James B. Richardson liked to say he was one of the first residents of Rohnert Park and he helped to build San Francisco. Both claims were true.
Richardson, who died from heart failure Aug. 7 after collapsing at his Rohnert Park home, grew up on the Rohnert family's seed farm several decades before it blossomed into a city. And he worked for many years hauling cement to construction sites throughout San Francisco.
The avid bowler, father of three and grandfather or great-grandfather of 22 was 78.
Richardson was born in 1934 in a ranch house on Snyder Lane. His father, Burton L. Richardson, had brought the family to Sonoma County the previous year to take a job as head mechanic for the sprawling Waldo Rohnert Seed Farm.
“My father tended to the tractors and the trucks and all that, and my brother helped him out,” said one of Richardson's three surviving sisters, Sharon Johnson of Santa Rosa.
Pretty soon, young Jim Richardson was able to operate all of the various vehicles on the seed farm, including the big combines and hay bailers.
“He was very much a hard worker,” Johnson said.
Throughout Richardson's childhood, all of the people who lived on the land that in 1962 became the city of Rohnert Park could ride in the same car.
“He considered himself one of the natives of Rohnert Park,” said daughter Lisa Mortensen of Philo, in Mendocino County. “He was proud that that was where he came from.”
As a teenager, Richardson's pride and joy was the Mercury he drove to classes at Santa Rosa High and often to Fort Bragg, where a girlfriend lived.
He graduated from high school in 1952 and after working a while longer with his father at the seed farm became a cement-truck driver and a Teamster.
He left Sonoma County for nearly a decade to live in Daly City and deliver cement in and around San Francisco for Kaiser Sand and Gravel.
His sister Johnson said he always took great pride in his trucks and how they ran and looked. “His was the shiniest, always, in the yard,” she said.