This story was written by Pete Blanchard of the Cortland Voice, partner of the Ithaca Voice.
CORTLAND, N.Y. – Hundreds of people lined the walls of St. Paul Lutheran Church Saturday to pay their respects to 20-year-old Eric Henry Richardson, a Virgil man who died in a tragic accident at a popular gorge in Ithaca.
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Richardson died in late July while cliff jumping with friends at Ithaca’s Second Dam.
The cause of the drowning remains unclear. Friends and bystanders reportedly jumped into the water several times before they were able to bring him to the surface.
Richardson was well known in the community, having graduated from Cortland High School in 2013. A talented athlete, he was a starting linebacker for the high school football team and an aspiring professional skier.
Friends remember Richardson as fearless, caring and adventurous, a great motivator who loved to get others involved in recreational activities.
“He could persuade you so easily,” says Kyle Romer, a lifelong friend who lives next door to Richardson’s aunt and uncle. “If you said no, he could keep talking and make you want to do something, even though you don’t want to do it.”
Richardson was known for spending time in nature, socializing with friends and skiing at Greek Peak Mountain Resort, where his grandfather worked for many years.
Two unfortunate injuries forced Richardson to postpone skiing. Twice he tore his ACL, first in ninth grade and later during his junior year.
Despite these setbacks, friends say he was determined to pursue professional skiing.
“He was completely fearless,” Romer says. “You hit a 50-foot gap, he’s going for the 75-foot gap. It was just how he was.”
Not long after graduating high school, Richardson moved to Colorado, where he spent his time skiing and working part-time jobs. He was back in the Cortland area in July to visit friends and family for the summer.
Beyond his talents, Richardson is remembered by his close friends as a jovial, caring person who was never afraid of being embarrassed.
“He was one of the only kids that actually lived his dreams,” says Kody Cranston, who played football with Richardson at Cortland High School.
On any given day, Richardson could be seen doing a handstand on a surfboard, skiing down a Colorado mountain or swimming underwater with his GoPro camera.
More recently, he became enamored with photography, taking pictures of scenery wherever he went and posting photos on social media.
When asked how he thinks his friend would like to be remembered, Cranston paused and delivered a thoughtful reply.
“He’s the king of peace. He’s a very good human and a leader of peace. If he really cares about you, and you’re down, he’s down until you’re up. That’s how he is…I think he’d like to be remembered as a king, cause that’s what he is.”
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