It is with deepest regret that we announce the sudden passing of Ken Richards, beloved husband of Linda Mae (Ost) Richards of Lethbridge. Also grieving his passing are Dr. Kimberly Richards (Abbotsford, B.C.), Keith and Dr. Theresa Richards (Portland), Aaron and Julia and grandchildren, Thea and Elliot (Seattle). How proud Ken was of his family! He loved doing things with them. He loved to hear the ways they challenge themselves and what they contribute to the world. Ken’s passing will also be grieved by a circle of friends and scientific colleagues from Lethbridge, Saskatoon and around the world.
Ken was the son of Doris (Larmour) and William “Bill” Richards of Lethbridge (predeceased), and the brother of Deborah (Victoria, B.C.). As a junior high student Ken was part of Dr. Ruby Larson’s science club. Caught by the science bug, he studied at the U. of A. and did summer bee research at Beaverlodge and on Ellesmere Island. Ken obtained a PhD in Entomology from the University of Kansas where he studied with famed entomologist, Dr. Charles D. Michener. The topic of his dissertation was “Population Ecology of Bumble Bees in Southern Alberta.” Ken and his first wife, Lynn, did the research for his dissertation west of Pincher Creek. After convocation, Ken returned to Lethbridge Research Station to work with leaf cutter bees and pollination. Much of the success of his work at Lethbridge Research Station was accomplished with his lifelong friend and workmate, John Virostek. Happy to add to Ken and Lynn’s lives was the birth of sons, Keith and Aaron, born during those years.
Following his marriage to Linda Mae in 1986, Ken and Linda spent a year at world leader Rothamsted Experimental Station at Harpenden, England where Ken studied the use of leaf cutter bees in the pollination of lupine flowers. They returned to their previous jobs in Lethbridge, and in 1989 their daughter, Kimberly, was born.
In 1996 Ken took over management of Canada’s Plant Genetic Resources with its relocation to Saskatoon from Ottawa. Ken supervised the construction of the new Gene Bank attached to Agriculture and Agri-food Canada at the University of Saskatchewan. Ken and Tim Myers divided in half every packet of the 550,000 packet collection of plant seeds for the transfer. Half of the collection was sent by surface trucks and half of the collection was relocated by a Canadian government Hercules airplane. In subsequent years the plant collection was joined in Saskatoon by the microbial, fruit tree and animal collections. Ken assembled and supervised a wonderful team of scientists who worked from P.E.I. to the B.C. Okanagan. He and Linda and Kimberly lived in beautiful Saskatoon for fifteen years.
Ken was a great ambassador for Canadian agriculture and Canadian bees. He represented Canada at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the U. N. for the ratification of treaties sharing and protecting genetic material. He delivered the Canadian collection of genetic material to Svalbard, Norway to the opening of the Global Seed Vault.
In 2011 Ken and Linda retired to a wonderful Lethbridge acreage where Ken could grow bee-friendly, native Canadian plants, and Linda could have her horses. An active member of the Lethbridge and District Horticultural Society, Ken keenly grew plants and planted them in the Hort section of the new Legacy Park. Ken returned to previous research conducting native bee counts at Waterton before and after the 2017 fire. During bee season he would weekly walk a section of the park identifying the bees and recording what flowers they were visiting. Parks Canada benefitted from this accumulated research report.
Ken was a world-class scientist, loving father, dedicated friend and community member, a beloved husband. Ken and Linda loved to travel together. Botanical gardens, theatre and art galleries brought them such pleasure. Ken loved to share his immense knowledge of plants and bees to interested individuals or public presentations.
A tribute event will be held in the spring.
In lieu of flowers, the family ask that you plant some bee-friendly flowers in your garden, or made donations to Lethbridge and District Horticultural Club, or Canadian Wildlife Federation.
To send flowers to Kenneth's family, please visit our floral section.