BY TOM HUGGLER
An asthma condition kept him from playing sports as a child so he turned to the outdoors and began writing about it in his 20s. He penned the first of 24 books while lying in bed with a broken back from a freak accident, the pain of which plagued him all his life. Later he developed painful Crohn’s disease and double glaucoma. Left-eye blind and right-eye blurred, he stopped driving but never quit deer hunting or gave up writing his outdoor blog.
Our friend David Richey Sr. died June 20 from a massive brain hemorrhage. He was a month shy of his 74th birthday.
Although he and his wife Kay rarely missed an OWAA conference, you might not have met Dave in person. But you knew him. You knew him through the pages of Outdoors Unlimited, his books and the more than 7,000 articles he wrote for some 250 publications since joining OWAA 45 years ago. If you live in Michigan, you read him in the Detroit News, where he was the outdoors editor from 1981 to 2003 when he retired.
Chances are he befriended you, as he did me and many other writers, both novice and veteran. I owe a big part of my career to Dave Richey. No one gave more freely of his time. No one was more proud when people he helped became successful.
He loved OWAA and gave his heart and soul to the organization. Dave was personally responsible for much of the popular 1984 conference in Traverse City. He served three terms on the OWAA Board of Directors, won the Ham Brown Award in 1994 and Excellence in Craft in 2003. And at last year’s conference OWAA bestowed its coveted Circle of Chiefs award on Dave.
He sold his first story, to Sports Afield, in 1968. That year Homer Circle sponsored him for OWAA membership.
In the early 1970s, Richey and I lived a dozen miles apart near Flint, Mich. He happened to read an article I wrote for a local weekly about starling shooting at an area landfill.
“I know a guy with a blueberry farm being plagued by blackbirds,” he said over the phone. “Do you want to come over for a shoot?”
That incident led to a lifelong friendship. Dave sponsored me for OWAA membership and we attended the Quebec City conference in 1974 — my first — where I met the legendary Uncle Homer. Two years later we drove to Snowmass, Colo., where Dave introduced me to Erwin “Joe” Bauer, another hero of mine.
As may well be true with you, my first conference was the best. In Quebec City we writers were treated like royalty. Waiters at the brand-new Hilton Hotel wore tuxedos. One of the sponsors, Braniff Airlines (remember them?), gave us durable travel bags, which I had for many years. My hotel parking bill cost more than the heavily subsidized room. The annual fete du homard (lobster fest) was in full swing. I’ll never forget an evening on the town with our wives when Dave gave a restaurant order for two $5 lobster dinners “20 minutes apart.”
I met Richard Smith, another young Michigan writer whom Dave sponsored, in Quebec during a preconference fishing trip that Richey helped arrange. Richard, too, is still an OWAA member, another life-long friend credited to the legacy of Dave Richey.
The man cast a long shadow.
Back home in Michigan, Dave and I deer hunted together and fished for winter pike on Manistee Lake and spring steelhead in the Platte River, usually in the company of Richey’s twin brother George. When George died 10 years ago, friends and family scattered some of his ashes in the “Snow Hole.” It’s on the slick-running Sturgeon River near Wolverine where the Richey boys caught their first steelhead.
Soon, on a day in late summer or early fall, the Snow Hole will claim the rest of George’s ashes along with those of Dave’s.
Nothing is more simple or more lasting than to be “Called Back,” to borrow from the headstone of poet Emily Dickinson.
Dave Richey has gone home, and you and I have lost a true friend. ◊
Tom Huggler is from Sunfield, Mich., where he is a full-time freelance writer, photographer and editor, specializing in deer hunting, waterfowling and shore-fishing. Huggler was OWAA president in 1992-93. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
BY TOM HUGGLER