A true proponent of the arts and well-known philanthropist, the late Kathleen Margaret Richardson was a treasured partner of Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet (RWB) for decades. She was family. Her death in September 2019 deeply resonated within our walls, the Winnipeg arts community and well beyond.
On June 27, 2023, Kathleen Richardson was inducted into the Winnipeg Regional Real Estate Board’s Citizens Hall of Fame. When the beautiful bust sculpted by Madeleine Vrignon was unveiled, those of us gathered at the Assiniboine Park Pavilion, including several members of the Richardson family, truly felt Kathleen’s presence among us in spirit. The RWB’s Arnold Spohr would be ecstatic to know that he and Kathleen both occupy a spot in the Winnipeg Citizens Hall of Fame.
As one of the initial students to take classes through the Winnipeg Ballet Club, the school that would later become the RWB, Kathleen developed a deep love and appreciation for dance and the ballet. Although she ultimately chose a different career path, Kathleen’s unwavering commitment to the organization remained. She, and her mother Muriel Richardson before her, saw the potential of a world-class ballet company in Winnipeg and realized what it could bring to the profile and prestige of the city. Kathleen went on to serve as President of the RWB board of directors, from 1957 to 1961, after which she became honourary President until her passing.
Kathleen was more than a savvy businesswoman and lover of the arts. She was also a community leader and volunteer, one who championed many of Winnipeg’s cultural endeavours. In the 1970s, she was often seen selling tickets to fundraising events in the public area of the convention centre. Though she could have bought all the tickets herself, Kathleen sat at the table along with other volunteers instead and encouraged passersby to support the arts and the RWB in particular.
Among her many achievements with us, Kathleen was instrumental in securing a permanent home for the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. In 1986, she chaired the RWB’s Capital Campaign, which raised $5.5 million in private contributions for the $10.3 million project, that resulted in our magnificent building opening its doors in 1988.
In fact, during her most active time with the RWB, the organization experienced incredible growth and we reached new heights of international recognition and acclaim.
Kathleen was humble, quiet, and unassuming in her numerous contributions to the arts. Everyone she met was captivated by her charm, wit, and grace, including our own Evelyn Hart, who had a special connection with Kathleen. She and I also developed a close relationship. I still miss our dinners every three months for 20 years, where I would bring her up to speed on the RWB and listen to her welcomed and wise advice.
Always preferring to remain anonymous, Kathleen’s extraordinary generosity enhanced the work of organizations and communities, and positively impacted countless Canadians. She strongly believed in the words quoted by her mother: “Unto whom much is given, much is also required” and she lived these words!
When Kathleen was promoted within the Order of Canada to Companion in 1993, her citation read in part: “A pillar of support for the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, she has given unstintingly of her resources over the years to ensure the continuing high stature of the company.” As such, nominating Kathleen Richardson for the Citizens Hall of Fame distinction was no decision at all. It was nothing less than a fait accompli for this remarkable humanitarian and RWB friend.
My colleagues and I extend our deepest gratitude and appreciation to Kathlee. There is no telling where the Royal Winnipeg Ballet would be today without her abiding love, guiding light and steadfast backing. The RWB honours her leadership and legacy, her indelible footprint on the organization. As we continue to raise the barre at Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet, “our pillar of support” remains in our hearts, as does her incredible investment in the art of dance in the city of Winnipeg!