Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the Nov. 13 Tampa Bay Times and is published here with their permission. The story is also on their website at http://bit.ly/2qOcMpf .
Michael Joe Richardson’s family says their brother never met a stranger.
Richardson, 55, was the kind of man who would help old ladies carry their bags at the grocery store. The Redington Shores man loved his mother, the Cincinnati Bengals and Florida fishing, they said.
“He loved America and he loved God,” said his sister, Peggy Greene. “That’s what you heard him talk about all the time.”
He was an Army veteran who died on Veterans Day.
Richardson was the man killed Monday afternoon when a wrong-way driver slammed into a public bus, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.
Richardson, an avid cyclist, was loading his bike onto the front of a Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority bus that had stopped in Indian Rocks Beach. The bus was on southbound Gulf Boulevard when deputies said a northbound SUV crossed over and struck the front of the bus just before 2 p.m. Monday.
Paramedics flew Richardson to Bayfront Health St. Petersburg for emergency medical treatment. He was later pronounced dead at the hospital. He left behind a son and three grandchildren.
Deputies identified David Larry Schwab, 58, of New Hartford, Iowa as the driver of the 2016 Ford Flex that killed Richardson. Schwab, who sustained minor injuries in the crash, was also taken to a local hospital to be treated for less severe injuries.
At the hospital, deputies said Schwab consented to have his blood taken. Tests revealed that his blood-alcohol content level was 0.083. Florida law presumes a driver is impaired with a BAC of 0.08 or greater.
Schwab was booked at the hospital on charges of DUI manslaughter and DUI with property damage. He was then released after posting $20,500 bail. He could not be reached for comment.
Greene, a homemaker in Ohio, said her brother Michael Richardson was one of nine children. Soon after graduating from Clarskville, Ohio’s Clinton-Massie High School, he enlisted in the Army to support his wife and son, Greene said. After completing basic training in South Carolina, Richardson served in Germany for a number of years.
But even to his family, Richardson’s military career is something of a mystery.
“He doesn’t talk about that stuff,” Greene said.
Richardson returned to the states in his mid-20s dealing with several issues. His sister said he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and had a drinking problem. His first marriage fell apart soon after he returned home.
A decade later he remarried. He made a comfortable living as a union electrician, his sister said.
He quit electrical contracting about 10 years ago and moved to Florida to live a “simpler life,” said his brother Russell Richardson. That’s about when Michael Richardson’s second marriage also ended.
Still, he remained close to his family. Almost every day, Michael Richardson would text his octogenarian mother pictures of glorious Florida sunsets.
Greene said she and their parents visited her brother in Florida, and he took them all fishing. Their father caught a baby hammerhead shark, then released it. He passed away last year.
Michael Richardson spent years in the sunshine state trying to get clean, his sister said, biking and fishing and basking in the warmth of his new adopted home.
But he struggled financially in the final years of his life, Greene said. Even though he was barely scraping by on disability, she said her brother always gave money to fellow veterans he met on the street.
“He had a lot of love,” Russell Richardson said of his brother. “He loved his family dearly.”
Times senior news researcher Caryn Baird and staff writer Tony Marrero contributed to this report. Contact Kirby Wilson at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @kirbywtweets. Contact Tony Marrero at email@example.com or (813) 226-3374. Follow @tmarrerotimes.