Rev. Dr. Richard E. Tappan

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Service Information
Memorial service
Friday, May 17, 2019
1:00 PM
Thornton Oaks
25 Thornton Way,
Brunswick, ME
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BRUNSWICK - The Rev. Dr. Richard E. Tappan, a retired minister, educator, and activist, died Wednesday, after suffering a heart attack. He was 92 and had lived in Brunswick since 2004.

"Dick" Tappan was born in Orestes, Ind., to an old family that could trace its roots in America to the 1637 arrival of Abraham Toppan to the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

Dick's father, Willis Tappan, was the lone teacher for the town. Only when Dick went to high school was he in a classroom where he didn't have to call his father "Mr. Tappan." Dick's mother, Lillie, was a talented cook and quilt maker. He had two brothers, Donald and James; and a sister, Mary.

As a young man, Dick worked on his grandfather's farm. He bought a beat-up Model A Ford. Dick was in high school when World War II came. He was eager to follow brother, Don, into the Army, but he was rejected because of a medical error. It was perhaps the biggest disappointment of his life.

In 1946, Dick entered Purdue University to study pharmacy. As a senior, he met freshman Margaret Lois Teal. They dated long-distance when Dick chose to go into the ministry. They married in 1951, and moved to New Haven, Conn., so Dick could continue at Yale Divinity School and Margaret could teach home economics at a local high school.

After Dick was ordained as an American Baptist minister, his first posting was as a chaplain at the University of Colorado in Boulder. During their 11 years in Boulder, Margaret taught high school home economics and English. Dick became involved in the civil rights movement and attended Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s 1963 March on Washington.

Subsequent postings in the church's campus ministry office took the family to San Jose, Calif., and to the church's national headquarters in Valley Forge, Pa. Dick's concern for the world's less fortunate led him to sponsor families fleeing persecution in Uganda and Laos.

One of Richard's passions was teaching. After earning his doctorate in education from Temple University, he took a job as dean of students for Cushing Junior College. He taught psychology and was a mentor to many on campus.

In 1984, Dick and Margaret moved to St. Petersburg, Fla., where he took a job as administrator of Palm Shores, a Baptist retirement community. They loved their years in Florida and even put in a swimming pool. Dick, though he was no swimmer, gamely did his laps.

Dick retired from Palm Shores in 1992. They visited Europe several times; the most ambitious trip was a tour of China and Japan.

In 2004, Dick and Margaret moved to the Thornton Oaks retirement community in Brunswick, about an hour from Mark's family in Waterville. Margaret soon developed signs of Alzheimer's disease. Dick was her primary caregiver and they enjoyed several good years in Maine before her death in 2010.

Dick remained determined to be independent. He kept up with technology and was a passionate gardener. He attended First Parish in Brunswick, where he was known for the pancakes he whipped up for Sunday breakfast. His primary interest was geneology and he spent many hours researching the family history. He was known by his friends, family, and community members as unfailingly kind, compassionate, and generous.

Survivors include daughter Nancy Tappan of Herndon, Va.; son, Mark Tappan and his partner, Lyn Mikel Brown, of Waterville; and granddaughter, Maya Brown of Brooklyn, N.Y.; and a large and loving extended family.

A memorial service will be held at Thornton Oaks, 25 Thornton Way, in Brunswick, on Friday May 17, at 1 p.m.

Donations in Dick's honor can be made to:

The Cobscook Community Learning Center

10 Commissary Point Road

Trescott Township, ME 04652, or to

Children's Rights

88 Pine St., Suite 800

New York, NY 10005

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Published in Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram on May 11, 2019
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