Aug. 18, 1937-Oct. 16, 2020
Mr. William Henry Richards, also known as "Mr. Jolly Roger" to his many students, passed away at his residence on Friday, October 16, 2020, surrounded by his family. Bill was born on August 18, 1937, in Butte, Montana, the son of William Henry Richards, Sr. and Jeanne Eleanor (Perrault) Richards.
Bill learned the value of hard work at an early age, working as a paperboy in Meaderville while attending school at the Franklin Elementary school. He later attended the Washington Elementary School before graduating from Butte High School. After graduation, he proudly served his country in the United States Army. Upon returning to Butte after military service, Bill became employed by the Anaconda Copper Mining Company (ACM). He worked as a contract miner in the Steward Mine for nine years, before a tragic accident left Bill with his legs broken and badly damaged. While trying to rehabilitate, he was assigned to the Electrical Shop, but his disability proved too insurmountable to continue with the demands of the job. This tragedy would prove a blessing for generations of Butte school children. Bill attended Western Montana College in Dillon, Montana, where he earned a Masters Degree in Education. During his career as a teacher, that spanned more than 30 years, Bill taught at the Washington, Webster Garfield, and Greeley Schools. He also taught at East Junior High School, from where he retired. His practice of rewarding students for outstanding work with a Jolly Rancher candy, or in Bill's vernacular "Jolly Roger," earned him the nickname "Mr. Jolly Roger." He continued to work as a substitute teacher in his retirement. When he wasn't with other people's children, he was with his own; following his children and grandchildren to every possible game, school production, and event. He also worked as a driver and tour guide on the Butte Trolley during the summers. His years of experience as a paperboy and natural ability as a story teller made him a favorite among tourists to the Butte area. When he wasn't with children, be it his own or his students, Bill enjoyed antiques and vintage automobiles.
On March 23, 1959, Bill married the great love of his life, Kathryn Elizabeth Milburn, or as Bill always referred to her, "Honey." The couple was the first to be married in the current St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church, which was completed in 1958. Together, the couple enjoyed more than 60 years of promises made and promises kept.
Bill was preceded in death by his parents; and his sisters, Mary Jean Reynolds and Shirley Chopp. He is survived by his loving wife; his sons and daughters-in-law, Doug and Jan Richards of Whitehall, Montana, Todd and Cheryl Richards of Whitefish, Montana, Toby and Cyndy Richards, Wade Richards, and Andy Richards, all of Butte; daughters and sons-in-law, Vicki Jo and Ron Fuller of Whitehall, and Jeannie and Joe Steele of Townsend; 23 grandchildren; and 25 great-grandchildren. He is also survived by his brother and sister-in-law, Robert and Barbara Richards; his brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law, Carey Reynolds, Mel and Vicki Johnson, and Josephine Mulcahy; and numerous nieces and nephews.
Friends may call on Thursday after 10 a.m. in St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church, located on Majors Avenue. Funeral Mass will be celebrated at 11 a.m. Duggan Dolan Mortuary has been entrusted with arrangements.
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