'Father of Fredon': Community mourns loss of former mayor, fire chief

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FREDON — Those who knew John Richardson best are remembering him for his kind nature and willingness to serve his community. The longtime committeeman and firefighter died Wednesday at age 88.

Richardson had been a member of the Fredon Township Committee since 1991, including six terms as mayor, before he stepped down when his final term expired at the end of 2021. He is survived by his wife of 62 years, Ginny, along with four children, eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, according to his obituary.

"John Richardson was one of the most giving, caring people I've ever met," Mayor John Flora said Friday. "Not only giving of his time, but he truly connected with people."

John Richardson is sworn in by County Clerk Jeff Parrott, during the Fredon Township Committee reorganization meeting Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019.
John Richardson is sworn in by County Clerk Jeff Parrott, during the Fredon Township Committee reorganization meeting Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019.

Although born in Baltimore and raised on Long Island, Richardson's name has been synonymous with Fredon since moving his family to the township in 1979.

He fulfilled a variety of duties over the years, from his three decades in government to his time developing the fire department as chief and a longtime member. He also helped build up the township Office of Emergency Management and its first responder program.

Richardson's obituary highlighted his "passion for public service," which led to his roles in the fire department and on the Township Committee. Aside from his work and volunteer obligations, he is remembered as "a loving father devoted to his family."

The Fredon Volunteer Fire Company paid tribute to Richardson on Facebook, calling him a "leader and an innovator" who played a key role in establishing EMS services in the township.

"Our hearts are heavy with John’s passing, and yet we also know that John’s spirit will ride with us always," the post read. "In his role as mentor to us all he has impressed on us all the need for us to serve our community, a role that we all take with great commitment."

Richardson was instrumental in the planning and building of the Fredon Civic Center and Firehouse, and he helped secure grants to develop Lodestar Park. He and Ginny Richardson were also heavily involved in preserving the historic Coursen House.

"His footprint was on every facet of the town," Flora said.

The Coursen House, built in 1805, was at risk of being knocked down when the township purchased Lodestar Park roughly 20 years ago. Instead, the Richardsons saved it by establishing the Keepers of Coursen's Corners, a group that continues to work to restore the house to its original state.

The Keepers memorialized Richardson on the group's Facebook page, calling him "our biggest supporter, our Mr. Fixit." The post also noted his love of Fredon history and his train set, which included various township landmarks, often seen at the Coursen House.

Flora, who moved to Fredon 25 years ago, said he considered Richardson a "mentor of sorts" when he first became involved in township government. As the more experienced committee member, Richardson was always quick to offer guidance when discussing resolutions or other general plans for the township.

"That's just the kind of person he was — no ego, and the first person to help everyone else," Flora said. "He truly was the Father of Fredon."

For someone who gave so much to the township, Richardson also received some memorable honors from his peers in recent years. The Fredon Fire Company dedicated a new fire truck in his name in 2019, and last summer, the Township Committee renamed the road that runs through Lodestar Park "John Richardson Sr. Place."

Richardson's son, Bill, told the New Jersey Herald Friday afternoon that the family is grateful for the outpouring of support from the community over the past few months. In remembering his father, he recalled a conversation with a neighbor the previous day that encapsulated the impact John Richardson had on Fredon for so many years.

"Dad was larger than life," Bill Richardson said.

Visitation for John Richardson will be held from 1-4 p.m. Sunday at the Fredon Civic Center, followed immediately by firefighter memorial services. The funeral service will take place at 11 a.m. Monday at Yellow Frame Church in Fredon.

Donations can be made in Richardson's memory to the Fredon Volunteer Fire Company, 443 Route 94, Fredon, NJ 07860.

This article originally appeared on New Jersey Herald: Fredon NJ community mourns former mayor John Richardson

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