Richard Lee French, born in Santa Rosa on June 26, 1937, passed away peacefully at home on March 8, 2020 at the age of 82. He was the only child of Lee and Mary French, and lived his entire life on the ranch that his grandparents homesteaded in Ettersburg during the 1890s.

Richard had a passion for operating heavy equipment, having started learning from his father, Lee, when he was very young. Even before he graduated from high school, he began helping him at work while he was the county road foreman for Southern Humboldt. As soon as Richard graduated from South Fork High in 1955, he also officially went to work for the county roads department, operating nearly every piece of equipment they had.

In the early ’60s, Richard left the county to work for Kenny Wallen, a heavy equipment contractor. They worked together for several years doing road construction projects and logging jobs from Gasquet to Mendocino. Richard had great respect for Kenny and continued working with him off and on for many years.

In the summer of 1966, Richard was working for Kenny building the Kings Range road on Kings Peak. While hauling a load of logs from there, he passed by his house in Ettersburg to find Sally Pool, the woman who would become his future wife, visiting with his mother in the front yard. Sally had come up from Los Angeles to visit her parents, who had recently purchased a piece of property from Richard’s parents. The two started dating and then married in April of 1968.

Shortly after they got married, Richard became self-employed. He did equipment work and logging on the ranch, and later included roadwork all over the Ettersburg area and surrounding communities. Richard’s equipment operating skills were legendary, with people often calling him to help them out of difficult situations. His capable presence on the ranch and all over Ettersburg will be greatly missed.

Richard is predeceased by his parents and cousins from the French, Tosten and Thomas families. He is survived by his wife Sally and their three children. Garrett French (wife Emily and children - Jilienne, Leora and Sterling), Joanna Leppanen (husband Mark and children - Andrew, David, Amy Jane and Miles) and Maurie Hobbs (husband Marty and children - Daphne and Logan). He is also survived by his cousin Deanna Goff and her family. Friends and family are invited to a memorial to be held at the French residence on June 12th at 2 p.m.

A special thank you to Hospice of Southern Humboldt. Memorial donations can be made to Hospice, American Cancer Society of Eureka or your favorite charity.


The obituary above was submitted on behalf of Richard French’s loved ones. The Lost Coast Outpost runs obituaries of Humboldt County residents at no charge. See guidelines here.