Warren County resident Don Richards died on Friday, March 4, 2016 in Lynn Care Center, Front Royal, Virginia.
Don was born on February 1st, 1928 in Brooklyn, New York. Don was the son of the late Henry and Bessie Resnikoff, and was also preceded in death by his sister, Harriett R. Metzendorf. He graduated from Syracuse University, earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications. Don was a veteran having served in the United States Navy during World War II. He spent his entire career as a radio/television broadcaster and media performer.
After graduating high school in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, Don enlisted in the United States Navy. He served aboard Navy destroyer, the USS Hyman. Following his naval service Don entered Syracuse University, majoring in communications and graduating in 1951. His first broadcast job as an announcer was with WFBL in Syracuse, NY. That same year he transferred to WIBX, Utica, New York as an announcer. After winning a major audition, Don advanced to WTOP AM-FM-TV in Washington, D.C. It was at these stations that his broadcast career advanced quickly. He was Walter Cronkite’s announcer and later succeeded him as Washington’s “Esso Television Reporter”, anchoring the 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. news.
As the lead anchorman he established a vast and loyal audience including President Dwight Eisenhower and Secretary of State John Foster Dulles. Don achieved international fame as host of The United States Information Agency’s television program, “Let’s Learn English”. The program was viewed in 50 countries worldwide with an estimated daily audience of 50 million viewers. Don was tapped as “the world’s most viewed television personality”. He received fan mail from around the globe.
In 1973 Don left WTOP to pursue free-lance assignments. He was much in demand as an on/off cameral narrator and radio-television spokesman. In his long career Don appeared in, and/or narrated, over ten thousand commercials and videos. His longest association was with the Rosenthal Automotive Organization. He represented that company as a radio-television spokesman for over 30 years. Nationally, Don was the on camera spokesman for Skippy Peanut Butter, as well as many other national products. His credits also include broadcasts from the White House as presidential announcer.
Locally, Don voiced commercials for Jack Evans Chevrolet, First Bank, Valley Health, and Blue Ridge Shadows Golf Resort. And for many years Don was sought after as a photographic model appearing on many magazine covers.
Don was always fascinated by the early days of radio broadcasting. In order to relive those days Don created the “Radio Mystery Theater”. He introduced to live audiences live recreations of radio programs that originally aired during the Golden Age of Radio. The programs featured live onstage casts and sound effects utilizing the original scripts from that era of broadcasting. Ticket sales resulted in significant donations to nonprofit organizations such as the Blue Ridge Arts Council and the Humane Society of Warren County. His shows were also presented in Washington and Maryland. For ten years Don was a Special Deputy Sheriff for the Warren County Sheriff’s Office, proudly serving the Blue Mountain Subdivision.
Don is survived by his two sons: Ronald H. Resnick of Hypoluxo, Florida and his wife, Renee, and by Randall L. Richards of Linden, Virginia. He is also survived by one daughter, Sharon L. Resnick of Boulder City, Nevada and her partner, Ray Turner. Also surviving are Don’s two grandchildren: Nikki L. Chasteen and Ryan J. Resnick, as well as his loving companion, Susan O’Kelly.
A memorial service to remember, honor and celebrate Don’s life will be held at Omps South Chapel on Monday, April 4, 2016. Visitation from 11:00 a.m. and service at 12 noon, followed immediately by a reception at Omps South Chapel: 1260 Front Royal Pike, Winchester, Virginia 22602. 540-722-2400: [email protected] Don’s ashes will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery at a later date.
The family would like to express their heartfelt thanks to the entire staff at Warren Memorial Hospital and Lynn Care Center for the love, care and support that was shown to Don. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Warren Memorial Hospital Foundation – Lynn Care Center Fund; or to the Humane Society of Warren County; or to the Blue Ridge Arts Council of Front Royal, Virginia.