by Henry Lane Hull
Two years before I started writing this column in 1984, Ann Shelton began working in the office at the Rappahannock Record. We became friends soon thereafter, and through her I came to know her husband, Frank, and later her son, Richard. In virtually every one of our early conversations prior to my meeting them in person, she had described each of them extensively, and when we finally did met, I thought I had known them for years.
Frank died in 2001, and Ann’s younger son, Dennis, died in 2008 at the age of 44. Richard lived in Glen Allen, and spent his early career from the age of 15 onwards in the grocery business there. Nine years ago he left that field, and became a school bus driver for the Henrico County school system. On Tuesday of last week, on the first day of classes, after collecting his pupils, he collapsed and died on his bus, having greeted his students as they had boarded. Fortunately, he had not begun driving.
Richard was a remarkable and memorable person, one with an insatiable desire always to be learning at every step of his life. He was fascinated by the study of the past, and, like all intellectually curious individuals, he continued to educate himself throughout his life. I recall the time many years ago when he came across an ivory piecrust crimper. Not having seen one previously, he delved into its background, and learned all he could about its origin and age. That course was typical for Richard. He delighted in learning.
At his funeral in Richmond last week, many spoke of his interests and his mastery of the many details that were part of his work. His supervisor noted his constant attention to the children in his care, how they were progressing in their schoolwork, and his diligence in attending to the needs of those entrusted to him. A little girl about the age of 10 spoke of the devotion that existed between them, and how he had been far more in her life than her school bus driver. Her words made clear that indeed Richard was a truly good person in every aspect of his life, attributes he manifested to all those he encountered. In testimony to his faithful dedication to the children, during his service a large Henrico County school bus was parked in front of the funeral home.
Richard was particularly knowledgeable about all things Celtic. He wore a gold Celtic cross around his neck, and endeavored to learn as much as possible about Celtic history, culture and customs, another bond we found between us. Although Richard spent his entire life in and around Richmond, through his mother he had a distinct Northern Neck connection.
Each summer he enjoyed coming down to Kilmarnock for the Kilmarnock Volunteer Fire Department Carnival at the end of July and beginning of August. He worked as a volunteer where needed, and found new fellowship among his fellow workers, for, like his mother, he fitted into any scene in which he found himself. At his funeral people spoke of having enjoyed his sardonic wit and dry sense of humor. For all who know Ann, where he got that quality is abundantly self-evident.
At the time of his death, Richard was anticipating a bright future, as he had become engaged to be married to Lina Price, and looked forward to working with her in raising her two children. Richard lived a good and worthy life, and his kind deeds were magnified by the shortness of the years he was given in which to perform them.
Richard Allen Hall, February 6, 1959 – September 5, 2017. R.I.P.