Obituary: Jimmy Lynn Richardson / Post-Gazette's former Seen columnist
Jim Richardson was slight of stature, but his personality was larger than his native state of Texas. That made him perfect for the position for which he was best known in Pittsburgh: Seen columnist for the Post-Gazette.
When he moved here in 1984 to become director of the Elizabeth Arden Salon at Kaufmann's, he approached the newspaper with an idea to write a society column much like one he had written in Houston. Then-editor John G. Craig Jr. liked the idea -- he saw it as local news featuring the good people of the community -- and Seen was an instant hit.
Mr. Richardson, 75, died of complications following heart surgery in Costa Rica, where he retired two years ago with his longtime partner, Jim Cook.
"He was born on the Fourth of July and went out on New Year's Day with fireworks," Mr. Cook said. "He always said don't go around the same block twice -- always choose something new and different."
And that he did.
After leaving Pittsburgh in 1997 to join Mr. Cook in Lambertville. N.J., Mr. Richardson embarked on the next episode of his peripatetic life. The couple decided to renovate The Old Barn, the oldest structure in Gettysburg. Built in the 1850s as part of the Musselman apple estate, the barn had been a Confederate field hospital during the Civil War.
They turned it into a high-end bed and breakfast filled with numerous antiques and the many collections Mr. Richardson amassed during a lifetime of shopping. Tragically, The Old Barn burned to the ground less than a year after the renovations were completed, destroying everything the couple owned.
With an aplomb that was typical of Mr. Richardson, the couple moved next to Washington, D.C., where they renovated several investment properties and he became an advisory neighborhood committee member for Logan Circle.
"Jim was bigger than life and he did everything with panache and a style that was all his own," said Ken McCrory, a longtime friend and Mr. Richardson's accountant. "He was one of the funniest people I ever met. He was very observant of other people, and never hesitated to comment on them."
Mr. Richardson was a familiar sight at Pittsburgh parties, where he carried a large notebook in which he jotted the names of the Seen. He wore his long, strawberry blond hair pulled back in a ponytail or up in a pompadour, and he was an impeccable dresser who looked like he was born in a tux.
With his Texas drawl and wry sense of humor, Mr. Richardson could summarize a situation -- or a person -- with a few choice words. And if the words weren't there, he would make them up. "Swankenda" was one of his favorites, along with sayings like "If it's not Fabrege, throw it away."
He quickly became one of Pittsburgh's biggest boosters and in 1987 launched the Post-Gazette's annual Seen party to help local charities, including the Three Rivers Center for Independent Living, the Caring Program for Children, Easter Seals and the Children's Home of Pittsburgh.
"Most of the people I know I can put in a category. Jim I cannot," said another friend, former county Executive Jim Roddey. "He was unique, one of a kind. He may have had more fun and energy than anyone I know. He was completely uninhibited and he enjoyed life to the fullest."
In addition to Mr. Cook, Mr. Richardson is survived by his sister, Lynda Guidry, and brother Michael Vaughn, both of Texas, and by his stepchildren C. Perry Cook of New Jersey and Caitlyn Cook Bolton of New York.
Interment will be in the National Christian Church Columbarium in Washington, D.C. No service is planned, but the family suggests contributions may be made to any charity that helps children.
First Published January 5, 2013 12:00 am