Remembering Mr. Richard England

We’re truly sad to report that Mr. Richard England passed away yesterday at the age of 93. Mr. England was one of our region’s philanthropic cornerstones. He and his wife of 67 years, Lois, began their philanthropic work in 1948 and founded the Lois and Richard England Foundation in 1990. Mr. England served on the board of more than 30 nonprofits.

What made him especially noteworthy in our community was his hands-on approach. For Veteran’s Day 2011, we interviewed him about both his service in World War II and his philanthropic philosophy. Of the latter, he said:

I am Jewish. The part of the religion which excites me is Tikkun Olam – the Hebrew phrase which means ‘fixing the world.’ I really enjoy helping people who are less fortunate.

He went on to describe how he determined what parts of our local world needed the most fixing:

Read the Washington Post to learn where the problems are. Drive around the city to get acquainted.

Mr. England also had a profound effect on the people around him. These are a few reflections from members of the WRAG community:

Tamara Copeland, President of the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers:

I always admired Mr. England, not just as a well-respected community leader and philanthropist, but also as a model for aging. In his 90s, Mr. England was always an expected attendee at WRAG events – a lifetime learner, not only listening in the audience, but a participant asking probing questions to further his knowledge and that of his colleagues. He was always clear about his needs – urging a presenter to speak up or coming to the podium to adjust his microphone so he could better hear the remarks.

Mr. England stood tall, not just because of his military experience in World War II. He stood tall because he knew the needs of this community, knew that he had the capacity to address some of those needs and rose up elegantly, purposefully, albeit quietly, to respond to those needs. He was a leader. I will miss him, but I am so glad that I had the opportunity to know him. He will always be a beacon guiding the work of those whose lives he touched. A life well lived.

Terri Freeman, WRAG Board Chair, President of The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region:

[Mr. England] was extremely committed to this community and his support of the sector was unwavering. He was a life-long learner as demonstrated by his participation in so many meetings and forums. We can only hope that younger generations of corporate leaders will be as committed as Mr. England.

Julie Rogers, former WRAG Board Chair, President of The Meyer Foundation:

Dick England was an activist philanthropist. His passion for our city’s young people and his matchless fundraising style created opportunities for so many – through chess, the wonderful campus for Bell MultiCultural and so much more. Dick set an example for us all by his integrity, inquiry and generosity, and I was honored to know him.

George Vradenburg, former WRAG Board member, President of The Vradenburg Foundation

I loved the birthday party for him AND Lois for their joint (like) 180th birthday. Richard told this hilarious story of his going upstairs in his house, getting to the top of the stairs and forgetting why he was going upstairs, turning around and starting downstairs and halfway down forgetting why he was going downstairs, so he ended up sitting on the landing on the steps between upstairs and downstairs until he could figure out where he should go. He told it with such genuineness and honesty that the entire audience was in stitches – obviously recognizing something very human and very shared.

He called me several times a year – for the Federation, for chess, for schools – always a good cause. I always, always returned his calls even when I knew I had to say ‘no’, because he was so committed to our kids, our community, our city. He was a good one, one of the best.

This is a sad day – even though he lived a long and fruitful life – sad nonetheless. I will miss him.

Our heartfelt condolences go out to Mrs. England and the entire England family. A memorial service will be held this Thursday, April 4th, at 11 am, at Washington Hebrew Congregation – 3935 Macomb St., NW, Washington, DC. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made in his name to Chess Challenge in DC, MCIP (Bell High School in DC), or Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Washington.

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