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Richard E. Kirsch

May 18, 1928 ~ April 8, 2023 (age 94) 94 Years Old
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Remembering Richard Emil Kirsch, May 18, 1928-April 8, 2023

It’s Mostly Easy Bein’ Green

Hi Ho!  Richard (Dick) Kirsch, 94, of Tewksbury, MA and formerly of Chelmsford, MA, was a fan of Kermit the Frog, who sang the very mellow and moving song, “Bein’ Green.”  Perhaps Dick could relate to Kermit’s way of viewing himself and the world around him.  Like Kermit, Dick was a mild-mannered soul who lived humbly, enjoyed the simple life, and always did his best.  He always tried to get along with everyone and make the lives of others better.  Green was a recurring theme in his life.

Dick joined the world in the West Philadelphia Homeopathic Hospital on May 18, 1928.  He worshipped his mother, the late Gertrude (Naefe) Kirsch, respected his father, the late Emil Ernest Kirsch, and adored his sister, Helen, who was two years older.  When he was two, his parents saw greener grass in New England, and moved the family to Lowell, MA.  Young Dick attended the Middlesex Village Elementary School, where, in December 1936, he played a villager in the production of “Recipe for Christmas Day,” and in the 1937 play, “Farewell to Toyland,” he was cast in the more provocative role of a wooden soldier.  At the Morey Junior High School, Dick was a member of the Morey Minstrels, and played basketball.  A tall, lanky lad, he continued playing basketball for Lowell High School.

Dick discovered the pleasures of other green areas.  He was on the baseball field as a member of the Middlesex Village youth team. In his young adulthood, he’d rebuckle his knickerbockers below the knee and head for the pool hall of downtown Lowell.  He had a special knack for bank shots on the green wool, and was known to take many a greenback from his opponents at pool table (and at the poker table).  Most recently, he enjoyed racking ‘em up at the Chelmsford Senior Center.  Dick also enjoyed slamming the green felt of the tennis ball throughout his life.  He always loved to run, and was known as “The Gazelle” by his senior group at the Chelmsford Swim and Tennis Club.

His dad, Emil, introduced Dick to golf greens at a young age; golf became Dick’s lifelong passion.  At twelve years old, he landed a shot 16’ 7” from the pin in the Lowell Sun’s Hole-in-One Contest held at the Fairway Driving Range in North Billerica.  He represented both Mt. Pleasant Country Club or Vesper Country Club in many annual City Golf Tournaments, in which top players from the four local golf clubs competed.  In 1949, the 21-year-old won the Four-Ball Tournament at Mount Pleasant, where he and his dad were both members, earning him the President’s Cup.  1950 saw him play in Nashua, NH in the N.E. Amateur Golf Tournament.  He continued to improve and earn honors around the state.  He became Club Champion in the Vesper Day Tournament in 1955.  What color complements green?  Red.  May 25, 1967 was a red-letter day for Dick, when he shot his first hole-in-one at the Green Meadow Country Club in Hudson, NH!  During his retirement, Dick could be found teeing them up with his senior league at the Hoodkroft Country Club in Derry, NH.  Even through the last years of his life, Dick was eager to share his skill with those around him, from grandchildren to complete strangers who needed a quick lesson in the Varden Grip or guidance on an inside-out swing.  While his many trophies attest to his skill, Dick simply adored being out in the sun, walking among the meticulously kept greens and gardens, and honing his abilities at the gentleman’s game.

The June 21, 1951, edition of The Lowell Sun newspaper remarked on the obvious absence of Dick’s familiar face from the 1950 City Tournament, stating that the mainstay had “answered the call of the colors” when he was drafted in 1950 to don green fatigues and serve in the United States Army in Korea.

