Richard Stephen Bartley


Died May 29, 2006

College: Calhoun

Children: Alycia, 1968

My father, Richard Bartley, approached life with an adventurous spirit and a quick wit. He was a do-it-yourself type of guy, rare for a Jewish man from the South. Not only did he complete all repairs around the house — plumbing, electrical, you name it, but Richard built his first boat at the age of 16 in his sister’s back yard, buying the wood from the proceeds of his sales as a Fuller Brush salesman. Richard loved being on the water and owned many boats throughout his life, each larger than the last. He sailed all over Europe, the Caribbean, and the US, and made multiple transatlantic trips. He was midway through the process of building a wooden boat in our backyard in Virginia Beach when he died in 2006.

After Yale, Richard served in the Coast Guard as a weatherman and then attended the Illinois College of Optometry. He married Marsha, the love of his life, in 1965 and moved back to Norfolk, VA in 1966 to purchase his father’s optometry store. Over the next 22 years, he expanded the business to include 18 offices and several labs in Virginia. One of my most memorable summer jobs was helping him install all the plumbing in one of those labs. Ultimately, Richard sold the business to an Australian company in 1986 and retired from the optical business. However, he remained busy with many activities including golf, sailing, travel, genealogy, family life, art, and charitable giving.

Richard’s love of art likely began at Yale with Vincent Scully’s famous Introduction to Art History course. On many trips to museums in different countries, he was the tour guide. That is, until I took the very same art history class 37 years later; then my poor mother was subjected to two tour guides! I say it was the same course, because when cleaning his college papers and my college notes from our attic a few years after my graduation, we realized that we had unwittingly written nearly the same paper on Greek figure vases from that introductory course!

Even through difficult times, Richard never lost his sense of humor or compassion for others. He remained devoted to his family throughout his life, and my children speak of him lovingly, particularly my older child, who spent countless hours with him in his workshop building everything from a scooter, to a ladder, to a birdhouse. While my mother was being treated for cancer, they set up a lasting fund at Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital to be used for patients who just needed a little help, i.e. for a woman to pay a babysitter to watch her children while she received chemotherapy, taxi fare to get to the hospital, glasses repair, etc. I think it was no coincidence that my father died unexpectedly a year after my mother on the morning of what was to be the unveiling of her tombstone.

— by Alycia Bartley-Heinsen, M.D. Yale 1990 (Richard’s only child)