Jack Richter, former Dover mayor, fondly remembered by friends

DOVER — John “Jack” E. Richter served as a mayor of Dover, but when it came to the impact he left on his hometown his reach went much further than just holding a seat in City Hall.

Mr. Richter was always determined to preserve the history that surrounds downtown Dover and was deeply involved in the arts in and around Delaware’s capital city.

Mr. Richter, who served as Dover’s mayor from 1988 to 1992, died at the age of 83 on Sept. 25 due to complications of cancer.

He left his mark on not only the city, but also on the people he came across.

“His sense of humor was great and his laughter could fill a room in an instant,” said former Dover City Councilman David Bonar. “Jack believed in the history and need for preservation of ‘Olde Dover’ and he remembered that through all the days of his life.”

A celebration of Mr. Richter’s life will be held on Monday, Oct. 22, at the Lutheran Church of Our Savior, at 20276 Bay Vista Road in Rehoboth Beach, at 11 a.m.

Dover Mayor Robin R. Christiansen said Mr. Richter was always vigilant in his efforts to both preserve and promote Dover’s history.

“As an elected mayor and long-time councilman, Jack served his fellow citizens tirelessly,” Mayor Christiansen said. “As a resident and private-citizen he worked on many projects to benefit his community.

“As president and longtime member of the Friends of Old Dover he worked diligently to preserve the rapidly disappearing history of our hometown.”

Mayor Christiansen added, “Mayor Richter will be sorely missed. I extend my thoughts, prayers and deepest sympathy to his family, his friends, and the citizens of Dover on the loss of a true Dover legend. Jack, may you rest in eternal peace my friend. Until we meet again.”

Jack Richter

Mr. Bonar said Mr. Richter could always be counted on for his honest and reasonable ways when it came to his time spent in City Hall.

“I had the honor of knowing Jack in a variety of capacities,” he said. “Jack served on Dover City Council and later Mayor of the city of Dover with distinction.

“His reasoned discussion on every matter, be it pay for employees or whether or not to change a city ordinance, was always done with thought and the best interest of citizens in mind.”

Mr. Richter served in a number of official capacities for the city of Dover, including city council (1980-88), vice mayor (1987-88) and mayor (1988-92).

Perhaps his greatest passion was preserving Dover’s history, as he volunteered his time as president and longtime member of the Friends of Old Dover, whose board of directors got together on Sept. 28 to raise a toast in Mr. Richter’s honor.

“He was so many things to so many people – having served as Mayor of Dover, preservation advocate, President, Treasurer and Historian for the Friends, and true friends of Dover,” Friends of Dover wrote in its Facebook page. “Jack Richter will certainly be missed by us and many others.”

Mr. Richter was the spark behind the Constitution Place project, planned in conjunction with Delaware’s Bicentennial Celebration in 1987.

The small historical park, in a nock at the intersection of South State Street and North Street, features a 12-foot bronze quill on a 4-foot cube inscribed with the United States Constitution. Each of the 13 colonies are inscribed on a half-wall that surrounds the ornament.

He was also a member and president of The Friends of the John Dickinson Mansion a board member of the Delaware Agricultural Museum.

In addition, Mr. Richter was a major supporter of the arts, advocating for the renovation of the Schwartz Center for the Arts and supporting the Biggs Museum, Dover Symphony, Delaware Choral Society and Rehoboth Art League.

Mary Terry Mason, a president of the Friends of Old Dover, said that while Mr. Richter loved his hometown, he loved his family – and journeying to a variety of destinations even more.

“I loved Jack for his wonderful stories about his family and his many travels,” Ms. Mason said. “When he returned from one of his trips harvesting his family’s maple syrup he surprised us at our monthly board meeting at the Friends of Old Dover with our own bottle to take home. I will remember his generosity and truly unique sense of humor.”

Mr. Richter, a second-generation Dover native, met his wife of 58 years, Mary Jane (Wiley) Richter — now deceased — while attending the University of Delaware. He graduated in 1956 as a civil engineer.

The Richters lived in Elmira, New York, for a couple of years after college before they settled in Dover, where they raised their two daughters, Jackie Richter-Menge, of Hanover, New Hampshire, and Andi Pedigo, of Rehoboth Beach. Mrs. Richter served as the director of The Little School in Dover.

Mr. Richter worked for the state of Delaware for more than 30 years, retiring in the position of Director for the Delaware Transportation Authority.

Never one to sit still, he then went on to join Tetra Tech, took classes to earn an MBA from Wilmington University, and partnered in establishing a branch of Becker Morgan in Dover.

When not working on preserving the history of Dover, Mr. Richter enjoyed hunting and fishing and especially relished spending time with his six grandchildren.

Mr. Richter also maintained a long relationship with his Dutch relatives, most recently making a trip to The Netherlands in May, and a group of ‘Dover Boys,’ who graduated together from Dover High School in 1952.

“I know that Jack will be missed very much by his family, especially the grandchildren,” Linda and Bob Duncan wrote on a tribute page for Mr. Richter. “He will also be missed by his many good friends.

“The good news is that he will now be reunited with Mary Jane forever!!! May you rest in peace, Jack. Safe travels.”

 

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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