Chris Richardson, who worked in economic development for the Chehalis Tribe and who had recently been active with the Port of Olympia, suffered a heart attack and died Feb. 24, according to those close to him. He was 59.
Richardson was the managing director of Chehalis Tribal Enterprises (CTE), the economic development arm of the Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis, and was recently associated with two big projects: Talking Cedar, the restaurant, brewery and distillery in Grand Mound, and the redevelopment of land in Tumwater off 93rd Avenue Southwest.
That parcel is set to welcome a Pilot-operated truck stop known as Flying J and other businesses.
David Burnett, chief executive of CTE, said Wednesday he was still coming to terms with Richardson's death.
"The expectation is that he's going to come walking into the office," Burnett said, adding that Chris's death was "hard to accept."
He said Richardson had spent a lot of years working for the tribe, first at Lucky Eagle Casino, which opened in 1995, and later at CTE.
Burnett described him as intelligent and a hard worker. It was not unusual to get phone calls, emails and texts from Chris at all hours, he said.
"His mind was always working and doing the best for the tribe," Burnett said. "That will be missed."
Port of Olympia Executive Director Sam Gibboney said Richardson had helped promote the port’s “vision 2050,” a community-informed planning document for the port, and he had recently been appointed to the port’s citizens advisory committee, which provides feedback to the port commission.
Richardson met with an Olympian reporter and photographer the morning of Feb. 24 to talk about the new truck stop in Tumwater, and he also shared the following aspiration: He had planned to run for the District 3 port commission seat.
Gibboney said she will miss his sense of humor and the practical analysis he provided to the port.
“He was really grounded in his work and what he was trying to accomplish,” she said.
Richardson’s father, Peter, was from Oakville, but Chris was born Nov. 21, 1961 in Queens, New York. He later attended Martin Van Buren High School and Queens College, City University of New York. He also had recently received his master’s degree in business administration from Washington State University.
After growing up in New York, he came to work for the tribe in 1997. In addition to his work for the tribe and the port, he also served on the board at Big Brothers, Big Sisters, the foundation board at South Puget Sound Community College and was a founding board member of the Tribal Convenience Store Association, according to a tribe spokesman.
Chris, through his work for the community college foundation, had established a scholarship in memory of his late wife, Denise Best. Now, his name will be added to the scholarship. They leave behind two daughters.