Leah F. Richards

Leah Fitzwater Richards, 94, died June 3, 2014.

Her long life had a number of interesting chapters: teacher, world traveler, writer and mentor to many of her students.

She was born in Belington, graduated from Davis & Elkins College in 1941 and married her high school beau, Neil Richards, in December of that year.

Most people will remember her for her long career in education, beginning teaching at Belington High School, then earning a Master of Arts from West Virginia University, followed by teaching English at Alderson-Broaddus College from 1966 until her retirement in 1990. She loved teaching the Romantic poets and composition and creative writing. When she gave students writing assignments, she, too, took up her pen and leaves behind many poems, short stories and essays. A number of her students would say as they think back on her classroom instruction, “She changed my life.”

Leah also was an adventurer, beginning with a solo cross-country drive in 1943 to join Neil at his base in California. This was a memorable trip with gas rationing, 35-mile an hour speed limits and nightly blackouts. Perhaps this remarkable trip led to her addiction to travel, first throughout the U.S. with her family and later as a widow to Europe. She began traveling in Europe in 1972 and continued most summers from 1976 to 1996.

Leah loved surprising both family and friends with her independence. In 1984, she took up acting and starred in a regional production of “On Golden Pond,” and in fall 2011, she moved West for a new exciting life in Oregon.

She is survived by two daughters, Kay Richards of Seattle, Wash., and Jan Widmayer of Portland, Ore., along with Jan’s husband, Richard; and Leah’s only granddaughter, Anne Fitzwater Widmayer of West Bend, Wis. In addition, she leaves behind her two beloved cousins, Jean Fenstermacher and family and Linda Beard and family, both of whom she regarded as daughters.

After cremation, she will be interred with her husband in West Virginia.

Memorials may be sent to Davis & Elkins College, Alderson Broaddus University or Crim Memorial Methodist Church in Philippi.