Photograph: World War II Pearl Harbor survivor Joseph W. Richard is shown with daughters Connie Figueron and Brenda Langlinais on July 23 during his 100th birthday party celebration in Church Point. (Photograph by Bobby Ardoin.)
Nationally-recognized World War II veteran and St. Landry Parish resident Joseph W. Richard is being remembered as a historically significant Pearl Harbor survivor who has remained dedicated to his country and the promotion of U.S. military organizations.
“He was an icon, not only in this parish, but in the United States. As a last Pearl Harbor survivor, (Richard) was a man you could count on, a man of his word. He was an unbelievable person and a national and local treasure, whose name is well-known throughout the nation,” said Lincoln Savoie, former state VFW. commander.
Richard, whose 100th birthday was celebrated July 23 in Church Point, died Wednesday at his home located near Sunset,
Funeral services for Richard, who was 18 in 1941, when he and others helped rescue for several days, men who were trapped inside several naval vessels that were sinking following a Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, are scheduled Saturday at 11 a.m. at Guidry Funeral Home in Church Point.
Graveside ceremonies with full military honors will be held at Calvary Cemetery in Lafayette following the funeral services.
Richard, classified as a shipfitter first class when he was aboard the Riegel in 1941, will be buried wearing his full naval dress uniform, according to Savoie.
A St. Landry Parish Honor Guard will assist with the fully military burial. Richard will be escorted from the funeral home to the cemetery by the Legion Riders organization.
Richard also served in the Korean War and was honorably discharged by the navy in 1954.
Pat Mason-Guillory, executive director of the St. Landry Veterans Memorial, said Richard displayed through his life experiences, that he was a man who loved his country.
“You could always feel the compassion that Mr. Joe had for the United States. He was a perfect representative for all veterans. I know I will always cherish the times that I had with him. There will never be another person like him and right now I think that all I can say is that I will always hold close, his memory and the incredible times that I was able to share with him,” Mason-Guillory said.
Richard traveled the United States, promoting the causes of veterans and was generally considered to be the last remaining Pearl Harbor survivor.
Hundreds honored Richard during his birthday celebration, where he was recognized by statewide and local officials in addition to residents from the St. Landry and Acadia Parish areas.
In 2013 Richard, who established a welding business in the rural Sunset area for over 40 years, received the Republic of Korea medal as an Ambassador for Peace.
During World War II, Richard was assigned to the USS Riegel, which saw combat action and search and rescue operations in various areas of the Pacific Theater.