Wendy Richardson worked in the office next to mine in Seaside. She died the week before Christmas at the all-too-young age of 56.
Of course I didn’t know her as well as so many others, but as I helped prepared the newspaper’s obit, read columns and tributes by family, friend and colleagues here at The Signal where she worked, the more I wanted to add.
Upon my arrival to Seaside last spring, Wendy made me feel part of the group at the weekly Thursday meeting of the Seaside Downtown Development Association at the Pig ‘n’ Pancake. If life is like high school, Wendy was still the cool kid.
The next day, Wendy was the unofficial queen of the “bad girls’ table” at the Twisted Fish, where the chamber regularly meets. They loved her.
At work, Wendy never backed down. She was energized and hard-working.
I really didn’t know much about the tsunami threat before I got here, but Wendy was prepared. She took the threat of a Cascadia Subduction Zone quake and tsunami very seriously. Since my office was right next to hers, I realized that if a tsunami were to hit, we’d probably be running out the door together. If so, I was confident she would know the way.
Not to dwell too much on the tsunami — although Wendy probably would have — that wasn’t the only area where she would lead the way.
She passionately believed in the therapeutic benefits of cannabis, and wasn’t afraid to say so at public forums. She helped pioneer the special marijuana advertising section in the Daily Astorian. The popular section was to both draw attention and to spark debate, as the federal government sought to limit distribution of the newspaper from Oregon to the state of Washington.
Wendy proudly wore her Coast Guard background on her sleeve. It was interesting to hear her brothers talk about “The Captain” — her father — as the revered figure in the clan. Wendy was especially proud of “Safeguarding Our Coast: A Century of Saving Lives and Building Community,” a special edition Coast Guard anniversary edition.
“She thought it was a great way to connect with that heritage,” her co-worker Laura Kaim said.
A huge high-school sports fan — and once an accomplished athlete herself — Wendy loved The Signal cover featuring the Gulls’ football place-kicker Whitney Westerholm. Beautifully photographed by her good friend Jeff Ter Har, the edition made Wendy proud on many levels, and she displayed it on the wall beside her desk.
Wendy looked over every edition of The Signal before it went to press, and special sections, too. She offered great assistance for an editor for identifications, because she knew almost every face in town, and she had the backstory on most of them. Although it wasn’t in her job description, wendy was such a team player and dedicated to making the newspaper the best that it could be.
Wendy was a real storyteller. It’s a shame she wasn’t a writer too.
But the message I’ll take away from Wendy wasn’t fiction, but science. The subject of the tsunami made her angry, outraged, impassioned. She had no illusions that when the tsunami hit, we’d better be ready to respond.
Wendy never shied from the tough question.
City Planner Kevin Cupples spoke at a recent meeting about evacuation routes in the event of a catastrophic quake. New, enhanced “You are here” evacuation maps could save lives, he explained.
That was well and good, Wendy said, but then what? “Once we evacuate, will there be enough food and supplies for all of us?”
No, the planner acknowledged.
It was great to have a chance to work alongside her, even for a short time.
She taught many lessons. And God forbid if there ever is a tsunami here in Seaside, I am sure it will be her voice I hear, leading us to safety.