RICHARD P. BEST Sept. 7, 1924 – Aug. 26, 2017
At the age of 92, Richard P. Best passed away peacefully on Saturday, August 26, 2017, in Scottsdale, Arizona, surrounded by his loving children.
Richard was born in Paris, Illinois, on Sunday, September 7, 1924, the only child of Paul and Dorothy Mae Best. He graduated from Paris High School 1942 and headed to college at DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana, where he became a proud and significantly involved lifelong member of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity.
During his first semester of his freshman year at DePauw, he enlisted in the Army and was called into active duty in May 1943. His first assignment after Basic Training was in several clandestine capacities at Stanford University in preparation for the postwar occupation of Italy. Due to his classified status, Richard did not go to Europe until after D-Day, but was sent in November 1944 to serve in England, France, and Belgium.
At the end of World War II, Richard was in Nice, France, where he was one of 13 American soldiers selected to attend a language and special customs program at the Sorbonne in Paris. This program was a thank you to the American government by President Charles de Gaulle for the rescue of France. In post WWII, Richard served as a Criminal Investigations Officer in Liege, Belgium; he was honorably discharged from service in April 1946.
Richard returned to the United States to finish college, pursuing a PhD in International Political Science from the University of Chicago. While at the university, he was recalled in 1950 as a Strategic Intelligence Officer in the Army during the Korean conflict. Richard attended counterintelligence school as a first lieutenant and was sent to Vienna, Austria. He completed his training in 1952 and began a four-year assignment in Salzburg, Austria.
The Cold War warmed for Richard In 1953 when he met the love of his life, Austrian resident Hanni Schwaighofer, whom he married in 1956. Richard and Hanni remained in Europe and moved to Berlin, Frankfurt, and finally to Athens, Greece, for his final assignment overseas. Along the way, Richard and Hanni had two sons, Michael and Steve, and daughter Nancy. The family returned to the United States in 1968 after Richard’s official duties in the Army ended.
Upon arrival in the U.S., Richard took an assignment with the Foreign Technology Division of the Air Force in Dayton, Ohio, until 1976, specializing in counterintelligence. After this period with Air Force Intelligence, Richard became an internal counterintelligence officer at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. While at Los Alamos, Richard worked a special two-year assignment at the Pentagon to aid the Strategic Defense Initiative until 1992. Richard continued his working relationship with Los Alamos until his retirement in 2006 at age 82. With his retirement, Richard’s unofficial status in the Army Reserve ended—having spent nearly 60 years serving his country.
Richard and Hanni retired to Scottsdale, Arizona, in 2007. They enjoyed traveling throughout Europe and especially to Hanni’s family and hometown of Salzburg, Austria. They were always visiting and entertaining friends from all over the world, spending time with their children, and embracing life in the desert. Sadly and quite suddenly, Hanni passed away in December 2011. The loss was devastating to Richard, but he spent his remaining years traveling and visiting family and friends around the country and in Europe, having made so many wonderful connections over the span of his very full and rich life.
Serving his country was always Richard’s first priority; his family was an extremely close second. His country gave him pride and honor, but his family gave him the joy and love that kept the ever-present sparkle in his eyes. Richard enjoyed good friends, good food, a good laugh, and a good, cold martini. His patriotism, winning smile, and genuine warmth will be sorely missed by all.
Richard is survived by his three children, Michael, Stephen, and Nancy; daughters in-law, Polly and Margie; grandsons, Christopher and Jack; and granddaughters, Whitney, Laura, and Anna.
A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. on Saturday, September 30, 2017, at the Franciscan Renewal Center, 5802 E. Lincoln Drive, Scottsdale, Arizona.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Mana House Transitional Housing for Homeless Veterans. www.MANAhouseAZ.org Helping the Veterans was always a strong cause for Richard.