Joseph Claver Richardson, a retired teacher and World War II veteran who was the patriarch of a family of nearly 60 children and grandchildren, died of cardiac arrest related to asthma Jan. 8 at Sinai Hospital. He was 89 and lived in Walbrook Junction.
Born in Baltimore and raised on Madison Avenue, he attended St. Peter Claver and St. Pius V schools. According to a 1944 Afro-American article, he had been recommended for ordination to the Roman Catholic priesthood by Archbishop Michael J. Curley. He was sent to the St. Augustine Seminary in Bay St. Louis, Mo. He spent four years there and later studied at St. Mary's Mission House in Techny, Ill. The article said he excelled in Latin.
He returned to Baltimore in 1943 for additional study in math and English at Morgan State University. He was then drafted into military service during World War II. He served in a medical unit in New Guinea and the Philippines.
After his discharge he studied for the priesthood in the Josephite Seminary in Washington, D.C. Earlier, he had been a student with the Benedictine and Society of Divine Word religious orders.
"My father was a devout Catholic and recognized he had a call from God," said his son, Frank Richardson of Baltimore. "He entered the seminary at 15. He was never ordained and was urged by his seminarian leaders to try teaching. In the days of segregation, they did not know where they could put him."
His pastor, the Rev. Donald Sterling of the New All Saints Roman Catholic Church in Forest Park, recalled Mr. Richardson as a "faith-filled man" who "wouldn't let the devil have the upper hand." He called him "hardworking, a committed contributor."
He also said that when Mr. Richardson brought his family to services, "They were so large, I called them the nation of Richardsons."
After earning a bachelor of arts at the Catholic University of America, he joined the Baltimore City Department of Education and taught at the Windsor Hills, Martin Luther King and William Lemmel schools. He also sold real estate and insurance in Walbrook.
"He was decked out in one of his many three-piece suits," said his daughter, Marisstella Vismale of Baltimore. "He was topped with a rugged cowboy hat. Claver was happy and energetic and always greeted people, even strangers, with jokes and smiles. His motto was 'Trust God.'"
As a young man he visited Africa and taught in Liberia and Ghana and taught religion at local churches. He also studied at Loyola University of Maryland.
"My father would always say that the spiritual training for the priesthood was his most important preparation and tool for a successful marriage and family life," his son said.
Mr. Richardson wrote religious plays, including one called "Christmas in Hell," inspired by his service in the Army. He also wrote another drama, "The Many Faces of Mary," which was also performed in his church.
"He was totally committed to his faith and family," said the Rev. Sy Peterka, pastor of St. Cecilia's Church.
Family members said he and his wife took their children to visit the old Kenesaw Nursing Home to pray, sing and greet the sick. He also assisted the homeless in West Baltimore.
Mr. Richardson was a member of the Knights of Columbus and the Legion of Mary. On Fridays, he and his wife visited prisons.
In addition to his son and daughter, survivors include his wife of nearly 52 years, the former Ann Elizabeth Sewell; four other sons, Jude Richardson, Joseph Richardson, Benedict Richardson and Raymond Richardson; nine other daughters, Martina Efeyini-Richardson, Anna McClain-Howell, Cecilia Parker, Michelle Richardson, Catherine Richardson, Angela Richardson, Mary Palmer, Maria Tates and Carmelita Richardson; 43 grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. The survivors are all from the Baltimore area.
A Mass was offered Friday at the New All Saints Roman Catholic Church.