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Richard David Lawrence

July 14, 1941 March 31, 2021
Richard David Lawrence
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Obituary for Richard David Lawrence

On March 31st, 2021 Richard David Lawrence took his final flight as he departed from his earthly life.

He is survived by his wife Rosangela, his former wife Roberta (now Bobbi Paschka), his son David and daughter-in-law Stacey, his daughter Kathryn and son-in-law Victor, and his granddaughter Jasmine, and by Jeffery and Reiko Reid and their children Alex and Monique.

He was born in 1941 on the fourteenth of July to Florence and Harold Lawrence in Elizabeth, New Jersey. His older sister, Gloria, was 7 at the time. They moved to Reading, Pennsylvania when he was 5yrs old. His father had a gum-ball machine business, so he always had his pockets full of gum-balls. He also enjoyed the pinball machines and the 45 rpm player machines that were all part of the vending machine business. He used to tell us about using old 45' records for target practice.

Around the age of 13 his family moved to San Fernando Valley, California. His father had a Tool and Die business there and had a philosophy for his business get the job done with good quality for a fair price in a reasonable amount of time. Something one can live by. One of the things he observed when he moved to California was the poor air quality, and how it was difficult to breathe. He decided from an early age that he wanted to help fix that problem. He graduated from San Fernando Valley High in 1959.

He attended the University of California at Berkeley for Mechanical Engineering. His time at Berkeley was interrupted by the need to return home to care for his sick father (TB), and then an army draft. He learned to fly at the flying club at Fort Sill. He knew how to type and thus was assigned to army payroll, so he never went oversees or saw a Vietnam battlefield. He drove a 1957 Chevy that he paid a few hundred dollars for.

After the army, he worked at Air Research Corp in Los Angeles where he worked on the cabin pressurization systems for the Gemini, Dinosaur (never launched), and Apollo space missions. He got lots of overtime and saved every dime so he could soon leave this position to complete his Mechanical Engineering degree at Berkeley.

He always looked forward to summers in Yosemite National Park while at Berkeley. He said it didn't matter what job you had in the valley, as long as you got to be there! And he always advised people to go in the spring so the water falls were the most spectacular... before school gets out, to avoid the crowds... but after they clear the snow and open Tioga pass.

After Berkeley, he set out to obtain his master's degree in Air Quality Engineering from the department of Environmental Engineering at Penn State University. It was at Penn State where he met Roberta (Bobbi) Schmidt. They were married in 1970 a few weeks after both completing their master's degrees.

After finishing grad school in 1970, Dick took a job working for the Bureau of Mines, then part of the US Department of Interior. Dick and Bobbi moved to Bartlesville, Oklahoma, where the summers were too hot and the winters too mild.

In 1973, a professional associate, Joe Somers, recruited Dick to the US Environmental Protection Agency National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where they fell in love with the lakes and forest and all of the vivid seasons of Michigan. In 1983 he was promoted to Division Director of the Office of Mobile Sources. During his 28 year career at the EPA he worked to protect the planet for all of us. One of his proudest contributions was drafting and working to implement the Clean Air Act. He oversaw the construction of the state of the art EPA office facility in Ann Arbor, the most energy efficient government building in the country. He consulted the country of Taiwan as they developed their own EPA, modeled after ours. Dick left EPA by helicopter to his retirement party in 2001.

"Energy Conservation is Everybody's Business."
One of his favorite activities with Bobbi was sailing the North Channel of Lake Huron. After a few years chartering boats, they partnered with their friends and colleagues Bob and Bernie Garbe to purchase an Islander 29 sailboat called Scandia and continued sailing until both couples became parents. They often met up with other EPA sailing buddies, Dick and Diane Munt and Tom and Kathleen Bains where they would enjoy anchoring at remote islands and hiking and exploring. Dick hated power boats. "What a waste of fuel when the wind was free."

