HARLINGEN — Matt Gorges best describes his best friend Harvey Lee Richards Jr. as a person of integrity.
Richards, a lifelong Harlingen resident, passed away Sept. 19 at Valley Baptist Medical Center. He is survived by his wife Laurie Richards and his children Lezlea Richards Ross and Lance Richards.
According to Gorges, his long time friend suffered from Alzheimer’s disease.
Gorges first came to know Richards in 1944. Both were attending grade school and soon became neighbors for 45 years.
Over the years, they continued to frequent each other and share a glass of wine together.
“In high school, he was a very competitive athlete. He played football and baseball and we would golf together for 60 years,” Gorges said.
Besides being an active athlete, Richards found higher education to be important.
His family said he supported and was involved in various programs, such as the Harlingen Area Education Foundation, the S.T.A.R.S. program and the Hispanic Scholarship Foundation.
“He was the driving force and leader of the Harlingen Education Foundation for a number of years. It awarded scholarships to outstanding students, and the whole purpose was to let students know they had a chance to go to college,” Gorges said.
“I really think it was instrumental. I think that was the biggest contribution he made to our community,” he said.
Richards had a passion for education, especially for his alma mater Texas A&M University.
According to his brother-in-law Dr. Henry Presnal, Richards attended every football home game at College Station.
“He always made the drive from Harlingen to come and be at the home games. He made sure he did not miss one,” Presnal said.
Richards graduated from A&M in 1956, majoring in dairy science with an emphasis in dairy manufacturing.
He served in the Army and came back to join the family business, Hygeia Dairy Company. He would retire from the company as CEO.
In his spare time, Richards was also involved in community events like RioFest and Blues on the Hill.
But his community service went beyond that.
Richards also served at St. Alban’s Episcopal Church for many years. His family said he was very active in support of the church community.
Overall, Richards is described by his loved ones as a devoted family man.
His daughter also said he was a pilot for a while and enjoyed a good poker game.
“He was a true native of Harlingen, and he was very passionate abut the Rio Grande Valley. He always tried to make it the best place possible,” she said.
A memorial gathering with family and friends will be held today at Buck Ashcraft Funeral Home, 710 N. Ed Carey Dr., from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.