Editor’s Note: Each week we share the life stories of recently deceased residents. Maybe you don’t know them, but their stories are worth knowing. If you have a suggestion for someone to be featured, email [email protected] or call 651-321-4314.

FARGO – Jerry Richardson was known to his family and friends for his calm and composed demeanor, until he got down to work on his printing press.

“Nothing made him happier than when he came down the stairs and started to compose. He started humming and singing, ”says his wife, Lou. “It was truly his love.”

For decades Jerry ran two letterpress printing presses at their home in South Fargo, where he was in demand for printing and designing books, covers, wedding invitations, and everything to do with l ‘writing.

Gerald Alan “Jerry” Richardson died at home on July 27 in hospice care at the age of 91, following a period of dementia.

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The three-story Richardson House is known as the Ree Heights Institute for Regional and Cultural Enrichment, a nod to the small town in South Dakota where he purchased his first press in the mid-1960s. The Finished Attic was a space to develop ideas. A room on the second floor contained the computer where the offset work was stored. The ground floor lounge served as a meeting space for guest artists, including renowned Life magazine photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt.
Jerry’s celebrity encounters, like being a kid’s bicycle courier delivering a telegram to Fred MacMurray while the actor was hunting birds in Huron, South Dakota, were among his favorite stories to tell. He would put them on paper in his collection of acquired anecdotes, “Not Bad Chicken,” which he published himself.

The soft-spoken Jerry Richardson is remembered for his passion for printing. Photo by Leo Kim / Forum Special

His love of printing was founded at South Dakota State University at Brookings, where he studied journalism. It was also there that he met Lou, whom he married the day after his graduation in 1953.

A stint in the US military in Korea and a job as a public relations officer also served as material for the storytelling.

He returned to Lou in Brookings and started a family of five children, Stacy, Gordon, Beth, Jay and Drew.

The family moved to Fargo in 1963 when Jerry began working at the North Dakota State University News Bureau, becoming director of communications in 1971.

After his retirement in 1993, he focused on his own work with his printing presses. One of the first projects that year was to partner with writer Jerry Lamb to print his essay, “The Book,” as a roadmap. Five years later, they would team up again for an appreciation of artist Ben Shahn, printed in booklet form.

Collaborating with others has been one of Jerry’s greatest sensations, she says, and one of his greatest joys was printing Mark Vinz’s poem, “Heartland,” in 2008. This banner featured an illustration by Carl Oltvedt and the three worked with artist John Volk on the print.

Fifteen years ago Kent Kapplinger, then an engraving professor at NDSU, bought a printing press for the school’s studio and Jerry helped him get used to it.

“He was in the zone. It was his way of meditating, ”Kapplinger says of watching Jerry work, adding that he also heard him hum and sing to the press.

A few years later, after Jerry finally printed “Not Bad Chicken” in 2014, he agreed to donate his presses and equipment to NDSU. After moving the equipment to the NDSU print studios, Jerry would stop occasionally to watch Kapplinger give workshops on the machines.

“You could see he was happy to be around him again and to see him used,” says Amanda Heidt, printmaking researcher and studio coordinator at NDSU. “What he has done for the local printing community is irreplaceable.”