Richens Elijah Brigham was born in Corvallis, Oregon on June 8, 1922 to Marie McNeal Brigham and Leslie Elijah Brigham. The second of four children, Richens outlived all of his siblings: Martha Brigham Beamer, James Leslie Brigham, and Larue Brigham Stier. He spent his youth in Portland, Oregon before his family moved to Washington D.C. in 1939, when his father took a job with the Secretary of War. He graduated from Washington-Lee High School in 1940 and enrolled at Cornell University in the School of Engineering. World War II interrupted Richens’ college career and he served in France and Germany, most notably in the Battle of the Bulge. After returning from the war, he returned to his family in Washington D.C. and began attending classes at George Washington University.
It was there that he met Elizabeth Dean. He swept her off her feet and they married in August of 1948, after they had both completed their undergraduate degrees, his from Cornell University in Civil Engineering, and hers from George Washington University in Psychology. Together they moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico where their first child, David Richens was born. In 1950 they returned to Washington D.C. where Richens and Betty welcomed seven more children over the next seventeen years.
Richens had a varied and successful career, working early on as a carpenter on numerous projects including the National Cathedral in Washington D.C. After passing his certification exam and becoming a Professional Civil Engineer, he worked for the Army Corps of Engineers for several years and then joined N.A.S.A., working on the space program. He later worked for the Defense Intelligence Agency, and completed his career working for the Architect of the Capitol in the Executive branch of the Federal Government. He managed projects including the design and construction of an addition to the Library of Congress and the completion of the Sam Rayburn Senate Office building.
While Richens was building his career and raising his children, he designed and built the family home in Arlington, Virginia, doing all of the work himself in the evenings and weekends over the course of twelve years. In 1964, the family moved into the six-bedroom house he had made with his own hands.
Richens and Elizabeth were always active in the church and raised all of the children in the church. Raising that many children was never easy, but they succeeded in passing on important values to their children which included the importance of maintaining a sense of personal integrity, valuing education, treating others with compassion, and the virtue of honest work.
After his wife and family, Richens loved automobiles. In his garage in St. George is his pride and joy; the Dodge that his parents purchased 1924. Over the years, he bought numerous used cars and, in his meticulous way, returned them to working order, first for his immediate family, and later for his children as they grew up and left home.
In the summer of 1990, Richens initiated a hiking trip from the north to the south rim of the Grand Canyon for himself and Betty, six of their children and one grandchild. He and Betty flew into St. George, Utah where they rented a car to drive to the north rim. It was on that trip that they discovered the beauty and charm of St. George and made the spontaneous decision to move to St. George for their retirement. Upon returning to Arlington, Virginia, they courageously announced their decision to their dubious children, put their home on the market and sorted through forty years of accumulated belongings. In the summer of 1992, they drove across the country and rented a condominium in St. George. They had left a lifetime of friends and family to return to their beloved southwest where they knew not a soul. Over the next few years, they found a beautiful home on the banks of the Virgin River and made many beloved friends.
In time, they chose to join the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. These eighteen years in St. George were the happiest times in Richens and Betty’s marriage as they created a new life together and renewed their commitment to each other in retirement.
Richens passed on to make a new home for Betty and himself on Monday, June 9, 2014. He was preceded in death by two of his daughters, Merry Alice Brigham and Lisa Christine McCarthy.
He is survived by his beloved wife, Betty, his children, David Richens Brigham (Laura), Carol Lynn Brigham, James Elijah Brigham (Michelle), Leslie Marie Finn (Edward), Stephen Dean Brigham, and Richard Matthew Brigham (Kirsten), as well as fourteen grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren.
On Sunday, June 8, 2014, Richens celebrated his 92nd birthday with his beloved wife and daughter. This was a milestone he and his family and prayed he would reach, and it was a peaceful and loving occasion.
- There will be a public viewing at 10 a.m. on Saturday, June 14, 2014, followed by funeral services at 11 a.m. in the Bloomington Hills Sixth Ward LDS Chapel, 750 Fort Pierce, St. George, UT.
- Following the service, there will be a graveside ceremony at Tonaquint Cemetery, St. George, UT.
Arrangements are made under the direction of Spilsbury Mortuary 435-673-2454.
Friends and family are invited to sign Richens’ guest book at www.spilsburymortuary.com.