People of Willmar – Richard Falk

Richard Falk knew he wanted to serve in some way.  Having just returned from St. Olaf to help his dad in the Oil business, he applied to both the Peace Corps and his local church.  The church replied first.  They gave him three choices; the first was to go to an area of New Guinea where it rained 400 inches of rain a year, the second was Afghanistan, and the third was Ethiopia.  He picked Ethiopia and paid his own way.

Richard would eventually travel to Africa roughly a dozen times, including six times as a volunteer for the Lutheran, Presbyterian and Reformed churches.  On one of those trips, Richard mentioned to then Mayor Bill Fergusson that he would be leaving in 10 days. By the time he left, the community had collected $25,000.00 to send with him for famine relief.   One trip was 13 months in duration and his wife and daughter went as well.

A local art teacher had caught Richards attention when he moved home, and they were married. Richard was a realtor in the Willmar area for 34 years and has been very active in the community as well.  He has served a couple of terms on the Rice Hospital board, is a Gideon, and served two terms on the school board during the era when Ridgewater College was started.  He was elected to three terms as a County Commissioner and was a member of the Lions for 45 years.  Richard is a member of the Charter Commission for the City of Willmar. In addition to Africa, they traveled extensively to the former Soviet Union as well, including remote areas of Siberia.

Richard and his wife hosted nine foreign students over the years.  Eight from Ethiopia and one from Mali.  Because of his time in Africa, Richard became involved in the “Friendship Force.”  Believing that a world of friends is a world of peace, Richard served as Chairman of the Board of Trustees for the organization.

After a battle with Muscular Dystrophy, Richard’s wife, an accomplished artist, passed away in 2011. In 2012, he married a lady he dated in High School and hadn’t seen in 50 years.  She is originally from Atwater.  They winter in Mesa, Arizona where they are a part of a very large Lutheran Church.  He serves on the Church Council, is Head of Missions and is the Chairman of on the Call Committee.  Richard went through the training process to become a Stephen’s Minister and provides one on one ministry to help others.

Richard enjoys meeting friends for coffee in the morning, many of which are classmates from the Willmar High School graduating class of 1955.   He has enjoyed lifelong friendships with his high school and college classmates.

He notes that life is good and he does what he enjoys.  Fortunately for the community of Willmar, MN, and countless others throughout the world, Richard enjoys serving others.

– Marn Steinwand