Richard Joseph LaPorte

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Service Information
Smart & Edwards Funeral Home
183 Madison Ave
Skowhegan, ME

SKOWHEGAN - Richard Joseph LaPorte passed away on Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019, at the age of 84. He was loved by his family and many friends.

Born in a two bedroom flat, in Pawtucket, R.I. He was the first born of his parents, Wilfred and Gabrielle LaPorte. He was soon joined by his sister Claire and brother Paul.

The family's future was grim – the great Depression of 1929 – 1940 was at its peak. It was difficult just to keep a family of five fed. They experienced truly hard times. Their God and there many relatives provided the help and grace they needed.

Richard began his education at his Catholic parish run grammar school when he was only five. While a capable student, he had disciplinary problems with the Nuns that were trying to educate him. He and the Nuns separated after the 5th grade.

His life changed, for the better. World War II raged but his father was able to use his Radio Repair experience to land a good paying job installing radio rooms on the new troop ships. The LaPortes paid the old debts and prospered.

Meanwhile Richard was sent to Sacred Heart Academy to continue his education. The school was run by tough, mostly French Canadian Brothers that knew how to discipline their students. This Academy was not run by the Nuns! Richard reacted as his parents had hoped. He did so well, he skipped the 7th grade! His continuing success allowed him to graduate at 16, with honors. Ma and Pa were pleased.

After graduation, Richard tried working at a couple of jobs, but he was not interested. He was itching to see the world. The Korean War had started and he wanted to do his share. The newly formed U.S. Air Force, no longer part of the Army, was really what excited him. At 17 years old, his parents had to sign giving him the right to join up. He left for basic training in January, 1952.

His first assignment was to Sacramento, Calif. While he was learning aircraft maintenance, he met a lovely young girl from Placerville, Calif. – Ronda Benemelis. After a few dates with this pretty red-head, Richard was sent to Texas and then to Korea. Parting with Ronda was difficult but he did not have a choice. The romance was put on hold. Many letters and a few actual visits to Placerville later, Richard and Ronda were married in 1955. Richard always said that it remained the happiest day of his life.

After his discharge from the U.S.A.F., the newlyweds talked about what would come next. They both quickly agreed that Richard should reenlist and make a career of serving his country.

Assigned to Otis A.F. Base on Cape Cod, as a jet aircraft mechanic, Richard decided to apply for Officer Candidate School. He was accepted and Ronda pinned on his 2nd Lieutenant golden bars in late 1959. After a stint in the Air Training Command – first as a student and then as a teacher, Richard volunteered for a Missile Launch Officer position. He was accepted and sent to Wyoming as a Minuteman Launch Officer for five years.

During his commissioned service, Richard and Ronda adopted three children – Robert in Illinois, Ronald and Renee in Wyoming. All three have grown to be self-reliant and successful.

After obtaining a degree in mathematics (Nun's would have been proud) and running a coding operation, Major LaPorte retired from the Air Force and the family headed to Skowhegan. It seemed like a good place to raise some kids. He was 38 years old at the time.

The LaPortes arrived from Montana in June 1973 and began to rebuild the old farm house they had bought. It took 10 years.

Richard found a second career at the new Scott Paper mill, 1 mile up the road from his homestead. He was employed 15 years, mostly as a vibration analyst in maintenance. He retired again in 1992.

Richard and Ronda downsized in 2013 and moved to a smaller house in downtown Skowhegan.

During his time in Maine, Richard was a communicant at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church and an active volunteer. He served as a Lay Eucharistic Minister for over 40 years. He also enjoyed teaching CCD to the high school senior class members and introducing non-Catholics to the Rites of Christian Initiation for Adults.

He was predeceased by his parents Wilfred and Gabrielle LaPorte; and his sister Claire Riendeau. Surviving are Ronda Lee; his sons Robert and wife Lori, Ronald and partner Rebecca, his daughter Renee and partner Andrea; grandchildren, Caitlin and husband Dugan, Regan and husband Steele, Benjamin, Dayna; great-granddaughter Sophia; his favorite brother Rev. Paul LaPorte

Viewing hours will be on Monday, Jan. 14, 2019, from 3 to 6 p.m. at the Smart & Edwards Funeral Home, 183 Madison Ave., Skowhegan, Maine. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019, at 10 a.m. at the Notre Dame de Lourdes Catholic Church, Water St., Skowhegan.

Donations may be made in Richard's memory to the:

Notre Dame de Lourdes Church, please make the checks payable to the:

Christ the King Parish

PO Box 369

Skowhegan, ME 04976

Published in Central Maine on Jan. 12, 2019
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