By BILL BULEY
Coeur d’Alene Press Staff Writer | November 21, 2020 1:08 AM
COEUR d’ALENE — Joy Richards used to think museums were boring places where artifacts were held at the end of their life.
Now, she knows museums are where history comes to life.
“A place where people can gather to learn not only about the past, but also have experiences about what’s happening today,” Richards said.
Friday, Richards donated $150,000 to The Museum of North Idaho on behalf of the John Morgan Richards Family.
The funds will go toward the museum’s $4.5 million Moving History Forward project, which includes renovations to the J.C. White House, site design and development, an expanded lower level wing, and a rooftop terrace for its new future home at McEuen Park.
Board-approved designs of the new space are set to be made public Dec. 1.
Richards said the donation was also a tribute to her late husband, John, who died in 2018.
“I learned of the need and thought this was a great way to honor my husband,” she said.
John Richards was a third-generation lumberman from Coeur d’Alene, attended school here, graduated from Stanford University with a degree in economics and earned an MBA from Harvard.
The Richards family has ties to the timber industry dating back to the 1920s. John Richards started at the family business of Idaho Forest Industries in St. Maries, which sold to Potlatch Corp., where John worked his way up to CEO.
John Richards and his twin brother, Tom, were inducted into the Idaho Hall of Fame in 2014 for their outstanding leadership in the lumber industry and generosity to the community.
“He loved this area,” Joy Richards said. “He always had a home here.”
Dave Patzer, chair of the museum’s capital campaign committee, said the Richards family has long been generous in North Idaho. He said they were behind July 4 fireworks over Hayden Lake.
“We started that only because my husband did not want to come down to Lake Coeur d’Alene with a 5-year-old,” Joy Richards said, laughing. “We had it right from our house, right there next to the country club. And it grew into something quite special.”
The Museum of North Idaho has received a total of $525,000 in naming opportunity donations for the Moving History Forward project in 2020.
In October, MNI received a $100,000 donation on behalf of the Juditta and Martin Brandvold Family. The donor, Glen Brandvold, lives in New Mexico; however, he has used MNI’s library to trace his family lineage in the Coeur d’Alene region. The Brandvold Family are proud Norwegians with roots in Coeur d’Alene from over a century. Glen Brandvold has been a member of the museum since 2009.
In July, Jack and Helen Yuditsky donated $100,000.
The first naming opportunity sold early in 2020 to the Widmyer family.
MNI’s vision is to be a premier regional museum, and these donations will assist with renovations to the historic J.C. White House planned for 2020-2021.
Its current home is next to City Park.
“A larger facility, built to professional standards, is the foundation for the museum’s ability to remain the center for historical programming in the Inland Northwest,” a press release said.
Britt Thurman, Museum of North Idaho executive director, said community support is needed for the expansion.
“To have people like Joy is why we’re able to do what it is we’re doing with the White House,” she said. “We are so absolutely grateful.”
Museum board member Julie Gibbs said they are excited about the strong support the museum has received.
“We are fortunate there are people like Joy with deep roots in the community who have chosen to support the museum,” she said.
Museum Development Director Jocelyn Babcock said that due to the success of their virtual gala and donations from supporters, the museum has almost reached its 2020 fundraising goal.
“And, in a time of COVID, that is amazing,” she wrote. “We could not have done that without the support of our generous community.”
Joy Richards said she is glad to do what she can so people can learn about North Idaho’s history, particularly in the lumber and mining industries.
Her late husband, she said, treasured this area, and she does too.
“I love this community and I plan to be there for a long time,” she said.