Roland Richer, 91, of Tupper Lake, passed away Saturday, Feb. 1, 2014, at Mercy Living Center, where he had resided for the past six months.
Born April 24, 1922, in Ste. Anicet, Quebec, he was the son of Albert and Rose Richer. A humble and warm-hearted man who gave back to his community. The Tip Top Sports Shop did a lot of business on “faith and a handshake,” helping families and young people acquire sports equipment so they could get outside to enjoy our lakes and mountains, fishing and hunting, hiking and skiing, as well as golf and team sports.
Starting out as a barber on upper Park Street, across from the high school, Roland and his cousin Robert “Bert” sold school supplies and candy as well as haircuts. Bert had been in the 10th Mountain Division ski troops and Roland had skied on Hole 10 and other walk-up-ski-down hills around the area.
The wheels began to turn and soon they were on 40 Park St., running the Tip Top Sport and Barber Shop. Roger Bedard joined the barber staff around 1960. They added fishing and hunting equipment, followed by snow and waterskiing and golf and team sports items to their expanding inventory. Their wives, Lorraine and Claire, along with son Jim, worked in the busy sports shop side of the business.
Local information was to be had by visitors to the area, like where to put a boat in, catch that big fish, ski or eat. Verbal info, as well as topo maps and local pamphlets were to be found there. Lots of hunting and fishing stories were traded and embellished in the barbershop by the old timers.
Many locals may still remember waiting wide-eyed for their first haircut at a barbershop. They also got to listen to those tales of the one that got away et al. Occasionally, Roland would get some wild game from a trapper. One Thanksgiving, it was a beaver and he wanted the visiting grandkids to have a taste of it roasted in gramma’s kitchen oven. That did not go over so well with grandma. But the kids thought it made great sandwiches, which they took to school the next week.
Many of the Richer grandchildren learned to ride a two wheeler in grandpa’s driveway. Roland was great at finding the right size bikes for his grandkids as they grew. He took great pleasure in teaching them to water-ski, too, and his party barge tours around the lake and river were enjoyed by young and old.
In the late 1950s, when thoughts about a bigger ski area started, Roland and Bert, a World War II 10th Mountain Division veteran, were right there along with other shop owners and the winter sports club members. A plan was developed. A ski patrol was trained of which Roland was a charter member. That ski patrol spawned the Tupper Lake rescue squad a few years later of which he was also a charter member.
He loved to travel, having been a U.S. Navy signalman during World War II, he had gotten a good start. He saw more of the ocean than he planned when the Liberty Ship he was on got torpedoed. He managed to get on a life raft but things didn’t look good when the sub surfaced. But the foreign sailors who appeared on deck gave them rations and compass bearing to the nearest shipping lane where they were fortunately picked up and taken to Rio De Janeiro for a month of recuperation.
He was married to Lorraine Paiment on Nov. 20, 1943, in Tupper Lake. He and Lorraine often toured the states with their camping trailer stopping to visit family and friends along the way and getting a picture in front of each state capitol building was a goal.
He promised his teenage granddaughter Elizabeth he would take her to Paris, France, when she turned 16, and he did. And with his youngest brother Arthur, he traveled to China, and there he was noted reading the Tupper Lake Free Press on the Great Wall of China.
He delivered Meals on Wheels to the elderly and housebound, another example of his generous nature.
He is survived by one son, James and his wife Carol of Tupper Lake; two daughters: Cathy Gordon and her husband Jack of Skaneateles and Laurie Amell and her husband Stewart of Sandy Creek; eight grandchildren;, 12 great-grandchildren; and one brother Leonard of Syracuse.
He was pre-deceased by his wife Lorraine on Feb 14, 2004; one sister, Rita Cummings; and four brothers; Marcel, Hervie, Hubert and Arthur.
Funeral services will be announced in the spring.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to meals on wheels or the Tupper Lake rescue squad.