Wind: 9 mph
Rowland Richards Jr., a civil engineering professor at SUNY Buffalo (UB) for 30 years and summer farmer in Waitsfield since 1959, died at his home in Buffalo. He was 77 years old. Dr. Richards (Toby) received his undergraduate degree from Princeton University in 1957, his masters from the California Institute of Technology in 1958 and his Ph.D. from Princeton University in 1964. Toby taught at Princeton and the University of Delaware before his wife, Martha Marcy Richards (Patty), convinced him to take a professorship in her hometown of Buffalo in 1980. At UB, Toby taught courses ranging from Fluid Mechanics to Structural Aesthetics, wrote numerous journal articles and book chapters and conducted research on seismic soil mechanics. The highlight of his research career was his mathematical proof (using simple algebra and analysis of a soil sample from the moon) that soils behave like liquids under earthquake forces. He also authored his own book, Principles of Solid Mechanics (CRC Press 2001), which is unique for its elegantly hand-drawn diagrams and plentiful footnotes full of literary and observational asides.
As a young man, Toby was twice a U.S. National Champion archer and won the 1950 World Junior Archery Championship held in Brussels. He spent his summer vacations from Thacher School working at Trail Lake Ranch in the Wind Rivers of Wyoming. In college, he and Peter Wallis, his Princeton classmate, spent summers gold mining in California and the Yukon Territory of Canada. However, it was Waitsfield where those expeditions originated from Peter’s home in the 1824 House with equipment, such as sluice boxes built by Doc Bisbee, piled high on a hay trailer, which captured his imagination. Beginning in 1960, he purchased a patchwork of old farmland up beneath Bald Mountain and began re-clearing pastureland by pulling down smaller trees with the winch of an old Dodge Powerwagon braced behind boulders. He named the farm "Floodwoods" after the company of men raised from the area to fight in the War of 1812. Toby and Peter Wallis planned to graze cattle on the mountain pastures of Floodwoods during the warm season and run them down to the Wallis farm in the valley for the winter. Tragically, Peter died of renal failure soon thereafter and before their ranching dreams came to fruition. But Toby faithfully carried on. With the invaluable labor and guidance of Jack Larrow, one of Vermont’s most decorated World War II war heroes and a cherished fixture in the Richards family, they established the second oldest registered Belted Galloway herd in North America. In the high summer hayfields, Toby farmed beside Jack, Peter Thompson, Johnny Thompson, Pat Livingston, Jimmy Baird, Hadley Gaylord, Martin von Trapp, Larry Hubner and many others. In the light of their example, Toby and Patty raised four children, instilling in them Toby's romantic idealism and passion for actively conserving the early farmsteads of Vermont with soul-invigorating hard work. In his last years, Toby watched with great affection as his children assumed operation of Floodwoods and his grandchildren began to appreciate and enjoy the same landscape and ethos that drew him to Vermont over 50 years ago and that he spent a lifetime preserving.
Toby is survived by his beloved wife, Martha Marcy Richards; loving children, Rowland (Monica) Richards III, George M. (Corinthia) Richards, Dr. Kelvey R. (Kenneth) Wilson and Jean R. (James) Damon; adored grandchildren, Rowland IV, Henry and Jack Richards, James and Bronte Richards, Logan and Lydia Wilson, and Darciana, Jane and Kathryn Damon; dear sisters, Catherine Murff and Christine Rousselot; and many nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his parents, Rowland and Jean Richards, and his wife’s parents, Dr. George M. and Mrs. Elizabeth C. Marcy. A funeral service in Waitsfield is planned for late spring. In lieu of flowers the family suggests that donations be made to Vermonters for a Clean Environment (www.vce.org).