Originally created 01/13/05

Mr. Richard Westcott, III (DURHAM, N.C.)



DURHAM, N.C. - Richard George Millard "Dick" Wescott, III, passed beyond his earthly existence and into joy on Wednesday, December 29, 2004. Dick was born in Essex, England, in 1924. At the age of 17, he joined the Royal Navy and served as a radio operator through most of WW II. It was there that he met Margie Lou Grimes, a lieutenant in the US Army Nursing Corps, and after a very short courtship they married in 1945. As a "war bride", he came to the US ahead of his new wife, where he found himself in stiff competition with US GI's for jobs. After several years of searching for work that would mean more than just a source of income, he found his niche at the Durham Children's Museum in the mid-60's. He began there as a volunteer, soon became the curator, and by 1970 had become Executive Director, although he continued to fill the role of curator as well. Over the years, both he and the Museum flourished. By the early 70's, when the nam e was changed to the NC Museum of Life and Science, the little green hut on Murray Avenue had grown into a complex with several buildings housing a wide range of collections, artifacts, models, and murals, highlighted through a number of permanent exhibits. With the support of local friends like Carolyn London and the late Dr. Kenneth Hall and the building of new relationships with others, such as the late Louis Purnell, at the National Air & Space Museum and Michael Collins, an Apollo 11 crew member, the museum continued to grow, building one of the finest collections of space memorabilia in the country. This exhibit featured a representation of the Apollo 11 flight and the first human step onto the moon and included one of only four, extant Lunar Landing Modules(LEM), as well as a one-of-a- kind walk through the entire process of launching a rocket, designed specifically for blind visitors. The museum also grew a significant collection of live animals and Dick began to collaborate w ith Jim Fowler and others, as they planned for the creation of an exhibit in and around the abandoned rock quarry across the street from the original complex. The narrow gauge railroad, which remains operative, was the first step in building an exciting and unique exhibit of native species living in a natural habitat. Perhaps the favorite among all of his creations, however, is the still-beloved Dinosaur Trail-more than twenty life-size models have resided along the banks of Ellerbee Creek, for some thirty years now-designed and constructed by Dick, with the help of a handful of volunteers and his ever-present "right hand, " the late Willie Holloway, after a visit to the museum by the late Dr. Louis Leakey. In the late 70's, he and Margie relocated to Augusta, GA. where he was Director of the Augusta-Richmond County Museum for the next fifteen years. Again, what was a very small and not quite focused museum, entered into an evolution of expansion and growth toward becoming a world cla ss museum, under his leadership and ingenuity. Regardless of where the work was located, Richard Wescott made it his business to know whomever and whatever was needed to make a vision become a reality. Self-taught and self-possessed, no idea was ever beyond Richard's reach. Sadly, not long after Margie's passing in 1997, it became clear that Richard was suffering from something far beyond the grief of losing his life partner. After a short time and many doctor visits, it was determined that he was suffering from a frontal lobe dementia, which limited his ability to live independently. He eventually moved to the Methodist Retirement Home at Croasdaile. He is survived by his children; grandchildren; and great-grandchildren; Vicky W. Payne and her husband Paul, of Gainesville, GA, their children Jennifer Thompson, her husband, Earl and her son, Zach, and Gretchen Gardiner and her husband, Bill; Andrea W. King and her husband, Jim, of Hillsborough NC; their children, James, his wife, Eang and their children, Olivia and Harrison, of Durham and Robin King of Wilmington; Dusty Wescott, his wife Fran and their children, Margie Lynne and Charlie, of Durham; and Kirsten Wescott and her partner, Amanda Hughes, of Durham and their children, Jennifer Lingle and her husband, Duane, of Greensboro, Emily Millay Haddad, of Brooklyn, NY and William Haddad, of Boone. All friends are welcome to contact family members as they wish. Rather than flowers, the family encourages others to make a donation to a favored charity. Sign the guestbook at AugustaChronicle.com

The Augusta Chronicle January 13, 2005