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Yale 62

Richard A. Ehrlich

Richard Alan Ehrlich
Nov. 19, 1941—Oct. 1, 2016

Richard A. Ehrlich was the eldest and only son of four children born to Samuel and Rose Goldberg Ehrlich of New Mahoning, PA. Because he was the top student of this class, his mother’s eye was caught by an article in Life Magazine about supporting bright students. The article offered scholarships to selective students to attend prep schools and so she applied for him. And thus Richard joined our class, after four years at Hotchkiss, with an intent to major in Architecture.

However, Richard only stayed two years. At the end of sophomore year a professor in that major suggested that Richard’s soul and heart weren’t in being an architect and thus he should drop out, join the Army, and “get his act together,” which, surprisingly, he did. He liked Yale but not how the major was then being taught, and so in 2013 he wrote to Yale wishing to re-enroll to complete his degree. His wish was not granted as he’d dropped out, not resigned!

He served three years as a Green Beret in Vietnam, severely injuring his legs in three plane accidents. He stayed on as a USAID employee, an agency he served for 10 years, until he medically retired. Though opposed to the war, Richard was responsible for projects near Saigon as a Provincial Administrator, and then was assigned to Washington, DC.

Furniture design and making was a hobby he’d begun to develop when in Washington, so a friend suggested that he should consider going into business doing that. In a short time, he employed 300 employees making furniture he’d designed. At his 50th reunion at Hotchkiss, he was delighted to find his furniture in all of the common spaces.

He sold his business when his second daughter was born in 1990, and then became involved in mentoring disadvantaged youth, and after 9/11, returning veterans. Because of that work he learned he had PTSD, which often woke him early, a time he put to use baking bread. The Veterans Administration-based mentoring led to establishing a non-profit to train the vets in medical technology. It also led Richard to develop software for V.A. nursing homes to facilitate transferring their paper records to IT.

While in Vietnam, he married his interpreter, Nghuen,, and when the US was beginning to evacuate the country, he chartered a plane and flew her and 50 family members out. They did not have children, and were later divorced. He remarried a Ms. Ladenbush and sired two daughters, Jaffa and Mia who survived him, but he and Ms. Ladenbush soon divorced.

On November 11, 2011, he married Sigrid Hirsch, who survives him, as does one of his sisters. He met Sigrid on a dance floor in Austin, TX. She reports that he was a very good dancer who took her on dates on his Triumph motorcycle. She said he had a great interest in music, played the piano very well and was a talented clarinetist. Richard died October 1, 2016 after battling heart complications for a number of years.

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