A memorial service will be held for David Richardson, a diplomat, economist, naval intelligence officer and member of the “greatest generation” whose extraordinary career spanned some of the most important global initiatives of the 20th century — including the Marshall Plan, the founding of NATO and the World Bank – who died peacefully on March 13, 2012 in his apartment at Kendal of Hanover in Hanover, NH., on March 25 at 2 p.m. in the Cary Room at Kendal at Hanover at 80 Lyme Road in Hanover, NH. He was 93, and died from pneumonia
A lifelong bachelor, David was beloved by his nieces, nephews and many other relatives, who enjoyed and revered him for his expansive family memory, tireless intellect, boundless energy and compassion. He cared about people and proved himself, time and again, a great friend and prolific correspondent who could be relied upon for guidance. He also adored animals. He was arguably at his happiest and most relaxed with a dog on his lap or at his feet.
David was born June 20, 1918 to Anne and Frederick Richardson in Charles River Massachusetts, the sixth of their seven children. In addition to his career in international diplomacy and commerce, David was a prominent collector and philanthropist who helped shape the collections of several museums and academic libraries.
A grandson of the American architect Henry Hobson Richardson, David was a scholar above almost all else: he always believed he could learn something new and valuable. This value ran in the family as his mother, Anne Blake, who helped found the Charles River School, which David attended as a boy. He was also a graduate of the Belmont Hill School and Harvard University, where he graduated after three years with concentrations in history, government and economics. There he met and befriended John F. Kennedy, who, like David, became entwined in the events leading up to World War II.
He enrolled at Harvard Law School but left after six months, drawn to other disciplines. In the summer of 1941, a Williams College seminar prepared him for government and private-sector work in U.S.-Latin American relations. He then accepted an invitation from Nelson Rockefeller to lead pre-war efforts Bogota, Colombia, for the Office of Interamerican Affairs, shoring up resources in Latin America during a time of growing global conflict.
Feeling the call of the war and military service, David trained and served as a naval air combat intelligence officer, training pilots to fight German submarines. When his superiors noticed his Harvard law studies, he was reassigned and finished out his naval career reviewing courts martial for Atlantic submarine, surface and air operations.
After leaving the military, David returned to Cape Cod and soon joined the US civilian committee in Boston to promote the Marshall Plan under Mrs. Harvey Bundy Sr. When the Plan passed, Richard Bissell, the main administrator, invited him to assist in its development and implementation. A valued member of the team, David was involved until the plan ended in 1952. Later, he was assigned to help set up NATO as a civilian economist.
As someone who understood the horrors of war, David committed himself to a career in diplomacy and international relations. He loved being at the center of things in Washington, DC, where he lived for 60 years. After the Marshall Plan and his NATO assignment, David worked with Jean Monnet on the European Coal and Steel Community — an initiative to integrate these industries in France, Germany and other countries — and later helped with the Colombo Plan, which was established to strengthen the economic and social development of member countries in Asia and the Pacific. He also negotiated loans from the US to Poland and Yugoslavia to help lessen their dependence on Russia. Later, during his extensive career at The World Bank, David continued working on education, infrastructure and agricultural loans for Yugoslavia, then Turkey, Egypt, Greece and Cypress.
After his retirement from the World Bank in 1983, he continued to educate himself and expand his library. This is beautifully exemplified by his extensive collection of Latin grammar books that he used to enhance his Latin so he could better read some of his oldest and rarest books and papers. Eventually, David could translate virtually any Latin manuscript. A related passion was bookbinding: He developed an extensive collection on the subject and beautifully repaired many of his favorite books.
His impressive book collection, large and diverse, reflected a special love for family history. He amassed research on his grandfather H.H. Richardson and another forebear, Joseph Priestley, the 18th-century scientist and philosopher. Determined to share his knowledge and collections with others, he generously donated Priestley papers and books to Dickinson College and H.H. Richardson materials to Harvard University. Throughout his life, he also frequently advised both family members and professional authors on matters related to Priestley, H.H. Richardson and other ancestors. Near the end of his life, David gave many of his most valuable books to the University of Vermont’s Bailey/Howe Library. He could think of no better place to house his beloved books than in a library designed by his grandfather. He also donated some beautiful artwork to the Worcester Art Museum, and donated two houses and the surrounding lands to the Trustees of the Reservation.
David is the last surviving sibling of his five brothers and one sister. He is survived by his many nephews, nieces and friends who greatly benefited from his knowledge, passions and extensive correspondence. A number of those relatives have been inspired to become educators, collectors, family historians and architects, at least in part due to David’s life and encouragement.
In lieu of sending flowers, donations can be made in David’s name to the Library of the Boston Athenaeum 10½ Beacon Street Boston, MA 02108, (617) 227-0270, www.bostonathenaeum.org.
This obituary first appeared in the March 22, 2012 print edition of the Vermont Standard.
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