Richard Lavington Farren, age 76, passed away suddenly at his home in New York City on Sunday morning, December 3, 2023. He had been active the day before singing with his choir in the afternoon and visiting Grant’s Tomb, nearby, where he engaged in a lengthy and spirited conversation with a National Parks Ranger. Richard was a practicing attorney at the time of his death. He began his legal career at Dewey Ballantine in lower Manhattan and after several job shifts founded his own solo generalist practice. In 1994, he chaired the transition committee on environmental issues for Governor- elect George Pataki, with whom he had become friends while both were students at Yale and later became office mates at the law firm of Dewey Ballantine. In 1995, he organized a task force to create a “green building” tax credit, the first in the nation, which was enacted into law in 1999. Since 2002, he had been a board member of the League of Conservation Voters of New York and in 2009 was named a Super Lawyer for his work on environmental matters.
Richard graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy in 1965, Yale University in 1968, and Harvard Law School in 1971, where he edited the yearbook for two years. During his time in Cambridge, Richard joined ROTC, spending weekends at Fort Devens and a summer at Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania. His active-duty obligation lasted only six months as U.S. involvement in Vietnam drew down. He spent that time at Fort Benning, Georgia, mostly in the fall, and then he joined the Army Reserve as a second lieutenant and rose to the rank of captain serving for years while practicing law.
Among his many passions, Richard competed in speed skating races on the Olympic Oval in Lake Placid and more often at the Olympic training center in Milwaukee, winning medals for his age group. Since 1973, he sang baritone with the Mendelssohn Glee Club, serving a term as President, and more recently also sang with the West End Community Choir. He was an avid golfer and alpine skier, a natural world enthusiast, a coach of youth hockey, soccer, and little league baseball on the West Side. Richard was a history and science buff, and a lover of opera and chamber and symphonic music. His grasp of civil war history was unparalleled and his passion for it began when he was a young child.
Born on March 31, 1947, in Flushing, New York, Richard was the first-born son of George and Doris Lavington Farren. They lived at that time in a fifth-floor walk-up apartment in Kew Gardens and Richard spent his first summer with his Farren grandparents at their home near the water in Freeport, Nassau County. Richard spent many of his growing up years in Irondequoit, Monroe County. Those who met Richard were always surprised to discover his vast encyclopedic knowledge on everything from Constitutional amendments to Caravaggios. Richard will be remembered for his ingenious solutions to complicated problems, for the incessant energy he devoted in his quest to learn everything he could about the wondrous world, which never ceased to amaze him, and his joyous love for family, above all for his beloved wife, children and grandchildren. Richard’s genius, enthusiasm and generosity of spirit will continue to be an inspiration for many years to come.
Richard is survived by his loving wife Ellen Keiser Farren, whom he married 50 years ago, his daughter Elizabeth Kay Farren (Domenico Piro) of Rome, Italy, his son Robert Lavington Farren (Nicole Gold) of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and four grandchildren – Alexander Piro, Caterina Piro, Juliette Farren and George Lavington Farren. He is also survived by three brothers – David (Barbara DeBuono), Thomas (Ranveig Elvebakk) and Peter (Phyllis McDavid) – and their children, Adam (Rachel Holz), Douglas (Natalie), Caitlin Cameron (Cary) and Hudson (Kimpton). He was great uncle to Gabriel and Quinn Farren and to Thomas and Owen Cameron and uncle and great uncle to Robert and William Keiser and three Keiser grandnieces. He is also survived by many cousins and by Ellen’s immediate family – his mother-in-law Evelyn Keiser and brothers-in-law Arthur (Belinda) and Jeffrey (Judith) Keiser.
In lieu of flowers, please send gifts honoring the memory of Richard to the Metropolitan Opera, New York Philharmonic, Chamber Music Society of New York, Mendelssohn Glee Club, or the NY Conservation League of Voters of New York.
A funeral service for Richard will be held Friday, December 8, 2023 at 12:00 PM at Riverside Memorial Chapel, 180 West 76th Street, New York, NY 10023.