Frank Richings is being fondly remembered as the “Mayor of Main Street” and the “Boss Hogg of Seton Portage.”
He died unexpectedly at his home in Seton Portage on Nov. 1 at the age of 68. He and his wife Beverley were scheduled to leave Nov. 2 for a trip to Australia and New Zealand.
Longtime SLRD Area B Director Mickey Macri described Richings as “one of the best community leaders I’ve seen. He was the Fire Chief, he was involved with the Chamber, he was looking after the Highline Road, he worked with the ambulance, the list goes on and on.”
Macri continued, “For elected officials it was great to be able to communicate with someone in that valley who had a real understanding of what was going on.”
After moving to Seton Portage in 1977, Frank Richings dedicated 22 years to the Seton Valley Fire Department, serving as Chief for 18 years. He had recently retired after 15 years with B.C. Ambulance. He also served as an alternate director on the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) Board.
“In any emergency situation he was able to co-ordinate resources and was the person to call and the one who called others,” his wife Bev told the News.
He worked at a variety of jobs during his time in the small lakeside community – landscaper, school bus driver and maintenance man, tree planter and slasher for BC Hydro, manager of the Seton Portage Motel for 10 years.
As a community volunteer he co-ordinated fund-raising efforts, convened dinners and cooked the hot dogs on Canada Day.
Don Blakey was a longtime friend and colleague who worked with Richings in the Seton Valley Fire Department and Ambulance Service.
“Frank had a few philosophies,” he wrote in a memoir provided to the News. “One was, basically, ‘put up or shut up.’ He believed that a person was to be measured not by what they said, but what they did. When he and Ken McMillan approached me about joining the Seton Valley Volunteer Fire Dept., that philosophy was very apparent. If you talked about things that had to be done around the hall, great, but you had better be ready to pitch in and do what needed to be done. That was a mantra that I had grown up with, so this was nothing new to me. I joined and started getting involved in all the different things that had to be done. This led to Frank, myself and a number of others working together on numerous projects and initiatives for the department, to make it an important part of the community. This involved taking part in the Canada Day Parade, lighting fireworks for the community on Canada Day and Halloween, and working together with our counterparts at the Seton Lake Volunteer Fire Dept.”
Blakey also recalled, “Frank also believed that Seton Portage needed to have emergency services close at hand. In 2003, he rejoined BC Ambulance to help provide the personnel needed to keep the station up and available to respond to local emergencies. Frank believed that fire and ambulance needed to work closely together, so now he was fire chief and part of the BC Ambulance crew in the community. I followed suit and got my necessary tickets and also joined BC Ambulance later in 2003. That was the influence he had on people. He could basically say, ‘I am doing this for the community, what about you?’ I know that is how I got involved.”
One of Blakey’s most vivid memories was of a helicopter flight during the 2002 Seton Lake forest fire:
“Frank had managed to get some of us from the fire department an aerial view of the fire from Forestry. Frank, Bev and myself all got on a helicopter and were taken out on a tour of the fire and to see first-hand how it was being actioned. I remember that the helicopter did not have the door attached to it, and Frank wanted to be on the outside so he could take video. He thought he would be doing it through the window of the door. However, once we lifted off, and the door wasn’t there, I could hear Frank mumbling over the intercom, ‘There’s no (expletive deleted) door, there’s no (expletive deleted) door.’
“Frank wasn’t terribly great with heights. The pilot must have heard him, because at one point, when we were hovering at the top of the mountain, the pilot moved the helicopter quite suddenly back and down to the right - the side Frank was sitting on. You heard Frank call out and instantly he reached for the back of the pilot’s seat. When I asked him about it later, he told me, ‘If I was going, I was taking him with me…seat and all.’”
Blakey shared another memory from the forest fire of 2009. He was there initially but wound up working out of Lillooet for BC Ambulance.
“Frank and I were in contact daily, talking about what was going on and how we were dealing with it,” he remembers. “Frank was a big ‘Lord of the Rings’ fan, and there was a video he took of the fire and subsequent burn offs during that fire where he could be heard saying “Mordor – just like Mordor” in reference to the movies.”
Don Blakey concluded by saying, “He has left big shoes to fill in the community that can never be filled and his loss will be extremely hard to get over. He will be missed.”
A Celebration of Life in Frank Richings’ honour will be held June 22, 2019 at the Richings’ home in Seton Portage.
He is survived by his wife of 42 years, Beverley; his son Kyle, daughter-in-law Amy and grandson Justin; his mother Marjory Jackson; and his sister Alison Dewhurst.
His family has asked that in lieu of flowers, donations in Frank’s memory be made to the Lillooet District Hospital Foundation or Lillooet Rescue.