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Tony Richards, centre, with his five children. Photo SUPPLIED

Cars, community and camaraderie: remembering Tony Richards


The drinks and the memories were flowing in equal measure when friends and family came together to celebrate the life of Francis Tony “FT” Richards. 

It seemed as if all of Thames Valley had a tale to tell about Tony, no matter how they knew him; from the colleagues admiring his business savvy, the staff appreciating his warm-heartedness, and the community leaders praising his generosity; to the sports buddies he travelled the world with, the close mates he partied hard with, and the family members he loved with all his heart. 

By all accounts Tony Richards was a humble and genuine man, and as the anecdotes flowed, it was clear that Thames was poorer for having lost him. 

“He was a bit of a hard case. Loved celebrating, not too many people celebrated like he did,” son Wayne Richards said. 

“[But] I think he should be remembered as a very community-minded businessman. I don’t know if people realise how generous he was.”  

Tony was a stalwart contributor to the community over his lifetime, raffling vehicles and raising funds to support causes such as the Paeroa community pool, the Life Education Trust, and the Hauraki Plains hockey pavilion. 

“Anything that the community came to him with, he was always willing to find a way to support it, whether it was money, time, vehicles, or all of these. He’d give anyone an opportunity,” Wayne said. 

His generosity of spirit also extended to those close to him. 

“Dad treated his staff as family and always held a huge amount of respect for them,” Wayne said. 

“And he was very proud of having his family carry on the business.”

Most of Tony’s working life was spent with Toyota. He took on the Valley Toyota franchise with the late John Muir and Bruce Muir as his business partners, followed shortly thereafter by Tony Richards Toyota in Paeroa. 

Along with the business came a keen interest in motorsports, a complement to his lifelong passion for rugby. 

“He loved his sports, he loved supporting and he loved participating. He was world-renowned at the end of the day, he’d been all around the world doing rugby,” Wayne said. 

Tony passed away peacefully on December 17, surrounded by his family. Wayne said the family was grateful for the community’s continued support and messages of love. 

Tony’s legacy will live on through his children Stephen and Julie; Donna, Sue and Matt; Wayne and Rosie; Craig and Karen; Mark and Lisa, and step-children Mitch, Katie and Stephanie; and his 13 grandchildren, five great-grandchildren, and six step-grandchildren.

“Forever a legend, forever a hero. May you rest forever in our love,” they said.