People from all over Oregon gathered Wednesday, March 6 at the state capitol in Salem for a memorial service honoring Secretary of State Dennis Richardson.
Richardson, 69, was the first official to lay in state at the capitol rotunda since the passing of former Governor Tom McCall in 1983. He served for over a decade in the Oregon House of Representatives and was Oregon’s 45th Secretary of State.
A U.S. flag draped his casket as Richardson’s family was joined by a wealth of well-wishers and former and current lawmakers who served with him.
Former Secretary of State Phil Keisling praised Richardson for his “fierce fidelity.” Deputy Secretary of State Leslie Cummings said Richardson had a vision for the agency that centered on transparency, accountability and integrity and valuing Oregon’s people and its character.
Cummings praised Richardson for his work ethic and energy, saying he was like the “Energizer Bunny” and would work from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
“He wore us out trying to keep up with him,” she said.
Governor Kate Brown said Richardson’s first priority was his wife Cathy and their nine children and 31 grandchildren. Richardson had a kind heart that guided him and his work, Brown said.
U.S. Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR 2) compared Richardson to former Secretary of State Norma Paulus, who also recently passed away. Both were “transformative figures” who used the talents of the agency’s audits division and ran elections divisions that were free of political interference.
The often-somber ceremony featured a pledge of allegiance lead by Oregon’s Kid Governors, a program Richardson started once taking over as Secretary of State. It also saw performances by one of his granddaughters and three of his daughters singing his favorite hymn. A closing prayer was led by Rep. Duane Stark (R-Grants Pass), who represents the House seat Richardson held for so long.
Richardson, who served as a U.S. Army helicopter pilot in the Vietnam War, was diagnosed with brain cancer last year and passed away February 26.