospital in Chicago, became an American citizen and joined the U.S. Army in 1944 as a physical therapist. Two years later, she was discharged as a First Lieutenant. The longtime Midpeninsula resident spent the rest of her life entrenched in the community, donating her time and skills to the people and places around her.
Richards died on Feb. 13 at Vi Independent Living community in Palo Alto, just seven weeks shy of her 103rd birthday. She was the oldest resident at the independent living section of the community.
Her daughter said Richards' strength, spunk and positive character kept her "amazingly" active.
Until two months ago, when she contracted aspiration pneumonia, she took twice-daily walks, swam on Sundays, played bridge five times a week at the Vi and Little House in Menlo Park, and enjoyed many social and cultural events while keeping up with the world around her.
Richards settled in Los Altos in 1966 with her husband, Richard K. Richards, a physician and pharmacologist who was attracted by the research and teaching opportunities at Syntex and Stanford's School of Medicine. After settling in the area, she became a lifetime member of the League of Women Voters and initiated the process of offering voter registration to newly naturalized U.S. citizens. She continued to work part-time as a physical therapist, primarily in convalescent hospitals in Los Altos and Mountain View and volunteered at the Palo Alto Cultural Center and El Camino Hospital in Mountain View for 20 years. She was a member of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Palo Alto. During this time, she continued her parents' philanthropic endeavors by endowing a chair in her and her husband's name at Stanford Medical School.
In 2005, Richards became one of the inaugural residents of the Vi retirement
community (then called Classic Residence) in Palo Alto. While there, she helped create the new library.
Richards was born on April 7, 1916, in Berlin to Walter and Herta Nord. She is survived by her daughter, Evelyn; son-in-law, Greg Pickrell; granddaughter, Liana Pickrell; brother, Helmut; and nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her husband of 36 years, Richard K. Richards and her brother Achim.
A celebration of life is scheduled for Thursday, March 21, at 2 p.m. at the Vi, 620 Sand Hill Road, Palo Alto.
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