Monty Richards Dies at 88

Monty Richards, a fifth-generation kamaaina and guiding force of Kahua Ranch who was known for his leadership in the community, died Monday in San Francisco. He was 88.

Herbert “Monty” Montague Richards Jr. succumbed to complications from a stroke, his wife, Eleanore “Elly” Atherton Chong said Thursday. The pair, who had resided in Honolulu and at the ranch, had been on the mainland visiting family when Monty suffered the stroke on April 21. He remained hospitalized until his death this week.

“He was my best friend and he was probably the kindest person you will ever meet,” she said. “He always tried to see the good in people.”

John Atherton Richards, one of Monty Richards’ four children, said his father meant a great deal to him, as well as the community for his plethora of contributions. He will remember most the lessons his father passed on.

“A lot of the stuff that he did try to teach us really came down to taking care of the people, the land around you and also realizing that we’re all just passing through,” John Richards said. “The islands are a very special place and none of us are going to be here forever. And in the end, hopefully, you pass it on a little better than when you started.”

Public services will be held on Hawaii Island and Oahu next month.

Born Sept. 12, 1929, in North Kohala to Herbert Montague Richards Sr. and Logan Mary Shepherd Richards, Monty Richards was descended from Amos Starr Cooke and Juliette Montague Cooke, missionaries who arrived in Hawaii in 1837 and founded The Chief Children’s School to instruct the children of alii.

His grandparents were Theodore and Mary Atherton Richards, philanthropists and religious leaders in Hawaii.

“They were very influential on him in that he always felt that he should give back to the community and that he should do the best that he can for his fellow man,” Chong remembered.

Monty Richards spent his first years of life at Kahua Ranch where his father worked before the family moved to Oahu and then to the mainland shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor where Monty Richards attended various schools. He ultimately graduated with a bachelor’s degree in animal husbandry from Cal Poly.

With the degree in hand, he began work in 1953 at Kahua Ranch in Honolulu, and moved to the 4,000-acre ranch on Hawaii Island in 1955; he took over ranch management several years later. During this time, he married his first wife, Phyllis, who died in July 2008.

He remained at the ranch’s helm until retiring in 2004, but continued his chairmanship of the ranch’s board until his death. He was also the sole trustee of the Atherton Richards Trust, of which Kahua Ranch is the principal asset, and is the subject of current litigation among heirs.

Chong, who wed Monty in 2013, said Monty’s legacy will be his innovative nature and seemingly endless service to the Hawaii Island community.

Among his innovations at Kahua Ranch were establishing one of the first wind farms in the state, growing carnations in a greenhouse, producing hydroponic-grown lettuce and tomatoes, and utilizing agricultural tourism (agritourism). He was also the first to use artificial insemination and high-intensity rapid grazing in Hawaii.

Monty Richards’ public and community service could fill a book.

His public service includes 16 years, or four terms, on the University of Hawaii Board of Regents and 16 years as chairman of the USDA Farm Service Agency State Committee under presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. He also served on the boards of various organizations and companies, including the Bank of Hawaii, Hawaii Preparatory Academy, The Nature Conservancy, and Hawaii Cattlemen’s Association and more than a dozen others.

“He used to always tell me that you have to help your fellow man. So, that’s why he gave so much as volunteer time because he felt that if he could help make the Earth a little better place to live, he would do it,” Chong said.

In addition, Monty Richards was named to the Hawaii Cattlemen’s Association Paniolo Hall of Fame in 2000 and received the “Light the Way” award from Pacific Buddhist Academy in 2011 and the Ka Lei Hano Heritage Award from the University of Hawaii College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources in 2006.

Monty Richards’ eldest son, Herbert M. (Tim) Richards III, said the loss of his father marks a new chapter for legacy agriculture in Hawaii, calling it “the turning of the page.”

“Now the next generations of Monty’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren will be part of generational cattle ranching and agriculture in Hawaii continuing the commitment from the Atherton/Richards Family to steward the Land,” he said.

Monty is survived by wife, Eleanore Atherton Chong; daughters, Pamela Richards Ketcham and Patricia (Doug) Richards Giles; sons, Herbert M. (Terri) Richards III and John Atherton Richards; brothers, James Atherton Richards and Manning (Sarah) Richards; sister, Mary Richards Yort Shattuck; nine grandchildren; two great-grandchildren; and numerous nieces and nephews.

The first public service is slated July 21 at Kahua Ranch with visitation at 9 a.m. followed by a service at 10 a.m. A reception will follow. The family requests that no alcohol be brought to the event. The second is planned July 21 at Central Union Church in Honolulu with visitation at 11 a.m. followed by a service at noon. A reception will follow.

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