Smart & Edwards Funeral Home

183 Madison Ave, Skowhegan, ME



September 21, 1934January 9, 2019

Dateline – Skowhegan

Richard Joseph LaPorte passed away on Wednesday January 9, 2019 at the age of 84. He was loved by his family and many friends. Born in a two bedroom flat, in Pawtucket, R.I. He was the first born of his parents, Wilfred and Gabrielle LaPorte. He was soon joined by his sister Claire and brother Paul. The family’s future was grim – the great Depression of 1929 – 1940 was at its peak. It was difficult just to keep a family of five fed. They experienced truly hard times. Their God and there many relatives provided the help and grace they needed. Richard began his education at his Catholic parish run grammar school when he was only five. While a capable student, he had disciplinary problems with the Nuns that were trying to educate him. He and the Nuns separated after the 5th grade. His life changed, for the better. World War II raged but his father was able to use his Radio Repair experience to land a good paying job installing radio rooms on the new troop ships. The LaPortes paid the old debts and prospered. Meanwhile Richard was sent to Sacred Heart Academy to continue his education. The school was run by tough, mostly French Canadian Brothers that knew how to discipline their students. This Academy was not run by the Nuns! Richard reacted as his parents had hoped. He did so well, he skipped the 7th grade! His continuing success allowed him to graduate at 16, with honors. Ma and Pa were pleased. After Graduation, Richard tried working at a couple of jobs, but he was not interested. He was itching to see the world. The Korean War had started and he wanted to do his share. The newly formed U.S. Air Force, no longer part of the Army, was really what excited him. At 17 years old, his parents had to sign giving him the right to join up. He left for basic training in January, 1952. His first assignment was to Sacramento, California. While he was learning aircraft maintenance, he met a lovely young girl from Placerville, California – Ronda Benemelis. After a few dates with this pretty red-head, Richard was sent to Texas and then to Korea. Parting with Ronda was difficult but he did not have a choice. The romance was put on hold. Many letters and a few actual visits to Placerville later, Richard and Ronda were married in 1955. Richard always said that it remained the happiest day of his life. After his discharge from the U.S.A.F., the newlyweds talked about what would come next. They both quickly agreed that Richard should reenlist and make a career of serving his country. Assigned to Otis A.F. Base on Cape Cod, as a jet aircraft mechanic, Richard decided to apply for Officer Candidate School. He was accepted and Ronda pinned on his 2nd Lieutenant golden bars in late 1959. After a stint in the Air Training Command – first as a student and then as a teacher, Richard volunteered for a Missile Launch Officer position. He was accepted and sent to Wyoming as a Minuteman Launch Officer for five years. During his commissioned service, Richard and Ronda adopted three children – Robert in Illinois, Ronald and Renee in Wyoming. All three have grown to be self-reliant and successful. After obtaining a degree in Mathematics (Nun’s would have been proud) and running a Coding Operation, Major LaPorte retired from the Air Force and the family headed to Skowhegan. It seemed like a good place to raise some kids. He was 38 years old at the time. The LaPortes arrived from Montana in June 1973 and began to rebuild the old farm house they had bought. It took 10 years. Richard found a second career at the new Scott Paper mill, 1 mile up the road from his homestead. He was employed 15 years, mostly as a Vibration Analyst in Maintenance. He retired again in 1992. Richard and Ronda downsized in 2013 and moved to a smaller house in downtown Skowhegan. During his time in Maine, Richard was a communicant at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church and an active volunteer. He served as a Lay Eucharistic Minister for over 40 years. He also enjoyed teaching CCD to the high school senior class members and introducing non-Catholics to the Rites of Christian Initiation for Adults. He was predeceased by his parents Wilfred and Gabrielle LaPorte and his sister Claire Riendeau. Richard is survived by his wife, Ronda Lee; his sons Robert and wife Lori, Ronald and partner Rebecca; his daughter Renee and partner Andrea; grandchildren, Caitlin and husband Dugan, Regan and husband Steele, Benjamin, Dayna; great-granddaughter, Sophia; and his favorite brother Rev. Paul LaPorte. Viewing hours will be on Monday January 14, 2019 from 3 to 6 p.m. at the Smart & Edwards Funeral Home, 183 Madison Ave., Skowhegan, Maine. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Tuesday January 15, 2019 at 10 a.m. at the Notre Dame de Lourdes Catholic Church, Water St., Skowhegan, Maine. Interment with military honors will be held in the spring at Calvary Cemetery, Skowhegan. Donations may be made in Richard’s memory to the Notre Dame de Lourdes Church, please make the checks payable to the Christ the King Parish, PO Box 369, Skowhegan, Maine 04976.


  • Visiting Hours Monday, January 14, 2019
  • Mass of Christian Burial Tuesday, January 15, 2019



have a memory or condolence to add?

Renee LaPorte

January 22, 2019

Dad, you have no idea how much I miss and love you.

Paul Riendeau

January 13, 2019

Uncle Dick was the uncle that ALWAYS had something new to share: news about our cousins, tales of travel adventures he and Aunt Ronnie had completed or encouragement to do well in school and pursue my science interests. I remember lessons of how to use a slide rule way before pocket calculators were available. (Yes! I still remember how to use it... kind of.) I also remember lessons on the movement of missiles includes clear definitions of pitch, roll and yaw! A great teacher and role model, I always knew he loved his Rhonda, and he set an example of how marriages can work and last long and healthy. Also, I will always remember his willingness to take on a challenge, one day visiting "fixer-upper" homes he was looking at when looking to settle in Maine. On this one home visit, he and his group of "advisors" found the house has a hole in the roof and snow clear to the basement. However, Uncle Dick saw potential in this. (Thank God he didn't purchase this particular house!)

I always found Uncle Dick's visits a pleasure. As a very loving and dedicated husband and father, I am blessed to have gotten to known him from an early age onward. His kindness to our family when his sister (my mother) was dying was so much appreciated. With daughter Renee and Aunt Ronnie, they helped Claire find her way to heaven peacefully with all our love.

My prayers and condolences to Aunt Ronnie, all my cousins, and all those that will miss him. Somehow I know he will be watching over all of us down here. Uncle Dick, thanks for all the lessons and all you love! May you truly REST in peace!

Michele Bowman

January 11, 2019

Such a BEAUTIFUL story that brought me 3 of my BEST childhood friends! Thank you! My heart & prayers are with you through this trying time. Michele...

Marlene O'Connell

January 11, 2019

One of the most lovely stories I have ever read. Peace be with you kind sir and thank you for your service.