Richard Vance French

Richard Vance French

January 05, 1934 - June 02, 2024

Richard Vance French

January 05, 1934 - June 02, 2024


Richard French passed away on June 2nd in the skilled nursing facility at Freedom Village, Lake Forest CA at the age of 90, after a long illness. He was also known as “Salty” by his family and “Dudley’s dad” by the residents of Freedom Village, in reference to his beloved Boston Terrier.

Dick was born January 5, 1934, in Holbrook, Massachusetts to Llewellyn S. French and Mary Vance (born Roche). He attended Lowell schools and graduated from Northeastern University in 1957 with a degree in electrical engineering on an ROTC scholarship. He served in the Signal Corps where he met and married his wife, Lt. Joyce M. Grover on February 12, 1960, at Fort Ritchie, Maryland. In 1962, they moved to southern New York, where Dick worked for the Federal Systems Division of IBM for nearly 30 years. In 1991, they moved to Orange County, California, where Dick worked on electrical avionics for a variety of defense projects with Loral Space & Communications and Northrop Grumman, including the B-2 Spirit Bomber. After the death of his wife Joyce in 2001, Dick served as host to a series of grandchildren who wished to study and work for a time in California. Later, he moved to Freedom Village in Lake Forest, where he has lived for the past several years.

Dick was an avid adventurer who loved hiking, mountaineering, and cycling, passing his love of the outdoors to his children. He and his son Ken became ADK 46ers, an achievement of climbing the highest 46 peaks in the Adirondack Mountains in New York. He traveled extensively throughout the United States to visit some of the great places for hiking, including climbing in the Grand Tetons with his daughter Nancy. He took several challenging cycling trips with his son Will with Adventure Cycling, a tour and advocacy organization for cycling accessibility. At age 72, he completed an unsupported group cycling tour crossing the entire United States from California to Florida. In addition, he was a longtime ham radio operator and machine knitter.

Dick was predeceased by his parents and wife Joyce, two sisters Mary Ruth Shemkus and Louise Van Pelt, and brother Robert French. He is survived by his sons Will (Barb) French in Rochester, NY, and Ken (Beth) French of Geneva, NY; daughter Nancy (Patrick) Meler of Weaverville, NC, and brother Kenneth French, Salem NH; seven grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren, and several nieces and nephews. He is also survived by Dudley, who is being spoiled rotten by his granddaughter Katie.

There will be no public services. Instead of flowers, please consider a memorial donation in his name to the Adventure Cycling Association ( or the Adirondack Mountain Club ( The interment will be in Carolina Memorial Sanctuary at a future date.


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