Richard Earl Darnell

January 12, 1936October 1, 2021

January 12, 1936 – October 1, 2021, Tumwater, Wa

Richard Earl Darnell, 85, passed away peacefully on the evening of October 1, 2021, at St Peter’s Hospital of natural causes. Rich was an only child to Alex and Lorene Darnell born January 12, 1936, in Pasco, WA. He was nicknamed “Little Dickie” when he was younger by all his Aunts and Uncles who adored him and his bright red hair. Rich’s family moved from Pasco to Port Angeles, WA when he was a toddler, staying there in his formative years until he graduated from Port Angeles High School in 1954. After high school, Rich attended Olympic Community College in Bremerton, WA before transferring and graduating with a degree in Civil Engineering from Washington State University in 1959.

After graduating, Rich started his career with the Washington State Dept of Transportation in Seattle, WA where he met and married Joanna Susan Smith (who was a Registered Nurse) on June 25, 1966. After their wedding, the new couple moved to Olympia, WA and he continued to work for the DOT. Rich enjoyed working on and then maintaining the I-5 freeway as well as various state highways. Rich was instrumental in starting coffee service at Rest Areas to promote safer freeway driving. Rich was known as “Red” at the DOT, and eventually was promoted to Chief Engineer of the Olympic Region, retiring after 30 years of public service. Over the years, all of Rich’s children learned about clover intersections, New Jersey barriers, culverts and dams. After retiring, Rich and Joanna moved to Florida where he worked for Florida’s DOT for 4 years in the Daytona area before returning to Olympia to be a bigger part of his kids and grandkid’s lives. Rich loved the outdoors and especially enjoyed going camping as well as spending time with friends. Rich was known as the dog whisperer for how well he bonded with pets. He was an extremely patient man, and a protector of his family and friends. Rich was an amazing father who taught his children to play catch, helped them with math homework, and change the oil in their cars. He was also the one that took all the pictures of his family, so he is the man behind the photos. In retirement, Rich and Joanna would travel from Olympia to Arizona every winter for 10 years as snowbirds. He would have meticulous notes and check sheets of where to connect and disconnect the trailer and set-up camp along the way. Rich is survived by his wife of 55 years, Joanna Darnell and their three children and families. Suzanne (Sid) Jones and Gabi and Matthew; Lisa (Steve) Saari and Megan, Eli and Katie; Rick (Kendra) Darnell and Cade and Cora.

Services will be held at Mills & Mills Welcome Back to Nature Pavilion at 10:00am on October 30, 2021, for immediate family. Open House will be held at Suzanne Jones’ house at 3737 71st Ct SW in Tumwater from 12:00pm - 3:00pm on October 30, 2021. All are welcomed at the Open House -- please note that all family members at the Open House are fully vaccinated.

Fond memories and expressions of sympathy may be shared at for the Darnell family.


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Richard Earl Darnell

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