This is about a recent tragedy that some of you may have read about.
Two evenings ago, just before sunset, I was on my way to my Back Bay apartment to measure the hole in my fireplace. Yes, I did that.
I was walking down Charles Street approaching Beacon Street and chatting with my darling son, Cale. He was just back home in Mass after a long road trip and a visit to New York to be with the mom of Cale’s BFF, who passed away 2 years ago unexpectedly at age 31.
Cale asked me if he had told me the news. Since Cale had been traveling for a couple of weeks, we didn’t chat, just a few texts back and forth.
I said, no, you didn’t tell me, but I could hear in his voice that I needed to brace myself.
As I was crossing the street, with the light and many other pedestrians, Cale choked ever so slightly on his two words.
It took a second to process this, but I knew only one Richie. I said, Richardson?
Yeah, Mom. He died.
Instantly, I felt sick. I knew he was no more than 60. So, I figured he had an illness, a stroke, or a heart attack. As awful as that would’ve been, what happened to him is infinitely worse.
Jeffrey Richardson was a healthy, youthful, 59-year-old man who was hit by a car on July 10, 2023, in the middle of Cape Cod’s inner wrist area, known as Wellfleet. Jeff and his family had vacationed there for 30 years. It was their happy place.
However, on that rainy Monday at 9:41 PM, the Wellfleet police found Richie laying in the street, unresponsive and with severe head trauma.
He had been hit by a car.
The driver? No one knows; they were long gone. What kind of monster leaves a beloved husband, father, and musical mentor to thousands of high schoolers and everyone’s favorite teacher for dead, like road kill?
This is why I’m struggling. But, there’s more.
Richie, as everyone called him, was no ordinary Joe. No. He was our Mr. Holland; (Mr. Holland’s Opus), only much better. His charisma, boyish charm, buoyant energy, and genuine warmth radiated out of every cell. He was the guy the kids would go to when in need. He wasn’t just their music teacher; he was their safe place, and Richie was always there to go the extra mile.
People like this are incredibly rare.
At the beginning of every concert, while I was there, and probably for the entire 35 years of his tenure, he would turn around, facing the audience of families, and say, “I have the best job in the world. That I get to work with your amazing kids every day is an honor and a privilege. Thank you. Please enjoy our concert.”
He was dearly loved by every student, colleague, and parent. As Cale’s high school music teacher, and because of Cale’s involvement in every musical concert and more, I spoke to Richie too many times to count. However, one fateful parent-teacher meeting during Cale’s freshman year changed his musical life profoundly. Music was Cale’s reason to go to school. It made everything else bearable.
Richie didn’t deserve this indescribably callous end to his life.
It was raining buckets on the night of July 10th. The first responders administered CPR and requested an air-lift flight to Boston. (Yes, right around the corner from where I’m currently living in Boston!) However, air transportation was not an option because of the bad weather. So, they took him to Cape Cod hospital, put him on life support, and called his beautiful wife, Melissa, also a music teacher, to drive the 33 miles to Hyannis.
Jeff Richardson passed away only hours later.
Right now, there’s a murderer on the loose.
This is not right.
The police ask everyone to look for a car with possible damage on the passenger side and a broken side-view mirror.
The Facebook tributes, mostly from former students, have poured in by the hundreds. I was reading some of them last night when I saw this photo.
This was Cale’s freshman year, ’04-’05 (Yes, he’s the tall guy with the big hair!), and this is the John Jay High School jazz band in Cross River, NY. At least four of these kids, and dozens of others he taught, are now professional musicians.
The joy on their faces tells it all. This was already Richie’s 20th year teaching at JJHS. That’s him with the beaming smile in the back. Imagine what he looked like when he started. A friend told me once that he was indistinguishable from the other students in the early years.
It isn’t easy to focus right now. I won’t rest easy until they catch this individual with blood on their hands.
We need answers.
We need to know what went so horribly wrong that this wonderful man lost his life.
As Cale so eloquently put it.
“It’s fukkedup, Mom.”