Mr. John “Johnny” A. Richardson, a resident of Madrid, formerly of New York City, passed away peacefully at the age of 105 on Thursday, January 9, 2014 at Canton Potsdam Hospital, Potsdam.
John was born September 6, 1908 in Fort Motte, SC in Calhoun County. He was the son of Mose and Sue (Pendleton) Richardson. After his father’s death in 1916 he moved to Beaufort, SC where he attended school. At the age of 16 his mother died and John went to live with his beloved older sister, Claydus Elizabeth Elstack, in New York City.
On October 15, 1942 John married Sylvia Greenberg, a scientist and school teacher. The couple had a daughter and lived primarily in New York City. During their 67 years together they traveled extensively throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico, Europe, South America, and the Caribbean Islands. They made friends everywhere they went. They were active in the civil rights movement and believed strongly in freedom, opportunity, and justice for all people.
In 2008 after many years of active involvement with the Forest Hills, NY senior community John and Sylvia moved to Madrid, where their daughter, Nina (Richardson) Rivera devotedly cared for them in her home through the rest of their years.
John was a folk music performing artist. He produced four records for children with Folkways Records: Children’s Songs Sung by Johnny Richardson (1958); Ladybug, Ladybug (1971); Sing Along Clap Along with Johnny Richardson (1975); Oh, Come Along Children and Sing with Me (1982). These recordings are now a part of the Smithsonian Folkways collection in the Smithsonian Institute as a part of the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, located at Capital Gallery in downtown Washington, DC.
Individuals seeking to experience some of his musical legacy may visit Smithsonian Folkways on the web at www.folkways.si.edu. John also produced some independent recordings including a music and dance activity program for children in collaboration with his daughter. He performed for audiences of children and adults in cities around the world.
In addition to his music career John was a skilled mechanic and electronics repair specialist. He studied electronics in night school as a young man and owned a repair shop in Queens, NY for some years Richardson Radio Repair. People who knew him always believed that if it was broken Johnny could fix it.
Music filled John’s life; he always had a song on his mind and sung for people to his last moments. He was known for his kindness and gentle personality. While at home and in other countries he would provide generous charity and assistance to others. He had a rich sense of humor that brought smiles to all he met. He would often tell of his days as a child picking cotton in the fields of South Carolina and of spending time watching his father work on the railroad. When recently asked by a grandson if they had air conditioning back in those days he replied “Only when the wind blew.”
John is survived by, his daughter, Nina (Richardson) Rivera and her husband Oscar in Madrid; four grandchildren, Benny Gomez and his wife Una in Reisterstown, MD, Aram Gomez and his wife Julia in Madrid, Hazael Rivera in Madrid, and Samara Rivera in Madrid; seven great-grandchildren; and nieces and nephews.
He was predeceased by his beloved wife, Sylvia (Greenberg) Richardson; his parents, Mose and Sue (Pendleton) Richardson; and his sister, Claydus Elizabeth (Richardson) Elstack.
A private service will take place at Bayside Cemetery in Potsdam, in the spring of 2014. Arrangements are with the Seymour Funeral Home in Potsdam.
Memorial contributions may be made in John’s memory to: Smithsonian Folkways (www.folkways.si.edu/about_us/support.aspx), The Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance project (www.splcenter.org, www.splcenter.org/what-we-do/teaching-tolerance), or The King Center (www.thekingcenter.org).