Bob Richards

by Neville Coxon

Robert vas Dias was born on 20 January 1922 of Dutch parents living in Borneo, Indonesia. Speaking only Dutch and Malay at the age of seven, he was sent to school in England. When his parents divorced he lost touch with his father and later at age 14, he joined his mother and stepfather in South Africa and finished his schooling here. His name had also changed to Richards, his stepfather's name. It was to be many years later before he made contact with his father again, who was then living in Holland, and happily they were able to establish a close relationship.

During the 2nd World War he joined the Royal Air Force and took part in the Battle of Britain after which he was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross.

In 1952 he volunteered to do service in Korea with No.2 Squadron and flew 50 missions over enemy lines. During one of his R & Rs in Japan, Bob saw a 350 year old tree in the Emperor's Garden and it was this that sparked his interest in Bonsai.

After his discharge from the Air Force he tried his hand at selling real estate and later he joined British Petroleum. As a sales representative he covered a large section of the Western Cape, but home for him and Barbara was Pinelands.

Here he started his bonsai collection and soon, being the friendly, helpful person he was, he was helping others to start up their own collections.

Bob was one of the original four founder members of the Cape Bonsai Kai in the mid-sixties. At this time he also started his commercial venture, turning out thousands of commercial bonsai, many of which formed the foundation of aspiring bonsaiists' collections both locally and elsewhere in the country.

It was after Bob and Barbara had moved to their new home, Bonsai Garden in Tokai, that I really got to know Bob and learned from him the Art of Bonsai. The peace and tranquility of the garden had a profound effect on me. Along with other students we spent many hours potting, pruning and watering trees under his watchful eye. I remember in particular one workshop in April 1984 in Bob's garden, where a large crowd of Kai members spent a wonderful afternoon learning and talking "bonsai". It was such an interesting experience not to even mention the tea and eats afterward.

Bob was my teacher, my friend, a kind man, a man who will be missed.

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On the weathered shelf

A self-cleaned cat in autumn

Curls around itself.

Random Bonsai Tip

Tree stabilizers - Sew cotton/canvas tubes or use plastic shopping bags partly fill with sand and use as stabilizers when transporting trees by car.