Everett’s ‘everyman’ remembered

Everett High School’s grand old building just marked its 103rd birthday, but there’s something new on the white bricks.

A bronze sculpture of a seagull, the school’s mascot, was recently installed on the edifice facing Colby Avenue, near the entrance. It’s a gift from the Everett High Class of 1961, which started planning to honor one special classmate at its 50th reunion in 2011.

That alumnus was Joe Richer, who went on to coach basketball, teach and work as a counselor at Everett High. Richer was 55 when he died while jogging in 1998.

“Everybody was his friend,” said Art Ruben, of Everett, a class member who headed the reunion committee and a design selection committee for the sculpture. “He was student body president. There were cliques at Everett High at the time, but Joey was over and above all that. He was the everyman,” Ruben said.

The bas-relief seagull sculpture was originally planned in honor of Richer, whose son, John Richer, now teaches math at Everett High.

“He was an amazing person. I had known him since kindergarten,” said Julie DeNoma, a 1961 Everett High graduate whose last name back then was Wicken. DeNoma, of Edmonds, said classmates decided not only to commemorate Richer’s life, but all members of the class.

A bronze plaque placed beneath the gull’s wing reads: “EHS CLASS OF 1961 In honor and memory of the class of 1961 and classmate Joey Richer, EHS student leader, teacher, counselor, coach and friend.”

Ruben said the statue will be dedicated at 11 a.m. March 2 outside the school. All are welcome at the short ceremony, especially Everett High graduates. John Richer is expected to take part in the event, Ruben said.

Everett High’s basketball court is also named for Joe Richer. He coached the school’s boys basketball team from 1973 until 1984, winning four Western Conference championships and taking his team to three state tournaments. Richer also coached the boys golf team from 1970 through 1998, winning nine Wesco titles.

Money for the memorial came from donations made by classmates at their 40th, 45th and 50th reunions, Ruben said. About $3,200 was donated, enough to commission the Maiden Foundry of Sandy, Ore., to create the bronze artwork.

Ruben said placement came after discussions with the Everett School District and Everett High’s administration. Jim McNally, a recently retired district administrator, was an adviser on the project.

Ruben said the class of ‘61, one of Everett High’s largest with about 650 seniors, had a special bond.

“Cascade High School was in the process of becoming a full-fledged school. We were one of the last graduating classes in a one-high-school town,” he said.

He remembered the undefeated football team from his senior year. Against nine teams, he said, the Seagulls scored 228 points that season, and all their football opponents together scored just 31.

Among his Everett High classmates were Snohomish County Treasurer Kirke Sievers, Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Thomas Wynne, and Jim Langus, a former chief administrative assistant for the city of Everett who also coached high school basketball.

“It was one of the closest high school classes imaginable,” said Madalyn Mincks, a 1961 Everett High classmate now living in West Seattle. “I just always felt so a part of the class. People were so friendly, and it was an innocent time.”

Ruben agreed that 1961 was a watershed year.

“We were still a mill town. We didn’t have Boeing yet. We didn’t have any of the electronics of today. It wasn’t that long into the Space Age,” Ruben said. He said his peers grew up before Seattle had its Space Needle, which was built for the 1962 Century 21 Exposition.

Kids cruised Colby on Friday and Saturday nights, just like in the movie, “American Graffiti.” President John F. Kennedy was in office. And the Vietnam War was not yet the big issue that would divide the country.

“It was a total end of an era,” Ruben said. “It was really a class that was looking toward the future.”

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460, muhlstein@heraldnet.com.

Seagull dedication

A short dedication ceremony for the new seagull statue at Everett High School is scheduled for 11 a.m. March 2 outside the school’s main building, 2416 Colby Ave. A gift from Everett High’s class of 1961, the statue is dedicated to longtime coach and teacher Joe Richer and other class members.

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