I’m a relative newbie to the national fencing scene, so Ed Richards was already 70 when I met him in 1999. I first knew him as a saber referee, of all things—he was the one about whom my daughter’s coach said, “He can’t hear beats anymore, so if you want to use a beat attack, make sure he can see it.”
Fortunately, I got to know him a bit better when I started working bout committee, and then one year I was lucky enough to sit next to him at a Hall of Fame banquet. Our table wasn’t as noisy as the one next to us (that was Junior’s table the year Michael D’Asaro, Sr., was inducted, though Junior’s table is always the noisiest), but we laughed just as much as the D’Asaro crowd because we got to listen to Ed’s stories. The stories are pretty fuzzy now, though one was a lament about thinking he’d made progress teaching his students about the culture of fencing at the then-Salle Richards he and Carla ran in Boston, only to have some of them one evening at closing yell over to him as he locked up, “G’night, Sally!”
Ed’s stories were usually funny, but there was often an edge to them, too, that gave me a glimpse at the great athlete and coach he was. You can see it for yourself in the video Andy Shaw recorded about his reaction to hearing predictions for the 1963 national foil championship. The defending national champion would place only 5th? Not bloody likely.
I’ll miss seeing Ed’s lanky and dapper figure at tournaments, and his wry take on the world. He was a class act all the way (and he was the only guy I’ve ever seen make leather pants look good).