Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Epilogue | Steven Vern Risch

Casket distributor Steven Risch treated clients with respect

Times Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG — In many ways, Steven Risch defied the stereotype of a successful businessman whose career is in sales.

He was serious and sober. He admired the tried and true and avoided gimmicks. If he had sold time-share units or used cars, maybe he would not have had a home in Causeway Isles or a boat on the lift.

But Mr. Risch sold caskets, and he did it well. In a business with no room for mistakes, he reassured with quietness and reliability.

Mr. Risch, who owned J.R. Distributors, died April 12, of pancreatic cancer. He was 59.

"He always greeted you with a warm and friendly smile and treated you like a friend," said John McQueen, the president and chief executive of Anderson-McQueen Family Tribute Centers. "We considered him to be one, too. He will be missed by the funeral industry."

At a time when most people choose cremation and you can buy a casket from Walmart, Mr. Risch stuck with principles he had learned from his father, who in the early 1960s started the family business supplying funeral homes with caskets.

"If someone needed a casket today, we would go across the state with one casket, because that's the kind of service they gave," said Kathy Risch, his wife.

He felt the same way about personalized caskets, and had been known to change out the lining at a customer's request. At least one Florida Gator fan found eternal rest in an orange and blue casket.

Mr. Risch was born in Connersville, Ind., and moved to St. Petersburg with his family two years later. He graduated from what are now known as St. Petersburg Catholic High School and St. Petersburg College, then worked for Red Lobster restaurants and delivered caskets for Bert Risch, his father.

He married Kathy Armendinger in 1974, the same year J.R. Distributors opened its doors. The warehouse receives shipments of caskets, which are then polished and inspected before being loaded into company trucks for delivery seven days a week.

Often, Mr. Risch and his wife delivered caskets personally across Florida. After they had unloaded their cargo, they might hit the beach on the Atlantic side, or swing by Cedar Key to pick up clams.

"It's almost like we had many little vacations just delivering caskets," his wife said.

Mr. Risch also enjoyed helping neighbors with their backyard projects and getting his wife to jump into their 20-foot boat to watch the sunset.

He still delivered caskets after doctors found the cancer late in 2010. But Kathy Risch did most of the driving as time went on.

Hundreds of mourners, including many in the funeral business, turned out Monday for his Mass at the Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle. Mr. Risch was buried in a brown suit, in a solid mahogany casket with white velvet lining — the top of the line.

Andrew Meacham can be reached at or (727) 892-2248.

Steven Vern Risch

Born: Oct. 16, 1952

Died: April 12, 2012

Survivors: wife Kathleen; sons Jason and Mark Risch; sister Sharon Traylor.


Steven Vern Risch

Born: Oct. 16, 1952

Died: April 12, 2012

Survivors: wife Kathleen; sons Jason and Mark Risch; sister Sharon Traylor.

Casket distributor Steven Risch treated clients with respect 04/19/12 [Last modified: Thursday, April 19, 2012 8:40pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. In advertising, marketing diversity needs a boost in Tampa Bay, nationally


    TAMPA — Trimeka Benjamin was focused on a career in broadcast journalism when she entered Bethune-Cookman University.

    From left, Swim Digital marketing owner Trimeka Benjamin discusses the broad lack of diversity in advertising and marketing with 22 Squared copywriter Luke Sokolewicz, University of Tampa advertising/PR professor Jennifer Whelihan, Rumbo creative director George Zwierko and Nancy Vaughn of the White Book Agency. The group recently met at The Bunker in Ybor City.
  2. Kushner to testify before two intelligence committees


    WASHINGTON— President Donald Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner is set to make a second appearance on Capitol Hill — he will speak with the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, one day after he is scheduled to speak with Senate Intelligence Committee investigators behind closed doors.

    White House senior adviser Jared Kushner is scheduled to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee and the House Intelligence Committee. [Associated Press]
  3. Rays blow lead in ninth, lose in 10 to Rangers (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Rays manager Kevin Cash liked the way Alex Cobb was competing Friday night. He liked the way the hard contact made by the Rangers batters went away after the second or third inning. So as the game headed toward the ninth, there was no doubt in Cash's mind that sending Cobb back to the mound was …

    Rays starter Alex Cobb can hardly believe what just happened as he leaves the game in the ninth after allowing a leadoff double then a tying two-run homer to the Rangers’ Shin-Soo Choo.
  4. Exhumation of Dalí's remains finds his mustache still intact


    FIGUERES, Spain — Forensic experts in Spain have removed hair, nails and two long bones from Salvador Dalí's embalmed remains to aid a court-ordered paternity test that may enable a woman who says she is the surrealist artist's daughter to claim part of Dalí's vast estate.

    Salvador Dal? died in 1989 leaving vast estate.
  5. Sessions discussed Trump campaign-related matters with Russian ambassador, U.S. intelligence intercepts show


    WASHINGTON — Russia's ambassador to Washington told his superiors in Moscow that he discussed campaign-related matters, including policy issues important to Moscow, with Jeff Sessions during the 2016 presidential race, contrary to public assertions by the embattled attorney general, current and former U.S. …

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation after meetings with an ambassador were revealed.