With his excellent skills in math and geometry, Dick had been working as a Rodman/Transitman for Lowell’s civil engineering and surveying company, Brooks, Jordan, and Graves since 1947.  With the firm he learned the crafts of surveying and drafting (as a history buff, he relished traipsing through the woods looking for foundation ruins, old property markers, and ubiquitous New England stone walls).  His surveying skills easily transferred to the Army.  Dick became the chief construction surveyor in his battalion of the Special Category Army Personnel with Air Force (SCARWAF) troops, designing airstrips and constructing airfield facilities in Korea.  However, not even Uncle Sam could keep Dick off the golf greens; he received a special invitation to travel to Japan to play tournament golf!

Sergeant First Class Richard Kirsch left Korea in 1952, having earned his Korean Service Medal, his U.N. Service Medal, and an honorable discharge.  A very private man, he did not share his wartime experiences with his family members; what they know came only from personal research and from photographs Dick took on the Argus 35mm his parents gifted him as he was departing for basic training.  They did have the opportunity to publicly show their pride and gratitude for his military service, however, many years later.  On August 30, 2019, in Dracut, MA, at a special service held for Korean War veterans, Dick shyly and reluctantly joined his comrades who were individually thanked, honored and presented with a Korean Ambassador to Peace Medal.  Additionally, Richard E. Kirsch and many other U.S. veterans were shown the community’s gratitude and were honored when new granite memorials engraved with their names were unveiled in a commemorative ceremony held on Veteran’s Day, 2019, in the Chelmsford Veterans’ Memorial Park.

Green is the color of calm and tranquility.  Like Kermit the Frog sitting peacefully on his lily pad, Dick was a pacifist.  He had been bullied as a youngster due to his German surname and ancestry, but he had been taught not to fight back.  Those experiences always haunted him.   He had been content working behind the scenes during the Korean Conflict.  He championed the underdog, voiced objection when loved ones bickered, and took care of and protected the women in his life.  Tension in the room?  Dick would easily halt it by contorting his face like Dick van Dyke and flailing his arms, or by talking like Donald Duck!  Early on, Dick went on many a hunting trip with his dad and his pals.  Moosehead Lake and Baxter State Park in Maine were among his favorite spots.  Later, he decided that shooting innocent animals was not for him; he traded shooting with his rifle to shooting with his beloved Argus camera.  That said, Dick occasionally took out the occasional woodchuck that threatened his vegetable patch, and once, with tongue in cheek, he replaced the marker on an old trophy to “Most Squirrels Taken during one winter season”!

The Army approved Dick for admission to Worcester Polytechnic Institute to study toward a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering.  Dick first enrolled as a student in Manter Hall School, a private preparatory school in Cambridge, MA.  At WPI, Dick excelled in math, but he struggled with the immense amounts of required reading and felt overwhelmed by the challenges of his German language course.  Deciding the classroom was not for him, he up and left late one night (unbeknownst to his parents until he showed up back at home).  Dick had always been a mischievous lad not always focused on schoolwork.  With maturity, Dick reflected that his poor reading comprehension, due to a slow reading rate, was a major stumbling block.  In the 1970s, in an effort to improve his reading skills and those of his family, he enrolled himself, his wife, and his two daughters in the famous Evelyn Wood speed-reading course.  As a draftsman, he appreciated neat, legible penmanship.  This he encouraged in his grandchildren, and he was always on hand for his kids and grandkids when they needed tutoring in geometry, algebra, and “guzzintahs.”

After WPI, Dick concentrated on his golf game while working for the City of Lowell as a planning draftsman.  Later he was employed by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in highway construction, working his way up the ladder over the years.  In an application for civil service, he replied “yes” to the question “Are you a person of good moral character?” and “no” to “Do you habitually use intoxicating liquors to excess?”  This was true for his entire life, though Dick was known to be a bit of a prankster and mischief maker.  He enjoyed silly antics and off-color humor, favoring television programs such as the Laugh-In, the (original) Muppet Show, Soap, Monty Python, and Benny Hill.