In 1979, Dick and Bobbi became parents, as David Harold Lawrence arrived in the midst of a blizzard. Two short years later in 1981 they had their second born, Kathryn Rae Lawrence. Dick remained married to Bobbi until 1992, when the couple separated amicably. In the summer of 1993, he reconnected with long-time friend Rosangela Malheiros, and she took a leave of absence from her job to come from Brazil to give love a shot. Dick and Rosangela were married in July of 1994. They remained happily married for the remainder of his life.

He was such an amazing husband and father; we were so blessed to have him in our lives. We remember campfires and stories of lake monsters from Strawberry and Bass Lakes and learning to back a trailer on the John Deere Tractor at the age of 5. We remember adventures to Yosemite and out west skiing, camping trips and setting up his army tent in the yard. We remember building the Bass Lake house and ice skating and playing icebreaker in the spring. We remember countless lessons along the way. Dick was truly successful in passing along all of the immense knowledge and wisdom he had accumulated in his life to his children.

He would always see the best in people, and always gave folks 'the benefit of the doubt'. He taught us to put ourselves in the shoes of another, to see things from other people's perspective as well as our own. Seek first to understand, then to be understood. To think carefully before speaking so you say what you mean without unintentionally offending or hurting another. He taught us to calmly and rationally make decisions. He always encouraged both physical and mental well-being. He only ever wanted to see us healthy and happy. He taught us to always do things right the first time. Do it right or do it over. He showed us dedication, teaching to always pick yourself up when you fall.

He always encouraged the lifelong friendship to develop between Dave and Kat. Early on he explained that we were so very lucky to have the gift of a sibling, because if we treated each other with love, kindness, and respect we would have a best friend for life. He was right, as usual.

We are ever grateful for all the life lessons he was able to share and the morals and values he was able to instill within us all. He was always there to help, whether it was advice, a ride, to fix something, or to help find a solution to a problem.

In the past four years things got a little more interesting for Dick as Jasmine was born into this world on April 8th, 2017 and he became Grandpa. As awesome a father as he was, he was an even better grandpa.

In 2019 Jasmine and Kat moved back to Michigan, a short drive from both Dick's and Bobbi's houses. When Covid 19 Pandemic hit, Jasmine stopped attending day care and enrolled in Camp Grandpa-Grandma. Typically, Jasmine would go to Grandpa Dick and Grandma Rosangela's house 3x per week, and to Grandma Bobbi and Grandpa Tom's house 2x per week, for nearly all of 2020.

Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, Dick would drive to Kat's house in the morning and pick up Jasmine. Kat loved those mornings, getting to chat with her dad for 5-10 minutes was the best way to start any day. In the evenings, he would drop Jasmine off, except Fridays when Kat would go to pick Jasmine up from his house and they would all eat dinner together. 'Grandpa Robot' and Jasmine were the best of friends and were blessed to be able to spend such quality time together doing all sorts of fun things like getting firewood and tractor rides and bike rides. Grandpa Robot loved to chop firewood and stack it.

One of the things most will remember about Dick is Kid's Wings. Upon retiring from the EPA, he got back into flying. He loved flying, he loved helping folks through flying, so he started volunteering as a Pilot for Angel Flight. In 2004 he founded Kid's Wings; a non- profit organization dedicated to helping people a few people at a time. He would fly sick children to distant medical treatments. He did compassion flights, and every Christmas his plane would be packed to the ceiling with gifts for children in need as a part of Operation Good Cheer. He did 366 mission flights between 2001 and 2020. He was known as 'the pilot of last resort' by the Angel Flight, they could call him when there were no other pilots to take a mission and he would be to his plane in 30 minutes. He was recognized as Angel Flight Mid Atlantic Pilot of the Year every year from 2012 through 2019.

In leu of flowers, the family requests donations to his favorite charity, Novick Cardiac Alliance, or your favorite environmental charity.

He will be cremated and one day his ashes will be spread in Yosemite Park. A celebration of his life is being planned for a later date.

To send flowers in memory of Richard David Lawrence, visit the Tribute Store.

Memorial Contribution

Novick Cardiac Alliance

1750 Madison Avenue
Suite 500
Memphis, TN 38104

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