Ken was born Oct. 30, 1933 in Pryor, Okla., to Juanita and Aden Richardson, the oldest of four children. When Ken was about 3 years old, the family moved to Tehachapi, Calif., to join his dad, who had made the trip earlier and was staying with relatives while working at Monolith Portland Cement Company. Because Ken was already known for his ability to make things, he helped his Uncle Joe, an expert mason, make bricks to build the family home.
His family moved around a lot, like most people during the Depression, looking for work wherever they could find it. They moved back to Tehachapi when Ken was about 13 years old, and during the summer, Ken's dad hired him out to work manual labor jobs to help make ends meet for the family.
Ken didn't have much use for school and ditched classes often, so at 17 years old, he left high school and began working as a welder’s helper at Monolith/Cal Portland Cement. He worked for Al Lange, and gave credit to a man named "Woody" for teaching him the skill of welding.
Ken was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1953, and due to his mechanical aptitude, was assigned detail as the Company Commander's Jeep driver while stationed in Augsburg, Germany. He kept the Jeep in prime condition but also had extra privileges as the commander’s driver. It was here that Ken refined his "horse-trading" skills by bartering for items for the guys in his unit. He proudly served from 1953-1955 and was honorably discharged as a corporal and soon returned back to Oklahoma, where his parents had relocated. He worked maintaining equipment and oiling gear boxes at the Oklahoma Ordnance Works where explosive powder was made for bombs and dynamite.
Ken missed California, so he moved back to Tehachapi. He and his brother "Chub" lived together so his brother could finish school; and Ken went back to work at Cal Portland as a "gang" welder. The gang consisted of a welder, maintenance man and welder’s helpers who worked together to keep the plant operational.
Ken continued to tinker with anything mechanical and when not working, was buzzing around Tehachapi in a white 1955 Chevy. Let's just say that the Chevy could not be beat and he was on a first name basis with the local police! The other car that he often reminisced about was a 1958 Chevy Biscayne, stock from the factory — it had a 348 cubic engine and three, three-barrel carburetors, along with a three-speed shifter on the column. He wasn't satisfied with this so he changed the carburetors to "progressive linkage," which for those of us non-mechanical folks, this meant the three carburetors worked together ... this car was fast!
Ken met Peggy, a fellow "Tehachapian," at a mutual friend’s party in 1958. At first, Peggy wasn't too sure about Ken, but she fell in love with him when seeing how well he treated her younger sisters (and others). He was kind, fun-loving and generous, and everyone he came in contact with remarked about these genuine traits. Ken and Peggy met in January and later married in Las Vegas, Nev. Even after he was married, he continued to race his 1958 Chevy Biscayne. He was challenged by many, but Ken and his hopped-up Chevy, could not be beat!
Ken and Peggy soon moved to Bakersfield where he continued welding, both for others and for AFC - American Fertilizer Company, in Edison, Calif. Shortly thereafter, he started his own business, Ken's Welding. His fabrication and welding expertise were sought by many.
While Ken never gave up welding, he had a growing family and saw an opportunity he couldn't pass up. He was hired as an engineer in the maintenance department at Kern Medical Center. Because of his outstanding work ethic and problem-solving abilities, he was promoted within a year to plant superintendent, in charge of all maintenance operations at the hospital. He retired from KMC after 25 years; he and Peggy moved back to Tehachapi to begin enjoying a long-earned rest. Ken couldn't sit still and soon started another business, Richardson Mowing, which included mowing, grading roads, etc. on his John Deere tractor. He was known around Tehachapi as the "Mower Man."
Ken had a knack for tinkering with anything mechanical; he was well known for custom-made motorcycles and repairing cars for others. He truly was a "jack-of-all-trades." He instilled a love of cars and motorcycles into his girls who could be found most weekends racing motorcycles up and down their long driveway!
Family meant everything to Ken. He was overwhelmed with joy when his grandkids were born. He was involved in both his daughters' and grandchildren's lives and modeled a strong work ethic, integrity and honesty. Over the years, Ken enjoyed family camping trips to Balch Park, Quaking Aspen, Shaver Lake, Carpinteria; and at the property the family owned in the Alpine Forest mountains of Tehachapi, fondly named “Camp Run-a-Muck.” The kids, grandkids, extended family and friends have wonderful memories of these camping trips, especially since Ken was the best camp cook ever! One thing that stands out to his family is Ken's love and knack for telling jokes, which always kept us laughing (too sweet grandpa)!
Ken passed away peacefully on Friday, Sept. 1, 2017 surrounded by his family. Mere words cannot express our sorrow; he will be greatly missed. He is survived by his loving wife Peggy of 59 years; daughters Kendra Richardson, Tracy Scholz, Christine Deuel (Devin); grandsons Craig Richardson, Kenneth Rodriguez, Michael Rodriguez; granddaughter Kristen Stewart; and great-granddaughter Erin Richardson. Ken was preceded in death by his parents, sister Roma Tilley and brother James Richardson.
Services for Ken will be held on Friday, Sept. 8, 2017 at Doughty-Calhoun-O'Meara, 1100 Truxtun Ave., Bakersfield, Calif.; viewing at 9 a.m. followed by Chapel Services at 10:30 a.m. Interment at 1 p.m., Bakersfield National Cemetery, 30338 E. Bear Mountain Blvd., Arvin, Calif.
In lieu of flowers, the family wishes for donations to be made to St. Jude's Children's Hospital (501 St. Jude Place, Memphis, TN 38105), the Wounded Heroes Fund of Kern County (3121 Standard St., Bakersfield, CA 93308), or the charity of your choice. Thank you.