If there ever was a Renaissance Man from the town of Ferriday, Louisiana, it was Daniel Wesley Richey. Named after his uncle, a fighter pilot and hero shot down in World War II, Dan was the middle of five children born, October 31, 1948, to Verne and Johnnie McIntire Richey.
Dan found his first Love on the basketball court, took to the hardwood as freshman teammates with “Pistol” Pete Maravich at LSU, and graduated from McNeese State University with a Masters Degree in physical education to boot. He started the Youth Basketball Association (YBA) across the Mississippi River in Natchez at Cathedral Elementary, and by the time he reached his 60’s, would boast in his classic story telling style that he had coached, “over 10,000 youth ball games in my career!”
As a teenager off the court, he would be voted President of Key Club International from little ole’ Ferriday High and made the trip by train up to big city Chicago for the International Key Club Convention. This would later lead to his pursuit of a Juris Doctorate from Loyola University Law School, and a laser focused foray into politics where he served one term each in the Louisiana State Senate and the House of Representatives. At 40, he pressed reset and moved the family up to the state of New Hampshire where he was the director of administration at Magdalen College. He never quite adjusted to shoveling the snow off the driveway during those long, winter months, however, so he returned back to his father’s roots in Ragley, Louisiana, as a middle school teacher and basketball coach for South Beauregard High School. He then answered a call from lifelong best friend, Woody Jenkins, to be the news producer at WBTR in Baton Rouge, and from there Governor Mike Foster appointed him the Louisiana State Director of the Governor’s Program on Abstinence (GPA).
It was at this time, to the great surprise of his own siblings, that a green thumb began to emerge and gardening became Dan’s favorite hobby. Starting in the late 90’s with two rows in the back of the house on Myrtle, he’d end up with almost a half-acre of the best home grown tomatoes, okra, squash, you name it… much of which he would Gift to his neighbors, friends of St. Agnes, and the families at Cypress Heights, where he served as acting School Principal for a couple of years.
By his next stop as a political consultant for the Louisiana Family Forum, his colorful journey and all of his passions were in full fruition. Ever the inquisitive road tripper, he worked towards achieving the goal of reaching all 48 states in the continental USA - a feat completed just last year with his son, Joseph, upon making it to North and South Dakota, Montana and Wyoming. One of the most memorable trips was out to Los Angeles with all of his grandkids to celebrate his daughter, Aida’s, renewed vigor and passion for Life in California, where she still calls home. Needless to say, he made it to just about every natural wonder and baseball stadium in America, with his youngest, John Paul, the sibling who undoubtedly garnered the most miles while Growing into his role as back seat DJ along the way.
None of this would have been possible, or hold much meaning now of course, had he not walked down the aisle in San Juan, Puerto Rico, with the Love of his Life, Jessie Teresa Valcarcel. It was once said that behind every man is a strong woman, but Dan and Jessie best embodied it side by side, step by step. The amalgamation of their stark, cultural differences, gave birth to four Beautiful children as Jessie brought class and virtue to the family and Dan, the modeling of a Life committed to the Liberal Arts and the enrichment of mind, body and spirit. The two shared an unflinching Catholic Faith, and forever set the precedent of both celebrating and mourning the ups and downs of Life together. It was instilled that Family was always to embrace, forgive and pick up one another. No matter what. And both of them can rest easy knowing that it remains paramount.
As the eldest child, there is no way I could write a standard obituary for my father. He was not a polarizing political figure to me. He was my Dad. Full of pride and imperfections. Full of mystery and magic. An idealist and a visionary. A hot temper with a childlike heart. A man, doing the best he could to provide a life full of opportunity and experiences for not only us - but all with whom he’d come to Love and Serve. A man whose greatest vices were often his mere one-sided opinions… and the tone with which he delivered them. Unabashedly so. The last of a dying breed. Leaving him beloved by those who Loved him. Damn near hated by those who didn’t. And rarely leaving anyone unprovoked and in between.
And yet, it was Mama’s deep, unconditional Love and commitment that gave Dad the freedom to spread his wings. For she was his anchor. His muse. His generosity. His balance. The one who quite possibly introduced him to manners! The one who effortlessly accepted ALL of the Louisiana in him while fully adopting the state as the home of her own. Although he never drank, she’d get him to enjoy a sip of some of her Puerto Rican Eggnog at Christmas and then together so generously make batches and batches to Gift others. And she forever kept hot meals on the table and gallons of homemade lemonade in the fridge to feed each of our diverse, precarious groups of friends and acquaintances over the years… all of whom basked in the quick wit, vivid storytelling and encyclopedic anecdotes of her unquenchable husband.
A Puerto Rican Princess. And a Home Grown Renaissance Man. The most rare of matches, undoubtedly and divinely appointed. They Loved each other with all they had until she passed suddenly of cardiac arrest in May of 2018. And away went his compass. His freedom. His confidant and road trip companion. For all he ever wanted was to journey through life with her by his side… and forever more he will now be able to enjoy that again.
Oh, how we’ll miss Daniel Wesley. Father. Paw Paw. Friend. Hell, the kind of guy even his enemies are going to miss! He was so much more than a polarizing Louisiana Politician. He was a card player and scrabble master. A Saturday afternoon, double feature-movie watcher and a prankster. The closest thing to a mentor, inspiration and genuine friend so many will ever know. The closest thing to a Hero that I will ever touch.
How fortunate we are to have such a sea of colorful memories and grandchildren to keep his Legacy alive. THEIR Legacy. A devout husband now called back to his wife. Our ever-present father now risen to be with our mother. Paw Paw and Abu. Together with St. Michael the Archangel. Forevermore.
A visitation and Rosary for Daniel will be held at Rabenhorst Funeral Home (825 Government St., Baton Rouge, LA 70802) on Friday, March 10th, from 5 to 8 pm. Viewing will resume the next day on March 11th at St. Agnes Catholic Church (749 East Blvd, Baton Rouge) from 9:30 until Mass of Christian Burial at 11 am. Burial will follow at Roselawn Memorial Park (4045 North St, Baton Rouge).
He is survived by his children, William Victor Richey, 45 (wife, Delilah Whisenhunt Richey), Aida Lenn Richey, 42, Joseph Daniel Richey, 36, (wife, Chantelle Fontenot Richey), and John Paul Richey, 32; grandchildren, Amielle Victoria Jenkins, Siena Maria, Dominic Santiago, Sebastian Blaise, Solina Teresa, Letti Teresa, Jameson Knox Fontenot, Rylin William Cormier.
Verne and Johnnie McIntire RicheyParents (deceased)
Jessie Teresa Valcarcel RicheyWife (deceased)
William Victor Richey (Delilah)Son
Aida Lenn RicheyDaughter
Joseph Daniel Richey (Chantelle)Son
John Paul RicheySon
Amielle Victoria JenkinsGrandchild
Jameson Knox FontenotGrandchild
Rylin William CormierGrandchild