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In Memoriam: Peter Richards, 1957-2021

Peter Dewey Richards passed away on March 25, 2021. He lived every day with joy, sang and laughed with abandon, never met a stranger, and never forgot a friend. He was so proud of children Rio and Tanner, and adored his soul mate and wife, Laurie. His passing has left a profound void in all our lives. Peter’s life motto, in his own words, was “Life is short, you have to enjoy it.” You would be hard pressed to find anybody that enjoyed life more than he did.
Peter was the youngest of Joe and Betty Richards’ five boys. Born in Oakland, he spent his childhood years running around Lafayette’s fields and hills with his four brothers: Mike, Chris, Joe and Gyani. They lost their dad young, which probably played a part in his motto. But Betty stepped up and raised the boys, encouraging their exuberance and adventures, and imbuing them with her own "enthusiastic zest for life". Peter was extremely close to his brothers – and as men, the brothers could not contain themselves when they were in the same room, vying to provoke laughter from old and possibly inflated stories, with the volume in the room rising until they were all yelling and laughing simultaneously.  The brothers took every opportunity to vacation together in their “golden triangle” – Santa Barbara, Maui and Lake Tahoe.
Pete moved south for college, attending Santa Barbara City College and UCSB. While he did love history, he loved surfing and a bit of rabble rousing more. His stories from those years are outrageous and hilarious. He waited tables by night and played hard by day, enjoying the surf, sun and tennis courts, and cruising on his motorcycle with a huge smile on his face. He also spent a few seasons in St. Thomas after college. He was a natural for the island life and, word has it, those were some crazy and happy times.
His St. Thomas seasonal rotation was interrupted when he met and immediately fell in love with Laurie. They were opposites in many respects, but they both shared a sense of fun, love of travel, devotion to family, and a passionate connection that swept all others aside. They married just a little more than a year after their first meeting at Andrea’s Fish House in Santa Barbara, where Pete bribed another waiter to have Laurie’s table - a chance to meet her. When Peter passed away, they had been married almost 34 years.
Those early family years were some of Peter’s favorite times. Trips to the beach and Carpinteria bluffs, scary movies, eating out, dancing and DJing – Pete was in his element as a father and best friend to Rio and Tanner. We have a home video of Pete and the kids in the surf at Cancun – Dad is body surfing, Rio is holding onto dad’s back and Tanner onto Rio’s, a Richards surfing sandwich…as their bodies rushed up the shore, Peter’s face was completely buried in the sand but not to worry, as the water receded, they all jumped up laughing hysterically, leapt into the water, and did the whole thing over and over again. He was truly the best, most outwardly loving and affectionate father- he was their dad, champion, and best friend, and they shared a bond so deep that it is difficult to explain with words. If you saw them together, though, you knew it was there.
When Peter and his young family returned to the central coast after a few years in Cathedral City, he started a business- First Serve Tennis Courts - building and resurfacing tennis, pickleball and game courts. He loved every aspect of the business, especially meeting new clients since they were usually as crazy about tennis as he was. Peter was always ready to chat about the latest tournament and debate the merits of the current champions, but it must be said that Roger Federer was his all-time favorite. The business was a great source of pride for Pete, and in its 30 years of operation Peter made quality, craftsmanship and customer service the hallmarks of the business. His family will continue this legacy as we follow in his footsteps.
Peter’s most recent joy was the birth of his first grandchild, Opal. She and he immediately connected and although their time together was short, we will make sure she remembers her ‘Papushka’ forever.
As anyone who knew him knows, he loved, loved, loved music. Big voices like Tom Jones, Elvis and Bocelli, soaring harmonies like the Bee Gees and the Doobie Brothers, and reggae voices like Third World, Steel Pulse and Jimmy Cliff. Music was ever-present in the car, home, and front yard- usually very loud- with him singing and tapping and dancing along. And animals- there was not a creature on earth he didn’t immediately love and want to take home to feed it treats. Dogs, cats, birds, lizards, goats, baby ducks, squirrels and skunks- and they all loved him right back. He also loved a great party, a frisbee, a “bitchin” sunset, a deep conversation.
The world is a dimmer place without Peter, our gentle, joyous and beloved husband, father, brother and friend. He kept things fun, full of life, interesting and upbeat. He kept us laughing, and he made sure we felt his love each and every day. He was irrepressible. He is irreplaceable.
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