LSU Mourns the Loss of Oscar Richard
BATON ROUGE – Oscar Gabriel Richard III, former LSU director of public relations and member of LSU’s Ole War Skule Hall of Honor and the Manship School’s Hall of Fame, died on Tuesday, May 7, at the age of 91, surrounded by his children and grandchildren.
Richard was born on Dec. 7, 1921, at the home of his maternal grandparents on Laurel Street in Baton Rouge. He grew up in Sunshine, La., where his mother was the postmaster and his grandfather established a dry goods store. The old family store is now Roberto’s Restaurant on the River Road in Sunshine.
The day after his graduation from LSU’s School of Journalism (now the Manship School of Mass Communication) in June 1942, Richard enrolled as an aviation cadet in the U.S. Army Air Corps, was selected as a bombardier and eventually assigned to the 384th Bomb Group of the Eighth Air Force, stationed at Grafton Underwood, England.
On its third mission, his B-17 bomber was hit by flak over Abbeville, France. After releasing his bombs, he bailed out but was captured and taken prisoner by the Germans. He withstood interrogation, solitary confinement, and endured almost two years in captivity at Stalag Luft I in Barth, Germany. Following the prison camp’s liberation by the Russian Army in June 1945, Richard made his way home to Sunshine in July 1945.
Richard was honorably discharged as a second lieutenant and later rose to the rank of captain in the Air Force reserves.
On Sept. 20, 1947, he married Billie Ruth Gathright. He began his career at LSU shortly thereafter, starting as a publications editor and ultimately becoming the director of public relations before retiring in 1984. During his tenure he directed the operations of the Rural Life Museum and the LSU Museum of Art. The Rural Life Museum was the setting for a festive party celebrating his 90th birthday in December 2011.
He and Billie had five children, Kathleen, Donna, Linda, Kelly, and Reed, and eventually 13 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
After retiring from LSU, Richard spent much of his time designing and creating fine pieces of furniture for his children and grandchildren.
He was inducted into LSU’s Ole War Skule Hall of Honor in the fall of 2003 and into the Manship School’s Hall of Fame in 2009. He rarely missed an LSU home football game, including the entire 2012 season.
Richard and Billie were among the first parishioners at St. Aloysius Catholic Church. He also served on the board of directors of the Foundation for Historical Louisiana.
In 2000, the LSU Press published his memoir of his experiences as an aviator and prisoner of war, titled “Kriegie: An American POW in Germany.” As a result of his book’s success, he was in great demand as a speaker. He regaled audiences with his encyclopedic knowledge of history combined with his own fascinating stories of his POW and combat experiences. All of the men in his B-17 bomber crew made it safely home and all remained close friends until their deaths. Richard was the last of the group to pass.
Richard will be greatly missed by his surviving children and their spouses, Kathleen Richard Callaghan and John Broussard, Donna Richard Rainone and Michael Rainone, Kelly Richard Brown and James Brown, and Reed Richard and Lori Hahn Richard. His wife Billie of 55 years, their beloved daughter Linda Richard Abadie, and grandson William David Brown predeceased him. He was also preceded in death by parents Oscar Gabriel Richard Jr. and Abigail Callaghan Richard, brothers Bobby and Barry Richard, and sister Betty Richard Fernandez.
Other surviving members of his family include grandchildren, Max Magbee, Caitlin Magbee, Chris Rainone and wife Kristen, Louise Rainone Musial and husband Mike Musial, Gabriel Rainone and wife Haley, Robert Rainone, Raymond Rainone, Ellen Abadie, Kelly Abadie, James Brown and wife Rebecca, Benjamin Brown, Nicholas Brown, Samuel Richard, great-grandchildren Gus and Louis Musial, and son-in-law Chris Abadie, Linda’s husband. He is also survived by sisters Carolyn Richard Landaiche of Sunshine, La., and Virginia Richard Harkins of Baton Rouge.
Visitation will be held at Rabenhorst Funeral Home, 825 Government Street in Baton Rouge, from 5-7 p.m. on Friday, May 10, and from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, May 11, at St. Aloysius Catholic Church with a funeral mass following at 1 p.m.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Rural Life Museum, the LSU Foundation, or the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.