Jess was born June 7, 1928, in Elma, Washington, to James Richards and Gladys Brummett. In addition to parents, Jess was preceded in death by brother Frank and a sister. His sister Barbara resides Poulsbo, Washington.
Jess starred on his local High School Basketball team. When WWII broke out, Jess attempted join the Navy but when the recruiter discovered he was only 15 years old he was sent home.
Jess had four children, Gayle, Mike, Lynn and Valerie. They resided in Edmonds, Washington. Jess worked his entire life in the construction and logging business. He worked as a logger in Grays Harbor where at a young age was severely injured and spent over a year in the hospital. Later, Jess worked in the Seattle-Everett area building and designing Interstate 5. Years later Jess could point out many main streets or other structures along I-5 and would tell you what year and what he did specifically regarding that portion of the freeway. Jess also did contract work in Alaska and America Samoa.
Jess later moved to Neah Bay, Washington, and during the 1970s he installed the water and sewer systems that are still in functional use today. He redesigned many of the roads to levitate the flooding issues that persisted for years in the community. Jess met his best friend of 38 years and married JoDean Haupt-Richards of Neah Bay where they enjoyed their numerous grandchildren. They formed Bunn Construction which performed and completed many of the local housing developments and countless other projects such as upgrading fresh water storage and the present day treatment plant. Jess and his partner Lawrence Bunn pioneered the way to enable the Makah Tribe to use its own natural rock source to use during road building and other constructions sites that required fill or gravel.
Jess had the ability to look at any given project and predict with accuracy the required materials to complete any job. Jess was so proficient that many other contractors relied on his keen skills regarding material, design and his awareness of the surface and weather conditions that greatly affect any project.
Jess always had time to squeeze in the little jobs too. If someone needed a lot filled at the last minute for a home site or a culvert put in at a private business, Jess was always eager to pitch in and often and no cost or a "pay me later when you can" attitude." At the rock pit when loading dump trucks for a big job, Jess would stop what he was doing to help fill someones pickup truck with enough gravel to fill their pot holes or other minor jobs. If someone was in need of a mechanic, Jess would often send his company mechanic to help the situation.
Jess was old school, hardworking, a little gruff, and not afraid to put in 12 hour days. If you were one of his employees he would expect you to do the same. But Jesse had a heart of gold. He would help anyone that would come and ask. It didn't matter if you were looking for advice regarding a construction site or a basketball team looking for a sponsorship. Jess was more than happy to help. When Jess retired, he gave much of his company's equipment away and desired that other local business would follow in his footsteps.
After retiring at the age of 75 Jess enjoyed watching the Mariners on TV and doing crossword puzzles. Jess was an avid reader and could simply read entire books in one day. Jess loved to fish and be out on the water and was known to catch some pretty good size salmon. One of Jess's favorite memories was traveling to Alaska with his son Mike, grandson Ryan and a few friends fishing and taking in the wilderness. Jesse' priority was his wife JoDean. Jesse and JoDean were inseparable and were by each other side right up till the end.
Jess passed away at Olympic Memorial Hospital in Port Angeles on April 9, 2018, following an age related illness. Jess was a Christian and often spoke of what he felt was his best construction project. Jess, Bunn Construction and the late Rev. Al Brown built the present day Assembly of God Church in Neah Bay with donations and volunteer help.
Jess is survived by his wife, JoDean Haupt-Richards of Neah Bay, daughters Gayle Robertson of Camano Island, Lynn O'Neil, Valerie Dailey and son Michael Richards all of Las Vegas, Nevada. Stepsons John and Clifford Haupt and stepdaughter Bobby Rose. Several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
A brief memorial service will be held April 17, 2018, at Harpers Funeral Home in Port Angeles, Washington at 1 p.m. Pastor George Eastman and the Rev. George Kallappa will be officiating the service.