The nearly 35 years since Feb. 18, 1984, have fortified the memory of Wade Richmond, a Robert E. Lee High School student whose untimely death led to a lifetime of giving for his family.
The legacy of Wade, who died after a seizure when he was a senior, lives on when current LEE High School students pass a memorial plaque just outside the school’s main building and each time a former classmate says hello to his parents, Jack and Laura.
“Over the years I have been contacted or [come] across friends of his from school or other places,” Jack said, describing numerous occasions on which seemingly random acquaintances mention they knew his son. “I get stuff like that much more than you would realize. Wade’s with us all the time.”
Many of those classmates and friends filled the courtyard of LEE High School Thursday afternoon to pay their respects to Wade and the Richmond family as North East ISD rededicated the memorial plaque in a new location.
The plaque bears two verses from a poem, written by a friend of the Richmond family.
To all the men who die too young, whose music is stilled before it’s sung, whose canvas is pale with unpainted brush, whose dancing is vanished with tunes long hushed.
To all the men who die too young, your voices call for songs to be sung, for thoughts to be written you left untold and for life to be lived though you never grew old.
During an emotional ceremony, classmate Allison Beldon Kustoff described her friend Wade as being perpetually late to class and always spinning a pencil between his fingers.
“He had this big smile – it was genuine, but it was the biggest smile – as if he had just played this practical joke and had something to hide,” Kustoff said. “Everyone has got to see that smile, it is just fabulous.”
Speakers told of their kind friend and family member whose life impacted all those he met.
“I really honestly feel the world was deprived of so much because of [Wade’s] early departure,” Jack said.
To honor his son’s memory, Jack and other family members started the Wade Richmond Foundation in 1998. The foundation has given more than 20 matching grants to local charities providing more than $4 million in financial support. Together, the foundation and its grantees have raised more than $7 million, according to Executive Director Richard Miller.
The foundation chooses new grantees each year. Miller told the Rivard Report that the foundation focuses on giving assistance to organizations that help people get their lives back on track after trauma. The foundation gave four grants in 2018 and will do the same in 2019 to Boysville, the Alzheimer’s Association, the Boys & Girls Club San Antonio, and Haven for Hope.
In the future, Miller hopes the foundation can increase the number of annual grants and grow Wade’s legacy.
“I thought it was ironic that Wade’s death was on Feb. 18,” Kustoff said. “In Judaism, 18 means life and with February being the second month of the year, I kind of think of it as ‘to life.’ It is quite interesting that they have set up this foundation that continues to give to life.”
For Jack, the foundation has provided solace in dealing with grief. If Wade knew that the foundation worked to comfort mourners, feed the hungry, and care for the poor, Jack said he thinks his son would be pleased.
And for future students of LEE High School, Wade will continue to inspire.
“[The plaque] shows the students walking in today that their actions will leave a legacy for the students walking in after,” LEE Principal Nicole Franco said.