Richard James Deely: 1936 – 2022

Congenial, determined, and sociable, Richard James ‘Dick’ Deely died peacefully on 15 June 2022 in Ossining, NY. He was born in New York City on 23 November 1936 to Dorothy ‘Dot’ Deely, née Casey, and Richard Francis Deely. Dick grew up in the town of Little Neck, or what he always noted was the “first stop after Queens” on the Long Island Railroad. He was the older of two children. His brother Brian was born three years later, in 1939. A true gentleman, known for his engaging manner, love of good food, and conversation, Richard put others at ease with humor and a wide smile.

As a child, Richard was inseparable from his younger brother Brian, and the two spent time fishing and target shooting, as well as roaming the neighborhood around their 248th Street home with their beagle Rusty. From early on, Richard showed a remarkable facility for the mechanics of how things worked. At age 9, he watched closely as new fighter aircraft from the nearby Grumman factory were tested in the skies over his head. As he grew, he became more adept at fixing and building things. His mother Dorothy recounted that she once returned home to discover that 11-year-old Richard had disassembled her washing machine, and then put it back together. When asked why he had done it, he replied that he “wanted to see how it worked.”

When his brother Brian succumbed to childhood leukemia after a lengthy hospitalization in 1950, Richard gained a seriousness and religiosity that stayed with him for much of his life. A devout Catholic, he attended parochial schools in Little Neck and Saint Mary’s high school in nearby Manhasset. First in his family to attend college, he majored in Economics at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, IN, graduating with full honors in 1958. Upon his return to New York, Richard devoted himself to work and his parents, teaching his middle-aged mother to drive, and rebuilding and restoring a 1929 Model ‘A’ Ford. Called for the draft, Dick served proudly in the Army Reserves until a severe case of pneumonia almost killed him and resulted in an honorable discharge. When his father purchased a quixotic retirement property in rural Vermont, Dick worked tirelessly to help his parents realize a full restoration of a 1790s farmhouse that initially contained no plumbing, heating, or electricity.

While living with his parents, Richard worked in New York City for Shell Oil Company during the 1960s. It was outside of work one day in 1969, while watching the parade held along Broadway for the returning Apollo astronauts, that he was introduced to Diana Lee Dismuke, an opera singer turned corporate personnel manager at Shell who became his wife in November of 1970. The couple shared a love of history, reading, the arts, and politics, and made their first home together in Manhattan, where Dick attended Fordham Law School in the evenings, and where they welcomed their first child, Richard William, in 1971. After graduating from Fordham, Dick went to work for New York based tugboat operator Moran Towing Company and eventually came to specialize in maritime law.

In late 1973, Richard and Diana relocated from New York City to Chappaqua in Westchester County, where they bought a house on Valley Lane and grew their family. Dick and Diana had four more children – James (1973), Elaine (1976), Allison (1978) and Kathryn (1981).

Relaxation for Dick meant being out on a still pond, in his beloved green canoe, where he attempted to imbue his children with his love for dry fly fishing (with decidedly mixed results.) He enjoyed discussing politics with his children over dinner, and model-making with his sons, or building a playhouse with a deck for his daughters. After raising all their children in Chappaqua, he and Diana sold the house they had lived in for over 20 years in 2002. Upon his retirement, Dick and Diana returned to the state of her birth, Arizona, where they acquired a large house outside of Cave Creek with a pool in anticipation of visits from their children and grandchildren.

It was in the Southwest that Dick fully explored his sense of adventure, flying in gliders held aloft by the heady air currents over the desert, or realizing the dream of acquiring and restoring a vintage 1958 Dodge Army truck he fondly recalled from his military service. Fly fishing trips to neighboring New Mexico and elsewhere were often the destination for him, his son Jim, and his youngest daughter Kat. Content with Diana, and surrounded by fellow retirees, Richard enjoyed the freedom to travel by car cross-country for visits and adventures.

He loved vacations, whether to a fishing camp in Maine or to South Carolina to see historic sites, while making sure he and Diana visited all the good restaurants along the way. Their passion for history was epitomized by their ongoing support for Colonial Williamsburg, where he and Diana had honeymooned in 1970.

When back in Cave Creek, Dick and Diana were also fixtures at the local Oaks Cafe, where the two collaborated each morning on crossword puzzles and scrabble, and Richard could be found perusing the books and periodicals during Diana’s shifts as a bookstore volunteer at the Desert Foothills Library. He particularly prized his family history and shared his Irish American family’s deep roots in Lee, Massachusetts with all who would listen. As COVID restrictions severely limited their activities in 2020, Diana’s health worsened, and she died suddenly, leaving Dick without his soulmate, constant companion, and confidante. In his final year of life, Dick was lovingly cared for by his oldest daughter Elaine, who took him on regular outings in the Hudson Valley.

Richard James Deely was preceded in death by his parents, brother Brian, his beloved wife Diana, his infant son Jonathan, and granddaughter Beatrice Lucia Milanowski. He is survived by son Richard William Deely, his wife Amy Crow, and their children David and Sadie of Claremont, CA; son James Jonathan Deely, his wife Anne, and their children Nathaniel, Benjamin, and Abraham of Deerfield, NH; daughter Elaine Katherine Heyde, her husband Damian, and their children Brianna, Meaghan, and Alexander of Yorktown, NY; daughter Allison Elizabeth Milanowski, her husband Michael, and their children Emily and Peter of Louisville, CO; daughter Kathryn Meredith Deely, her partner Taylor Bushell, and their daughter Adiantum, of Seal Harbor, ME.