Lifetime Benson resident and former Judge, Richard Guerra, passed away at his J6 home on October 20, 2020. He was 89 years old.
Richard was the second of eight children born to Susie (nee Fairlee) and Manuel Guerra, arriving in the midst of the Great Depression on July 19, 1931. Like many people of that era, Richard’s parents and siblings struggled to survive the twin calamities of economic depression and World War II. In spite of these challenges Richard not only survived, he thrived – largely through a combination of innate intelligence, pluck, self motivation and the loving support of family and friends. In school he was always a gifted student; his teachers recognized his unique abilities at an early age and, as a result he was advanced two grades and was graduated as class valedictorian at the age of 15.
Upon graduation from BUHS in 1947, Richard left home for the economic Promised Land of California, where he was later joined by brother Tony. Disguising his actual age, Richard quickly found employment at Wilson Meat Packers where superiors rapidly recognized his talents and elevated him to the position of business bookkeeper. He also spent a year studying for the priesthood in Los Angeles before deciding that God had a different plan for him.
In 1953, duty called and Richard, like his brother before him, was drafted into the US Army. He served a two year enlistment including a one year tour of duty in the Far East, spending six months with the 1st Cavalry Division in the Republic of Korea and six months in Japan as enlisted aide to the Commanding General.
Upon discharge, Richard returned to Arizona where he took advantage of the GI Bill and enrolled at Arizona State College at Tempe (now, ASU) where he pursued his educational studies. He later transferred to the University of Arizona and was graduated with a baccalaureate degree in Foreign Languages. Richard was subsequently recruited by Bisbee Public Schools where he began the first of three separate career paths. In this first track, he taught high school Latin and Spanish. Commuting daily from Benson, he continued in this role for 20 years, but ultimately decided to retire from this profession and return to school.
Richard enrolled in the UA’s College of Law and after three years was awarded a Juris Doctor degree and upon successful completion of Arizona’s bar examination launched his second career as attorney. During these years he was the stereotypical small town lawyer where he was a respected and well appreciated friend and ally to both people of means and the common man.
In the 1980’s Richard again adjusted his sights and decided to run for public office. He was elected Justice of the Peace and commenced his third career. He was elected to four consecutive four year terms before finally retiring from public life. His ‘retirement’ was really a misnomer since he continued to assist a multitude of supplicants with their various personal and legal problems, most often in a pro bono role. Many locals, the ‘little people’ as they described themselves frequently sought out Richard as a trusted fiduciary for assistance in their legal dealings. He was a true champion of the common man.
A lifelong bachelor, Richard was always extremely modest and self-effacing (he would be horrified to read this recounting of his life!) – a true model of small town elegance and sophistication. He traveled the world and spoke multiple languages. While his body faltered in his later years, his mental lucidity was never diminished His appreciation for the arts and his in-depth understanding of both local and worldly events was exemplary – as was his phenomenal capacity for recall of both recent events and youthful experiences.
No remembrance of Richard would be complete without acknowledging his Christian fervor. A lifelong member of Our Lady of Lourdes (he, like his siblings, was quite literally born in the shadow of the church). Richard was a devoted parishioner and steadfast participant in various activities over many, many years. He actively supported numerous charities and his generous philanthropy was well recognized and appreciated by his many causes. Richard was a devout Son of the Rosary and follower of Our Mother Mary, typically attending daily Mass and praying the rosary several times a day. He is unquestionably reaping the rewards of his devotion in his Forever Home.
In his final years, Richard courageously battled a number of health issues often with the support of his local siblings – and especially by his nephew Tom Stevenson and wife Kathy who faithfully and lovingly nurtured him during his final years.
Richard was preceded in death by his parents, a younger sister (Rita) who died in infancy, and his older sibling Tony who preceded him in death seven months earlier this year. He was also preceded by faithful canine companions Dusty 1 and Dusty 2, who always provided unconditional love and affection.
He is survived by five brothers and sisters, including Benson residents, Georgiana Stevenson, Betty Guerra, and Donna (Howard) Lowe; Tucson resident Bob Guerra (Patti); and Alpharetta, GA resident Bill Guerra (Orapin). Uncle Richard also leaves behind 14 nephews and nieces.
Because of the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, Richard’s Final Homecoming, including requiem mass and graveside services, has been tentatively scheduled for November 16th.
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