Anthony “Tarby” Richards was a popular figure in the New Bedford Cape Verdean community and beyond.
Known for his work counseling fellow veterans and anyone else who needed a hand, the 72-year-old was living some of his best life during retirement. He had experienced a spiritual renewal and was understanding the help he had always given other folks through that lens, said his brother, Vinny Richards.
“There are literally hundreds of Tarby stories that have come out of the woodwork,” he said. “People — we have no idea who they are — have contacted us.”
Tarby was an Army veteran of the Vietnam War and a combat support veteran with the National Guard during the Gulf War. He was active with The Salvation Army’s and United Way food distribution programs.
Everyone from the elderly friends of his late mother to disabled veterans who are shut-ins seem to have a Tarby story, Vinny said.
“He would just show up to see them,” he said, bringing with him “scratchies” (lottery tickets), but also his ability to listen and make others feel good about themselves.
Vinny joked that he had gained weight during the pandemic but that his brother had lost 40 pounds and taken up bicycling. He was in-shape and being cautious.
Like many, Tarby made a decision to bring a little joy to some of his loved ones’ lives around the holidays and he traveled to Disney World. By mid-December he was sick with COVID-19.
“He contracted the virus doing something typical of him,” Vinny said. “His basic feeling was to please other people. He felt he could keep the situation safe enough and (under) sufficient enough control to survive any threats along the way.”
Tarby Richards died on Jan. 11, 2021. His “spirit left his body” surrounded by his loving children: Victoria, Ashley, Gabrielle, Alexandria and Elijah. He was the admired brother of Dicky Fonseca and Vinny Richards and the grandfather of Mackensie Baptist. At the time of his death, he was happily engaged to Dorothy Thompson of Middleboro.
Tarby was a fun-loving guy who people liked to be around. He would just go up and talk to total strangers, as he did on a spur-of-the-moment trip to Europe with his brother two years ago. He had recently even taken to doing a retirement act as a stand-up comic. His catch phrase was to “always remember to pause for the cause.”
Two of Tarby’s daughters are nurses, and they followed closely the course of his illness. They felt his care had been excellent, even as his disease progressed, his brother said.
Vinny admitted to being shocked when his brother lost his battle with COVID-19 but said his own spirituality has helped him to come to terms with it.
“You get to the point where you realize you have limitations, but that there’s a bigger plan,” he said.
Still, the community will miss his helpful, fun-loving brother now that he’s gone, Vinny said.
“He was the one to bring the joy.”
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