died at age 53 after a long struggle with cancer, was what a normal guy he was.
Like his father Jerry, the Panthers’ owner, Jon Richardson certainly was rich by the usual standards. But also like his father, Jon Richardson was very much a down-to-earth man.
Jon was a Panther president for 16 years – his job was to oversee the team’s stadium. He was far more comfortable in jeans than in suits. You could tell he enjoyed literally getting in on the ground level of the stadium, where the field was taken care of. He was truly earthy. That’s where I usually saw him, somewhere in the bowels of Bank of America Stadium, near the fragrant pallets of whatever was going onto the field next.
“Jon Richardson was the most humble person I’ve ever met,” said Dwight Stone, a player on the first four Panther teams. “He was such an outstanding guy – working behind the scenes, not ever caring who got the credit. He made a great difference in my life, and in the life of the Panthers just as they were getting started.”
I also saw Jon occasionally at local diners. Jon liked places that had blue-plate specials, with a meat and two vegetables for $5.99. He had a ready smile and never seemed to be in a huge hurry. When I saw him outside of the stadium, he invariably would ask about my family. He was like that. He was a devout Christian as well. He was a good athlete, too – a two-year starter at wide receiver for North Carolina in college. Jon used to play basketball on Fridays at the uptown YMCA with then-Observer beat writer Pat Yasinskas.
Jon was the oldest of Jerry and Rosalind Richardson’s three children. In 2009, both Jon and his younger brother Mark suddenly resigned their posts as Panther presidents. These resignations on the eve of the 2009 season have never been fully explained, but it was true that the brothers were not getting along well and that communication lines between the two had frayed considerably.
But today is not a day to revisit that controversy. Today is a day to remember Jon Richardson’s long and courageous battle against cancer – he fought the disease for years, even while a Panther employee. And to remember his wife and three children. And to remember what a fine man he was.
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