Wilmer Siegfried Richter 

1891 - 1993 

Wilmer's  first known original watercolor owned by the family.  Painted at 15 1/2 years old.

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Wilmer Siegfried Richter, born January 20 1891 in Philadelphia, PA, is known as Grandpa Richter to those of us related to this branch of the family, headed by his only son, Wilmer C. and wife Bertha.  Gpa and Gma Caroline also had two daughters, Dorrit Richter Riggles and Carol (Cass) Richter Clark.  Gpa Richter was a successful, listed artist who lived during most of the 20th century, dying at the age of 102 in 1993.  He painted hundreds (perhaps thousands?) of pictures, over an 80 year period working in all media. Many interesting and quirky stories follow describing him as quite a character, prolific artist, accomplished pianist, and practical joker.  

In order to create a retrospective of his life's work, the family is looking for info/works/relatives, especially WIlmer's grandchildren. His daughter Dorrit Richter Riggles's children are named Nancy and Wendy. Daughter Carol (Cass) Richter Clark's children are named Jeff, Chris, Jason, and Jennifer. Wilmer and his family retired to Sarasota, FL in 1947. Last known addresses are in or near Sarasota. All of the grandchildren are over 60 and could be located anywhere. There are also younger great-grandchildren.

Around 1985, Wilmer moved to Lakeland, FL to the home of Dr Mary Creamer, who cared for him until his death in 1993. Mary has a son named James. He has two sisters whom we are anxious to find. He was one of 9 artists joining a co-op at Imperial Gallery made possible in part by Richard Meland and Mal Surrency.  Those artists include Dudley Uphoff, Sharon Haeusler, Joan Nixon, Mary Conn, Win Burks, Gloria Elasky, Mal Surrency, and Edith Younger. We would like to find any of these artists.  He was also a member of the local sketch club in Lakeland.

Keep in mind Wilmer’s paintings could be found in galleries or homes in any Florida city, near Jersey Shore, PA, and near Philadelphia.

Please send photos and information to lindakham21@gmail.com

Thank you in advance for any help you may provide. 

-Linda K Ham, Head of Research and Development

-Lee Richter, Grandson 

-Megan Muyres, Website Developer

Resting Under The Bed by Linda Ham

I have been asked why I took on this project. After giving it some thought, I decided to tell you about the day I was introduced to Wilmer's work. It was the first time I met Lee Richter's parents, Wilmer C. (Rick) and Bertha (Bert) Richter. 

"Come upstairs, I want to show you something," said Bert. 

She led me to the bottom of a very narrow, steep staircase. More like a ladder, we navigated each riser by holding onto the next step. It was clear the rooms on the upper level were converted attic space. Once in the room, Bert pulled a large flat cardboard box from under the bed. Protected by no more than wrapping tissue, Bert showed me the contents. One by one, dozens of original watercolor paintings were spread out over the bed and the floor. They took my breath away!

Most are 30 to 50 years old and although they were not carefully separated, the dark storage box protected the vibrancy of the colors. They appeared undamaged. How they came to rest under a bed in central Pennsylvania led me on a journey that changed my life.

The pictures were painted by listed artist Wilmer S. Richter, Bert's father-in-law. Born in 1891 in Philadelphia, he was sketching as a boy but his father pushed for a career in music. His father saw his doodling as a waste of time and as a huge disappointment.  Wilmer credits his mother and his 9th-grade teacher for recognizing his exceptional talent. They encouraged him to pursue art as a viable profession.

Bert married Wilmer's son in 1945. After the war, the young couple settled in Jersey Shore, PA. In 1948, the senior Richters moved to Sarasota, FL where Wilmer became affiliated with the Ringling Museum of Art and taught art at the Ringling School and at a gallery in Venice, FL. 

In the 1960s, 1970s, and beyond, the Richters returned almost every summer to visit their son and his wife, Bert. During these visits, Wilmer painted and sketched daily. He traveled extensively all over the area. He was especially fond of the beautiful farms in the region, sketching and painting numerous barns. Many of the pictures from under the bed were painted "en plain air" during this time.

The number of paintings left behind grew. A few were framed and hung in Bert's modest home. Some were sold or donated to the local museums, but many ended up in a box under the bed. For Bert, they represented the inconvenience of guests who stayed too long, increasing her workload, cooking, and laundry. I'm sure many people can relate to the relief of having guests return home and having your own routine back to normal.

For me, the treasure was exciting and clearly valuable. After our visit, Lee produced 8 watercolor paintings from storage that I didn't know he had. One by one, I had them framed and hung in our home. I was appreciating Grandpa Richter's watercolors every day. 

I vowed to try to learn to paint. Upon retiring, I joined an art league and began my study of watercolors. I can now paint pictures that I am willing to hang, and I continue to practice, practice, practice.