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True to his school: Class of '61 honors Everett High icon

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By Julie Muhlstein, Herald Columnist
Published:
  • The Everett High School class of 1961 is raising money for a sculpture to be placed at the school in Joe Richerīs honor.

    The Everett High School class of 1961 is raising money for a sculpture to be placed at the school in Joe Richerīs honor.

  • Members of the 1959 Everett High School golf team included (left, front row) Joe Richer, Coach Bill Gowen and Jim Smith; (back row, left) George Kauff...

    Members of the 1959 Everett High School golf team included (left, front row) Joe Richer, Coach Bill Gowen and Jim Smith; (back row, left) George Kauffman, Bob Borup and Bob Trosvig.

They weren't just the big kids on campus. They were the only high school seniors in town.
Everett High School's class of 1961 will gather Friday and Saturday for its 50-year reunion. Friends will look back on a different era.
Cascade High School had opened by 1961, but hadn't graduated its first class. Mariner High School wouldn't be built for nearly another decade. Jackson High didn't open until the 1990s.
Everett High was a big powerhouse of a school, with students from all of Everett and Mukilteo too.
Art Ruben, a 1961 Everett High graduate and chairman of the reunion, said that when he was at Everett High, the school had more than 2,000 students.
"Our class had 630, give or take," Ruben said.
When 1961 classmates gather at the Tulalip Resort Casino, they'll be missing more than 80 old friends. Eighty-seven names were listed in a memorial notice published Sept. 4 in The Herald, all deceased members of Everett High's class of 1961.
One of those names is Joe Richer.
"Joey was just one of those guys. It didn't matter who you were, Joey was your friend," said Julie DeNoma, of Edmonds. DeNoma, whose maiden name was Wicken, is a member of the class of '61.
"I can't say enough about him," she said of Richer, who was just 55 when he died while jogging in 1998. "He was likable and funny. I think his goal was to stay at Everett High School -- and that he did," DeNoma said.
A star golfer and basketball player at the school, Richer became a teacher, coach and counselor who served for 30 years at Everett High. His name already has a permanent place at the school. Everett High's basketball court is called Richer Court.
Members of the class of 1961 are now raising money to create a bas-relief sculpture of a seagull, the Everett High mascot, to be placed on campus in Richer's honor.
"He was our class president and ASB president. We're working on the details to create a soaring seagull -- with the idea to soar with the gulls," Ruben said. An artist has not yet been chosen, he added.
Sally Lancaster, Everett High School's new principal, said Tuesday that Ruben has been working with Gary Jefferis, the Everett School District's director of operations and maintenance. Jefferis said the plan is to place the sculpture in concrete on the ground in front of the main entrance steps. A plaque would say that the sculpture is a gift in Richer's memory from the class of 1961.
Herald sports writer John McDonald, in an article after Richer's death in 1998, summed up the longtime coach's athletic achievements. After attending Western Washington University on a basketball scholarship, Richer coached the Everett High boys basketball team from 1973 until 1984, winning four Western Conference championships and taking the team to three state tournaments.
He also coached the boys golf team from 1970 through 1998, winning nine Wesco titles.
Beloved by his classmates, Richer became a positive force in the lives of his students and co-workers.
"Joe was here when I was in school. He was my husband's basketball coach," said Jo Levin, a PE teacher at Everett High. When she became a coach, Levin said Richer was a great mentor. "He was a wonderful role model, and a love-life type of guy," Levin said.
Ruben said a request for donations for the seagull statue went out with reunion invitations. About $2,500 has been donated, he said.
Along with evening gatherings at the Tulalip resort, the reunion will include an Everett High tour -- with Levin as leader -- at 2 p.m. Saturday, a car show outside the school, and the showing of a film about Everett High history.
Richer's widow didn't go to Everett High. "I went to Cascade, the class of '64," Barbara Richer said. "I kind of became an Everett High-schooler because he coached," she said.
A scholarship, the Joe Richer Humanitarian Award, was established for Everett High students. His interest in students also lives on through the Joe Richer Junior Golf Club, a program for young players offering affordable golf opportunities on Everett's golf courses.
"He had a real allegiance to Everett High School," Barbara Richer said.
At the school, Levin said, "we still miss him every day."

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; muhlstein@heraldnet.com.
Story tags » Everett High School History

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