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Joe Rischard, 84, passed from this life to his eternal reward on July 21, 2020. Surrounded by his family and showered in God’s merciful love, Joe peacefully departed the steadily declining life that had slowly eroded the vigor and strength of this proud, hard-working man. Deeply saddened by his loss, his family is comforted by the assurance of Joe’s place in the Heavenly Kingdom of God.
Joe was the fifth of ten children born to Paul and Lena Rischard. He was born on St. Patrick’s Day, 1936, in Okarche, where he and his siblings attended Holy Trinity Catholic Church and School. Raising a large family through the difficult times of the Great Depression and early World War II years, Paul and Lena moved to S.W. 22nd Street in Oklahoma City, where Joe’s life ultimately would take shape.
He attended Sacred Heart Catholic Church and School; and as a 7th grader there he was “pulled from school to mix mud” in assisting his father in building the still-standing Grotto that adorns the campus of Mt. St. Mary’s High School. This was the beginning of Joe’s “labor of love” for what would come to be his beloved St. Mary’s.
A member of the first “co-ed” class at what previously had been an all-girls boarding school, Joe thrived on the athletic fields at The Mount – and partook in just about all the mischief the good Sisters of Mercy could endure.
Joe’s mischief and athletic prowess, as well as his charming personality, ultimately caught the attention of Juanita Zamora, who, as Captain of the team, Joe escorted as Homecoming Queen and ultimately went on to court, date and marry.
Joe and Juanita had four sons, Michael Joseph, who died at birth, Denis, Bob and John. Joe took his responsibilities as a father seriously, teaching his boys at an early age to work and play hard and to “toughen up” in all manners of being. Unbeknown to many because of his tough exterior, Joe had a playful side that his young sons, and later his grandchildren, genuinely adored.
Raised in a family where everyone did their part to put food on the table, Joe’s early life revealed a work ethic that would become his hallmark. By day (or, by night), Joe worked as a technology set-up man at Western Electric (subsequently Lucent Technologies), and also proudly operated an okra and other produce farm and subsequently many other side businesses that eventually grew into successful ventures. Included among them were the restoration of Downtown Golf Center (which he helped build as a young man), Joe’s Sod Farm, JR’s Bar and Grill, and JR’s Nite-Lite Golf Course. Joe also was a sharp land investor, owning several properties across the metro, including the building that for many years was home to the Bricktown Chelino’s.
Joe valued work – and he always admired those who worked as hard as he did. One of his proudest accomplishments was that his three sons all graduated from the University of Notre Dame. It was the family produce farm that afforded his sons the opportunity. Joe took delight in his visits to the Notre Dame campus and understood the importance of his sons obtaining their college education.
Joe and Juanita divorced in 1995 but remained devoted to each other, generously caring for the other in the ways each knew best up until Joe’s final breath. As a result, Joe’s 14 grandchildren, who were his greatest pride and joy, got to spend holidays, birthdays, other special occasions, even vacations, with both “Grandpa Joe” and “Grandma Juany” over the last 25 years of Joe’s life. He loved nothing more than watching his grandchildren’s ball games and attending their school activities. And their love of him made him truly happy.
Although always a part of his sons’ lives as coach and fan when they were young, his work and business interests occupied the majority of his time until his retirement from Lucent. Over the last 20 years though, Joe became a significant benefactor of Mt. St. Mary’s High School, providing generous donations of all kinds, too numerous to count. His philanthropy impacted many student’s lives at The Mount, and Joe gladly did so knowing the impact St. Mary’s had on his life as a young man and hoping it would do the same for the young men and women who benefitted from his gifts. Acknowledging Joe’s significance to the school’s resurgence, St. Mary’s recognized him as a “Cornerstone of The Mount” and awarded him an honorary diploma, Class of ’54.
Joe loved young people with ambition and the courage to take a risk, and he often provided the financial backing for young “go getters” to pursue their dreams. He enjoyed being around and supporting those who reminded him of himself.
Joe’s final years were difficult due to his declining health. The devotion of his caregiver, Helen LaForteza, allowed him a longer and more full life than might have been expected, and for that his family is forever grateful. Despite his physical limitations, Joe continued to remain active until the last several months. During basketball season he was known to occupy his familiar “corner” seat, watching one of his grandchildren play for the Rockets while enjoying a few Snickers bars. His grandkids came to know, “Grandpa never met a dessert he didn’t like,” yet Braum’s milkshakes and Chelino’s sopapillas were his favorites.
Joe was preceded in death by his parents, Paul and Lena, siblings Helen, Al, Eleanor and the baby twins, and by his baby son, Michael Joseph, and his grandbaby Lucy Catherine.
He is survived by Juanita and their three sons, Denis (and wife Susie), Bob, and John (and wife Gina); 13 grandchildren, Denis’ children Maggie, Mollie (and husband, Adam Kimrey), Annie (and husband, Sam Davis), Aimee, John Paul, Mattie, Michael, Lissie and Addie, and John’s children Nicholas (and fiancé, Christen McDonough), John Michael, Matthew and Joey; his siblings Bill, Catherine Hester, Mary Piper and Aggie; many loving nieces and nephews; and a host of friends who thought the world of him, namely his long-time business associate Karen Bettes his trusted farmworkers & his beloved MSM "54 classmates, whom he dearly loved.