Remembering Coach Ken
To the Editor:
My name is Amanda Patenaude and I’m writing regarding my father Kenneth Richter. Over the years, the Beacon has run several stories about my dad, who was affectionately known as Coach Ken.
He coached youth baseball at Apponaug Babe Ruth League for over 20 years. Several of those years he served as president of the league and many of those years he was on the board. He started coaching when my older brother Jason played and had such a love of the game and enjoyed sharing his passion for it with kids so much he kept at it for many years after. Known for being fair yet hard with high expectations of his players, both on and off the field, he had an unbelievable record of coaching the championship winning team almost every year he coached. If I recall correctly, there was only one year his team didn’t finish in first place.
My dad was featured in the Beacon several times because he became very sick later in life. He had a heart condition known as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. His condition worsened greatly over the years and he was frequently hospitalized.
He never let it stop him. He coached some games from a wheelchair. In 2005, he became deathly ill and was hospitalized for months waiting for a heart transplant. The prognosis appeared very grim. At the same time, I was pregnant with his first grandchild and in and out of the hospital with heart failure, as I have the same heart condition. The entire league (especially his team and their parents) rallied around our family. They held fundraisers and constantly checked in with my mother. They were always giving her gas and grocery gift cards because she missed a tremendous amount of work. They sold T-shirts with the slogan “Play your heart out. Ken Richter baseball for life.” They cried with us, celebrated with us and became the most loyal group of friends and supporters you could possibly hope for.
My father finally got a heart transplant in June 2005. The recovery was long and painful. But sure enough, he returned to coaching. The following year, due to his suppressed immune system, he got an infection that nearly killed him. He suffered through another very long hospital stay, but being the true warrior he was, once again pulled through. After that he began developing a host of other medical conditions such as neuropathy and muscular dystrophy. He went through multiple surgeries for his knee and his neck. He had cataract surgery. The list goes on and on. He spent a great deal of his life in pain and sick. But if you had driven by in the fall, you’d have seen him raking leaves and tidying up, in the winter you’d have seen him out in the cold hanging Christmas lights because his grandsons liked them. In the spring you’d have seen him planting flowers, mowing the lawn and readying his camper for the season. And in the summer, you’d have seen him in his usual place by the grill yelling for cheese and tongs, keeping a close eye on the three little boys splashing in the kiddie pool and telling me all about his predictions and criticisms for his beloved Red Sox.
He never let his health stop him and genuinely made efforts to be there for everyone else. He and my mother met when they were teens and were married for the last 38 years. He taught my brother Jason and me to have strong convictions, to always do what was right and not what was popular. He was a good father and an even better Papa to my three sons, Timmy, Liam and Lyric. Their love and bond with their Papa was beautiful to see. He could always be counted on for a hidden cookie, someone to wind the Jack in a Box, and someone who could chase away any fear and magically fix any boo-boo.
This past Thursday, April 3, life threw us a massive curve ball. My father’s heart suddenly stopped and he died instantly at home with my mom.
The impact of this has left us numb. To see him survive so much and then just suddenly leave us this way seems grossly unfair. If there is anything to be thankful for, it’s that he didn’t have to suffer. He had already had a lifetime’s worth.
But to those of us left behind, it just hurts. He will be so greatly missed in the hearts of many and in the souls of his family. The world lost a true champion. And we lost a husband, a father, a grandfather, a brother, an uncle, a nephew, a cousin, a friend and a coach.
Well, Dad, you had the best seats in the house for the Sox opening night.