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Published in Darien Times on January 25, 2022
Eric P. Richards of New Canaan, CT passed away peacefully January 14, 2022, at home, surrounded by his loving family. He was 77.
Born on August 28, 1944 in San Francisco, CA to Roland Richards and Beatrice “Betty” Richards both of Darien, CT, Eric was raised in Darien on the family’s waterfront property on Five Mile River Road.
Enamored with the water from an early age, Eric was an early racing sailor winning his first trophy at age 10 at Noroton Yacht Club. This period of his life culminated in sailing on Bolero in 1964 and ’65 and racing in the ’66 Bermuda race aboard MahJong. It was a trip to remember with an estimated 50+ knots of wind crossing the Gulf Stream, the boat falling off square waves, Eric’s first adventure into the open sea.
Eric attended local schools in Darien through the ninth grade before enrolling at Deerfield Academy, from which he graduated in 1962. Following Deerfield, he received a bachelor’s degree in economics from Columbia University and attended Columbia’s Graduate School of Business while awaiting a commission in the US Naval Reserve. He attended the Navy Officer Candidate School in Newport, RI. Upon receiving his commission in March 1968 he had refocused his efforts from ships to flight and was accepted into the Naval Aviator pilot training program. Following his flight training in spring 1969, Eric was invited to return to the advanced squadron as an instructor. At the same time, he completed his MBA at a local university now known as Texas A&M (Kingsville).
During this time, Eric married Cheryle Lee Kitchen of New York City, whom he met in French class at Columbia. They would go on to have daughters Caroline in 1974 and Cynthia in 1976, moving back to Connecticut to raise their family, eventually settling in New Canaan.
Upon discharge from the Navy in 1971, Eric spent two years in a family business before entering the world of finance. He began his career in New York Life’s Investment Department and then running a credit analysis unit in the Real Estate Department before moving on to Chase Manhattan’s US merchant banking operation originating private placements.
Following the Chase years, Eric moved to GE Credit’s corporate finance division, in which they bought secured leveraged buyout debt, before moving on to Bank of America. At Bank of America, Eric created and ran the bank’s leveraged buyout activities, rising to Executive Vice President of the Bank and President of a wholly-owned equity investment subsidiary.
When Eric retired from finance, he once again felt the call of the sea, marking the beginning of twelve years of offshore and coastal cruising. During this time, he traveled approximately 15,000 miles between the limits of Bar Harbor, ME and the island of Antigua in the Caribbean, frequently including Bermuda.
Eric was a member of the New York Yacht Club (NYYC) for 29 years. He joined the Club’s race committee, becoming the Chief Scorer. His interest then turned to setting marks, particularly gates, contributing his expertise to many of the Club’s highest profile regattas for many years. Beginning in 2009, Eric performed a similar role for the biennial Block Island Race Week regattas for the Storm Trysail Club of which he was a member for 12 years.
Eric received the NYYC Race Committee’s Overall Performance Trophy in 2010 recognizing his extensive and capable contribution to that organization over the years. Eric left the Race Committee after 22 years of service, marking a pivotal time in his life.
Among his many interests and hobbies, Eric loved to cook and very much enjoyed his participation in the New Canaan Men’s Club’s Amateur Chefs group. He was a member of The Pilgrims of the United States.
He adored his granddaughter, Vivienne, and their many adventures together. They shared a special bond.
Eric is survived by Cheryle, his wife of 53 years; brother Gregory Richards of Ridgefield, CT; daughters Caroline Taylor of Scottsdale, AZ and her husband, Stuart and Cynthia Brown of Chapel Hill, NC and her husband, Preston; and granddaughter Vivienne Taylor.
He loved being a Navy jet pilot. He loved sailing the endless sea. He loved his family. He had a wonderful sense of humor and made us laugh.
A memorial service will be held in the spring. Memorial contributions may be made in Eric’s memory to Compassionate Care ALS (at ccals.org or by mail to PO Box 1052, West Falmouth, MA 02574).