January 1956 brought a lifechanging event for the occasional rulebreaker. His sister, Helen, was in the hospital, having given birth to her son, David.  Lingering well beyond allowed visiting hours that night, Helen’s young, protective nurse and pretty, new friend, Phyllis, was forced to evict Dick.  Phyllis couldn’t help but fall in love with Dick and his “good moral character,” and the two were wed on October 13, 1957, though Dick was positively green that day with the stomach flu!

Phyllis and Dick moved from the Lowell highlands to the greener suburb of Chelmsford, in 1963.  Robert Hicks was developing huge tracts of land for residential properties.  The young couple purchased a brand-new home next to his parents’ new home, which was flanked on the other side by that of Dick’s sister and her family.  Dick relished having his extended family close by.  He spent time on landscaping, working in his vegetable patches and helping his family members.  He and his dad were buddies; he adopted his dad’s large patch after the elder’s passing.  Dick had a very large green thumb.  In addition to cucumbers and other vegetables, Dick planted close to a hundred tomato plants each year, which were hermetically canned by the womenfolk each Labor Day in the form of stewed tomatoes or as “Garden Special,” a blend of tomatoes, celery, green peppers, and onions.  He was proud of his 20’ x 10’ compost pile, which enabled him to replenish the nutrients of his garden soil.  He helped maintain the landscaping of the three adjoining properties, supporting the womenfolk wholeheartedly, when, one summer, they welcomed the public to their gardens as part of the annual Chelmsford Garden Club house tour.  Strangely, Dick had the curious habit of removing lower branches of spruce trees to improve visibility, as well as topping them to control their height!  Dick also loved to cook and bake, although on one occasion he almost caused catastrophe when he left a pan of bacon frying on the stove while he went out to pull suckers off his tomato plants!  He perfected his Grandma Naefe’s oatmeal bread recipe, and enjoyed making German Sauerbraten with a “surprise” inside each potato dumpling.  He fried sliced potatoes almost daily in his twilight years.

Dick grew some of his own food because it was fun as well as to save a buck.  Dick was known by many as a guy who kept a careful eye on his long green.  He had learned from his parents to be frugal.  He’d change his own car oil, mow his own lawn, and use whatever he had in his pockets or within arm’s reach to fix whatever needed fixing.  He enjoyed collecting stamps and coins and watching the stock market.  He warned his daughters repeatedly not to “buy a soda every day.  You’ll never have any money.”  However, he happily dished out quite a few greenbacks for his golf club memberships and had fun placing the occasional friendly bet.  Dick was never green with jealousy, however, and never felt the need to keep up with the Joneses.  He worked hard to support his family, provide extra opportunities, and live peacefully and within his means.

Kermit the Frog states that green is friendly-like.  Dick easily struck up conversations with strangers, made fast friendships, and was generous with time and whatever he could share.  He gave away extra produce to friends and neighbors on a regular basis and shared his divided perennials and extra shrubs with the golf clubs’ horticulturists.  He voluntarily improved the grounds at his wife’s church, Calvary Baptist, of Lowell.  He loved giving gardening tips, baking advice, and golf instruction to anyone that needed it, whether they wanted it or not!  “Do you play golf or tennis?  No? You don’t know what you’re missing,” he’d say.  “You have to take them up- they’re the greatest!”  His enthusiasm occasionally bordered on looking down his long nose at those who didn’t play (yet).

