A letter to our Friends:
When the office phone rings, the caller
is usually inquiring about zoo operating hours, membership, or what to
do about the deer that has been lurking in their neighborhood.
But there was one afternoon call late last summer that stood
apart from the rest.
“Friends of Lee Richardson Zoo, this is
Brian,” I answered in my broken-record greeting.
“Hello,” said the voice of a woman on
the other end. “I would
like to introduce myself.
This is Ada Ruth Richardson.”
As most residents, I recognize the name
Richardson equal to that of a celebrity, or at least in these parts of
Southwest Kansas. As I was
soon informed, the voice belonged to Lee Richardson’s daughter-in-law.
Our long-distance conversation continued for nearly 20 minutes.
I hardly had a chance to partake in the exchange as Ada Ruth
presented me with a history of the Richardson family and the Zoo in
Garden City that now bears their name.
She informed me that she had received our “Zoo Gnus” newsletter
and read that there was a new face working with the Friends
“I had to call and introduce myself,”
the 93-year-old Ada Ruth said.
“I do apologize I can’t meet you in person, as I no longer live
in Garden City.”
Her voice was soft, but came with a
sharp mind. As we said our
goodbyes, I found myself lucky at having the opportunity to visit with
the family roots of Lee Richardson Zoo.
It was the only visit we had.
Ada Ruth Richardson passed away December 12, 2012.
She was 94 years old.
Ada Ruth Olomon was born on a farm in Garden City, Kansas, in 1918.
She graduated from high school at age 16 and then two years later from
Garden City Community College. She
married Vernon Keith Richardson (the youngest child of Lee Richardson)
on September 24, 1939 and had two children: a son, Larry Keith, and
daughter, Cheryl Irene.
They moved to Wichita in 1941.
Ada Ruth earned a Bachelor of
Science degree in anthropology and psychology. She continued her
education at WSU and earned a Master of Education degree in 1969. Ada
Ruth’s first teaching job was at a Lake Valley country school in
Garden City teaching multiple grades. Over the years, Ada Ruth taught
kindergarten, first grade and fourth grade, mostly at elementary
schools in Wichita.
She was a member of Hillside Christian Church, Delta Kappa Gamma
Society, Retired Teachers’ Association and several church women’s
groups. She was past president of the local chapter of Delta Kappa
Gamma Society, Kappa Charter. She received the Good Apple Award for
teachers who have gone beyond the call of duty when she was at Allen
Elementary School. Over the years, she taught more than 650 children
before retiring in 1984.
Mrs. Richardson’s ability to touch not only the minds but the hearts
of the very youngest of elementary students is reflected in the fact
that she is remembered with fondness even decades after they sat in
Though so many years of her life were spent away from Garden City, Lee
Richardson Zoo was a place Ada Ruth retained fondness for.
She has kept a membership with our organization, having most
recently renewed last June.
Thank you – Ada Ruth Richardson – for being a Friend.