ST. PETERSBURG — Around Halloween, there was no mistaking the Richardsons' house, where five ghosts peered into a glowing cauldron in the front yard.
Every year, Pat Richardson dished out treats with a dash of trick, greeting young goblins in a black, printed vest featuring cats and pumpkins and matching socks. With her sewing machine and ingenuity, Mrs. Richardson turned out cheerfully at just about any holiday. She made vests for Christmas and Easter, and fashioned a St. Patrick's Day vest and headband with metal-spring antennae.
She discovered safety-pin earrings not from any punk rocker, but as a middle-age mom who used safety pins in her sewing, to wear wherever she wanted.
"It was, like, 'Oh, my God, Mom, what are you doing?' " said Diane Richardson, her daughter.
She continued to trot out the ghosts, sheeted poles with foam-rubber heads, long after her children had left home.
The same woman guided the League of Women Voters through three terms as president, her most recent term ending last year, impressing other members with her willingness to put out newsletters and master parliamentary procedure.
Mrs. Richardson, who inspired others with her spirit of independence, died Nov. 16, at home. She was 77.
Her family suspects she died of cancer, but may never know for sure. A Christian Scientist, Mrs. Richardson rarely visited doctors.
"She was a great role model for younger women after her," said Linda Osmundson, the executive director of CASA, the St. Petersburg-based program that aids victims of domestic violence. "I think she was a strong supporter of women's rights, and a strong supporter of women having strong roles everywhere."
Mrs. Richardson served as president of the League of Women Voters of the St. Petersburg area in the 1970s, 1980s and from 2007 to 2008. She sat on the organization's state board from 1975 to 1983, and from 1987 to 2001.
She also edited both state and local editions of the Voter.
"She was definitely a detail person. That was one of her outstanding qualities," said Mary Berglund, a multiple-term past president. Members needed someone who could quote Robert's Rules of Order, even if they sometimes resented it when she did.
"The people who would criticize her for being too detail-oriented would thank her later," said Berglund.
Her daughters might agree.
"As a mom, she was very organized," said Diane Richardson, 54. " 'Do you have your jacket? Are you too cold? Do you really want to wear shorts today?'
"And that's what she passed on."
Patricia Fogarty was born in Mound Park Hospital (now Bayfront Medical Center). Her father, George Fogarty, ran George's Boat Basin, just east of the Gandy Bridge.
She learned Christian Science from her mother, and would tell her children about an experience that changed her life. During her preteen years, she seemed to have developed polio.
While no physician was there to make the diagnosis, neither did one assist in the cure.
"It was taken care of through prayer," her daughter said.
After St. Petersburg High School, Rollins College and a degree from the University of South Florida, she worked for Allstate Insurance, then as a proofreader for the St. Petersburg Times.
She was involved with the First Church of Christ, Scientist, throughout her life.
Despite a decline in health that began two years ago, Mrs. Richardson spent only three days in the hospital, during May. A Christian Science nurse was with her when she died.
Her closest friends were not surprised that a supremely independent woman chose to go out on her own terms, as she had lived.
Said Osmundson, "She wasn't afraid of anything."
Andrew Meacham can be reached at (727) 892-2248 or [email protected]