Dick credited his dad for getting him interested in most of his hobbies, and these he imparted to his daughters, Janet (along with the eyes and blood type) and Linda (who got the mouth and long German nose).  He was most comfortable among the green color of leaves, or on the green of the cool lake or big ocean waters, to which Kermit refers in his song.  Dick fished local ponds and lakes, and made special memories on Nauset Beach in Orleans on Cape Cod, MA, where he would surf cast, selling his stripers to Howard Johnson’s first franchise located in Orleans.  He was interested in astronomy.  He took his family camping, biking, and mountain climbing.  He loved listening to the music Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Tchaikovsky, and Chopin.  He was a staunch supporter of the Methuen Memorial Music Hall (he was obsessed with anything to do with architectural designer Edward Francis Searles), and the Shanklin Music Hall in Groton, MA.  He took organ lessons and took up painting.  He studied watercolors under Carlton Plummer, and his work was exhibited at the Chelmsford Public Library.  With his short attention span, Dick enjoyed finishing a painting in less than half an hour using the wet-on-wet oil technique taught by happy painter Bill Alexander (who also taught Bob Ross) on PBS television.  He was a life-long member of Pentucket Lodge A.F. and A.M. (Massachusetts Freemasonry).  Dick always enjoyed good music and dancing; he and Phyllis took up square dancing in the 1970s, as well as round dancing (choreographed ballroom dancing), along with sister Helen and her husband.  For many years the foursome traveled far and wide dancing several times a week.  They went on dance/camping weekends, enjoyed dance retreats at East Hill Farm in Troy, NH, danced at New England and National conventions, and danced in parades.  Dick would never get on an airplane; he preferred to travel by car or to simply stay at home where he could happily give wheelbarrow rides to his kids, his grandkids, and even his cats!

Dick pulled up a seat at the heavenly 19th hole on April 8, 2023 after many years struggling with Alzheimer’s Disease.  He had been completely devoted to his wife of almost 66 years, Phyllis (Wiklund) Kirsch.  He especially cherished moments spent with his parents and late sister Helen H. Reed, niece Susan J. Hitchcock and nephew David G. Hitchcock with whom he has had a special bond, his two daughters Janet K. Paton and Linda W. Desrochers, special friend and son-in-law William (Bill) R. Desrochers, and eventually his four grandchildren, Richard T. Paton and his wife Amanda, Phillip C. Desrochers and his wife Laura Kurdziel, Erika L. Webber and her husband Michael, and Leah R. Desrochers (grandson Kevin S. Paton, Jr. predeceased him), as well as his ever-entertaining young great-grandchildren Landon S. Paton, Ava M. Webber, Natalie F. Desrochers, and James W. Desrochers, each of whom he considered “a miracle.” New miracle great-granddaughter Violet J. Webber, whom he did not have the opportunity to meet, will no-doubt hear stories of this man who was content not “standing out like flashy sparkles in the water or stars in the sky,” but rather who lived life always with a sparkle in his blue eyes, a smile on his face, a toothpick hanging on his lips, and an outstretched hand.

Though Alzheimer’s Disease stole his recent memories, he continued to repeat up to his last days, “I think almost every day how lucky we are to live here and be able to do all the things we want to do.  It’s been a good life.”  Those of us left behind are now green with envy, for it is heaven and not us that now enjoys his ever-upbeat spirit.

It was Dick’s wish that there be no calling hours or funeral.  A family party to celebrate Dick’s life will be held at a future date, as well as interment at Gibson Cemetery in Pelham, NH.  The family wishes to especially thank the dedicated, wonderful caregivers of the Avita neighborhood at Bayberry at Emerald Court, Tewksbury, MA, the compassionate staff of the High Pointe House, Haverhill, MA, the Merrimack Cremation Service, Merrimack, NH, and the Tyngsborough Funeral Home, Tyngsborough, MA.  Memorial contributions may be made to the Alzheimer’s Association, Pentucket Lodge, or the Lowell Humane Society.

To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Richard E. Kirsch, please visit our floral store.


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In Loving Memory Of

Richard Kirsch

May 18, 1928-April 8, 2023

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Online Memory & Photo Sharing Event
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In Loving Memory Of

Richard Kirsch

May 18, 1928-April 8, 2023

Look inside to read what others have shared

Family and friends are coming together online to create a special keepsake. Every memory left on the online obituary will be automatically included in the book.   


Alzheimer’s Association
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