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This article was published 19/11/2019 (469 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
For the first time in 46 years, Evelyn Hart performed without a special person in the audience: Kathleen Richardson.
Hart, who spent almost three decades with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet (RWB), made the admission after dancing Tuesday night at a celebration of the life of Richardson, who died Sept. 14 at the age of 91.
Hart said she first met and became inspired by her when Hart was a student at the RWB school and Richardson was the company’s honorary president.
"She has assisted and gifted so many of us, artists, organizations, causes — indeed, the city of Winnipeg," Hart told dozens of family, friends and beneficiaries of Richardson’s decades of philanthropy at the event at the Fairmont Winnipeg. "But for me personally, the greatest gift that she gave me was to be a role model of the human being I aspired to be.
"To have the courage to stand alone in your vision, or in life, if need be. To allow oneself to believe, passionately, in your dreams, and in the possibility of others. To be fiercely loyal. To generously share one’s gifts and one’s spirit. To never, never lose one’s sense of humour, and to always, always, always operate from a place of great love."
Kathleen Margaret Richardson was born May 5, 1928, the youngest of four children for James A. Richardson (for whom the city’s airport is named) and mother Muriel — who headed the family company, James Richardson & Sons Ltd., for 27 years after her husband suddenly died in 1939.
Richardson was on the Winnipeg-based company’s board from 1954 to 1998, and also created the Kathleen Richardson Foundation, which, along with her own personal donations, quietly sprinkled funding for various organizations throughout the city for decades.
One of the major beneficiaries was the Royal Winnipeg Ballet.
Richardson loved dance. Decades earlier, after she was deemed too tall to be a ballerina, she threw herself into helping the organization. She is credited with helping the ballet not only to mount tours across North America and the world, but also to construct its ballet school and offices.
RWB artistic director André Lewis called Richardson "the most famous anonymous donor" to chuckles from the crowd Tuesday.
"The Royal Winnipeg Ballet has existed for 80 years, in large part because of Kathleen, with quiet support and incredible generosity... she represents what philanthropy is all about. She was, in the truest sense of the word, a patron of the arts. And we are honoured to have known her.
"She will never be forgotten by the RWB."
Richardson’s niece, Carolyn Hursh, remembered her aunt as someone who "inspired us."
Her eldest nephew, James Benidickson, said his aunt was "a genuine conversationalist... she wanted to know you and, if she knew you, she wanted to help you."
Sara Thomson, her youngest niece, said: "We probably all thought we were her favourite niece or best nephew" and, while the family company has had "some remarkable sons" as part of it, it had also had "some remarkable women, too."
Rick Frost, chief executive officer of the Winnipeg Foundation, said Richardson served on the board from 1970 to 1982, and was only the third woman appointed at the time — her mother being the first.
"For us, she was an inspiring role model and mentor," Frost said. "We will always hold her close with affection."
Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.