Richard Benjamin Chess Jr.

March 3, 1935December 9, 2013

March 3, 1935 – December 9, 2013

At ease Marine, you have served well…

Richard Chess was quite literally a gentleman and a scholar. Born to Richard Benjamin Chess, Sr. and Teresa Marchio Chess in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, his early years were a happy chronicle of life in small town America. He bought his first car, a two-cylinder Crossley convertible, when he was 12 with money earned from his paper route. In his first outing, he drove the car into the back of the Waynesburg movie theatre. His driving improved, at 16 he and a friend set out to drive to California. The Crossley gave out somewhere in Oklahoma, but was never to be forgotten.

The family moved to Downers Grove, a Chicago suburb, when Dick entered high school. He excelled in academics, drama and sports, caddying at Helmsdale Country Club inaugurating his life-long love of golf.

Dick attended at Miami of Ohio University for two years and then graduated from Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts on an NROTC scholarship in 1957. Upon graduation he married Cynthia Hooper and joined the Marine Corps.

Dick’s three years in the Marine Corps were a hugely influential part of his life. His Basic Training Class of 1957 was evidently a rowdy bunch, but it produced two three-star generals and a Marine Corps Commandant. Dick attained the rank of First Lieutenant.

After the Marines, Dick enrolled in George Washington University Law School. His first job was in Bobby Kennedy’s Department of Justice. As Dick described it, “All hell was breaking loose in the Civil Rights Division.” He was sent to Mississippi to work on voter registration cases. Because of his Marine Corps training, Dick was then assigned as one of the Federal officers to escort James Meredith as he integrated the University of Mississippi. Dick recalled, “There were two Justice Department attorneys on either side of Mr. Meredith; two Federal Marshals, behind him. On the streets on either side were two military vehicles carrying armed soldiers. This is how we accompanied him to class, to the dormitory, to the Student Union, wherever he went.”

Dick practiced law in Fairfax, Virginia, for 25 years, but he also loved golf and tennis. During the winter months he would take an annual trek to play golf in warmer climes with an infamous group of D.C. businessmen known as the Bat-AC.

His tennis also was affected by the winter weather and so he went into real estate to build indoor tennis facilities at half a dozen locations in the Washington, D.C. area.

In 1980, Dick came to Southern California with his second wife, Martha Benton, to pursue other real estate activities. His parents and his brothers, dentists Tom and Ron Chess and their families, were already in residence here.

Dick moved to Ventura and practiced real estate with Don Carlton. In 1987, he met Betsy Blanchard. They were married on Christmas Eve, 1987, and the next day left for a honeymoon in Paris accompanied by six of their best-friend couples! Dick and Betsy lived a wonderful life of friends, family, tennis, golf, travel and involvement in the community for almost 26 years.

Dick missed practicing law and in 1992 took the California Bar, noting that it had been 27 years since he had taken the Virginia Bar. Needless to say, he passed. Although his background was in real estate and commercial law, Dick found his true calling as a mediator. He worked with Pepperdine’s then nascent mediation program and was one of the founders of the Ventura Center for Dispute Resolution with which he was active until the end of his life.

Dick was president of the former Ventura County Symphony, the first president of Turning Point Foundation, former chairman of the Harbor Commission for the City of Ventura, a former member of the Ventura County Rent Review Board and former board member of Saticoy Country Club. Dick and Betsy supported each other in all they did, although he was a bit non-plussed when Betsy returned to competitive horseback riding a decade ago, horses never being his thing! They also valued their membership in the Church of the Foothills.

Dick perfectly fit the definition of a Virginia Gentleman. Tall, handsome, effortlessly gracious and elegant he was a man of few words, but each was measured and worth listening to. He loved playing gin rummy and bridge with his buddies at Saticoy Country Club, charming the ladies and entertaining with Betsy in the home they built overlooking the ocean in Ventura where he forever will be remembered for mixing his famous green apple martinis.

Dick Chess is survived by his wife, Betsy; son Dana Chess of Hagerstown, MD, daughter Susan Tabler (husband Lee and daughters Cynthia and Juliana) of Dubai, United Arab Emirates; son Taylor Chess (wife Charlotte and children Connor, Catie, Phoebe and Bennett) of Fairfax, VA; stepdaughter Devon Cichoski (husband Vince) of Santa Paula, CA; brother Dr. Tom Chess (wife Carol) of South Pasadena, CA, brother Dr. Ron Chess (wife Gloria) of Camarillo, CA; brothers-in-law John Blanchard (wife Kai) of Camarillo, CA, Jim Blanchard (wife Rhonda) of Chico, CA and numerous loving nieces and nephews.

Dick had been felled by a stroke on October 3rd and he fought valiantly. His end was peaceful, surrounded by a loving circle of family who wished him Godspeed as he embarked on his next great Journey.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Turning Point Foundation, New West Symphony, Ventura Music Festival or a charity of your choice.

A memorial service will be held Saturday, February 1, 2014, 2:00 pm at the Church of the Foothills in Ventura followed by a reception at Saticoy Country Club.

Arrangements are under the direction of the Ted Mayr Funeral Home, 3150 Loma Vista Road, Ventura.


  • Memorial Service Saturday, February 1, 2014

Richard Benjamin Chess Jr.

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January 31, 2014

We will forever remember Dick as a most gracious Southern gentlemen. Dick was handsome, hospitable and always helpful.

Betsy, we so admired the way you cared for Dick during his recent illness. You were a real trooper, and so was Dick.

We are looking forward to having you spend time in La Quinta with us.

With much LOVE and prayer for you at this most difficult time.

Rosa Lee Measures, and Albert Harris

Linda Kay Fisher

January 22, 2014

Dear Betsy,
I am so sad about your loss and send my condolences to his family and yours.
Linda Kay Fisher

William Marchio

January 9, 2014

I just learned of his passing and am sorry for your loss. Many of my memories of him are from my youth. He was always very kind to me and was an easy person to like. I remember admiring him then.

Vella Buchanan

December 27, 2013

Everyone's loss.

December 25, 2013

Good luck on your next
journey...To a swell guy and friend...
Dr. Bill Powell, 3-57

Cheryl Armstrong

December 21, 2013

With sincere sympathy.

MaryAnn and Don Benton

December 21, 2013

Dear Betsy, We played bridge with Dick at Saticoy Country Club. We enjoyed his sense of humor and his jokes. What a great guy! His bidding wasn't the greatest, but then he would bid 6 or 7 of a suit and make it! Amazing. He was an original thinker! You were lucky to have found each other. He was a true gem.

Dorothy Loebl

December 20, 2013

Dear Betsy,

My thoughts are with you at the sad time. I share your loss of an accomplished person who contributed greatly to the community. May your many happy memories sustain you in the time ahead.


Dottie Loebl

Rose Hayden-Smith

December 19, 2013

Your family is in my thoughts and prayers during this difficult time. May you experience God's peace.

Tom and Nona Sarver

December 19, 2013

Semper Fi Dick! We have all been through a lot together. From the Marine Corps, to your profession as an attorney and now in peace, you have been a faithful friend and ally. We will meet again on the other shore!
God bless your soul my friend until then.
Tom and Nona Sarver G Company, BC 3-57