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Richard remembered for positive attitude

Raymond J. Richard, the victim of Thursday’s fatal crash near Deerwood, was remembered Friday for his positive attitude as a caring employer and for his work on behalf of the business community.

Richard, 53, Merrifield, was pronounced dead at the scene Thursday when the pick-up truck he was driving collided with a semitrailer on Crow Wing County Road 12, three miles west of Deerwood. The accident was reported at 11:19 a.m. Thursday.

The driver of the truck, William Hanson of Cloquet, was treated at the scene and released.

Richard, owner of the Burger King in west Brainerd, started his career as a crew member with the franchise in 1978 while he was in college in Wisconsin. He was chair of the Brainerd Lakes Chamber when the organization rebranded itself with a new logo and an emphasis on the concept of “Connect, lead, grow.”

“He was just always so positive about everything and also a fellow who got things done,” LoAnn Reponen, who served with him on the board, said.

In an emailed statement, Reponen, the general manager of Culligan Water Conditioning, described Richard as a man of high integrity and amazing work ethics who always had a smile for everyone.

“It is a sad day for all who knew him,” she wrote.

In a joint statement issued by all the employees at the Brainerd Burger King, Richard was described as a father figure. The statement was written by managers Tara Nelson, Millie Wright and Ernie Hanson and crew member Dawna McGregor.

“Ray was one of the nicest people we’ve met,” they wrote. “He was always there for anyone who needed help or needed advice. He never gave up or walked away from anyone. He became a father figure to anyone who needed it in their lives. He will be greatly missed in all our lives.”

Karen Owen of Deerwood Bank in Brainerd also served on the chamber board with Richard. She said he was a positive person who was an advocate of Brainerd businesses, particularly when Washington Street was being renovated and businesses were working to make sure customers knew they were still up and running.

Rod Osterloh, a commercial real estate broker with Close Converse, said Richard was a great leader when he was chamber president and over the years he also became a good friend. Osterloh remembered Richard’s dry wit which made everyone comfortable.

“I think Ray was always a real bright and outgoing sort of guy,” he said. “Every encounter with him was a little better and brighter because he was there.”

Richard served on the chamber board from 2004-2008 and served as chair from 2006-2007.

Clem Belcher, owner of Mar-Jon’s in the Westgate Mall, knew Richard as both a customer and a fellow business owner. He said Friday the Burger King owner was friendly and had an outgoing personality.

Chris Robinson, economic development officer with Brainerd Lakes Area Economic Development Authority, said Richard was a hard worker, a sharp businessman and a dedicated family man. They served on the chamber board together.

“I think he was very outgoing, a fun guy to be around, very energetic and enthusiastic about the community,” Robinson said.

MIKE O’ROURKE, associate editor, may be reached at 855-5860 or He may be followed at

Mike O'Rourke
Mike O'Rourke began his career at the Brainerd Dispatch in 1978 as a general assignment reporter. He was named city editor in 1981 and associate editor in 1999. He covers politics and writes features and editorials.
(218) 855-5860