As Mike Bunkley walked to the front of Forest Hill Church to deliver one of the eulogies at Jon Richardson’s memorial service, he said his friend would have been struck by two things:
The size of the crowd and what people were wearing.
Though he was the son of Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson and held a prominent role in the organization for 15 years, Jon Richardson was remembered Friday as a humble man who treated everyone as a friend.
“Jon was not a man of pretense. He didn’t like a lot of attention. But I know he’d be blown away by the number of people who are here to honor him,” said Bunkley, the Panthers’ former team chaplain. “The second thing he’d say is, ‘You didn’t have to get so dressed up.’”
The crowd of approximately 900 included NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and a number of team owners, including Robert Kraft of New England and the Cowboys’ Jerry Jones.
Dozens of former and current Panthers players, coaches and executives also attended, including tight end Greg Olsen, linebacker Thomas Davis, ex-quarterback Jake Delhomme, longtime kicker John Kasay and former general manager Marty Hurney.
But there were only a few references to Richardson’s NFL background during the hour-long service.
Instead, the speakers and Forest Hill senior pastor David Chadwick focused on the generosity and humility of a man who battled cancer for 13 years until his death Tuesday.
He was 53.
Davis Kuykendall, another friend who spoke during the service, called Richardson “the kind of guy who treated everyone and anyone like they were the most important person in the world.”
Kuykendall said Richardson’s Spartanburg High School and North Carolina friends also talked about his competitive spirit, whether it was going through a pre-game routine before a game of Pac-Man or finishing as the Tar Heels’ leading receiver in 1981.
As the Panthers’ stadium operations director, Richardson would wear sweatshirts and jeans while overseeing the construction what is now known as Bank of America Stadium, and several stadium improvement projects.
His low-key approach extended to all facets of his life, friends said.
Wofford athletics director Richard Johnson got to know Richardson through the Panthers’ ties to Wofford. But he knew him most recently as a football parent while his son, Johnson Richardson, played for the Terriers.
Johnson said Richardson never wanted or expected any special treatment.
“In athletics, parents can be very problematic on anything,” Johnson said. “If I could mold a parent of a student-athlete, it would be Jon Richardson.”
“Just a normal guy,” Johnson added. “Just a guy you’d want to hang out with.”