Richard George Van Gorder, 87, taught the love of music to hundreds of children

Richard George Van Gorder

WILMINGTON — Richard George Van Gorder was born Nov. 2, 1933, in Palisades Park, New Jersey, and passed away Tuesday, March 23, 2021.

He had a wonderful childhood in Leonia, New Jersey, and maintained many boyhood friendships throughout his life. Music was always at the center of Richard’s life — while at Leonia High School as the band president, and then at Trenton State College, where he earned his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Music Education.

He taught the love of music to hundreds of children, including his own children, for 40 years. His career began in New Jersey, then spent the next 30 years as a band instructor at Mildred E. Strang Middle School in Yorktown Heights, New York, where he retired from teaching, but did not retire as a musician. Richard played in multiple small groups and bands throughout the years. He enjoyed playing his clarinet while traveling and at church services up through the last year of his life.

He retired and moved to North Carolina in 1997, where he enjoyed golfing and the beach. Richard was a great lover of world travel, food and wine. Over the years, he forgot the names of the many places he had visited, but he never forgot the incredible food, how it was prepared, and what wine was paired with each dish. He made his own wine, and many friends and family members were the recipients of his creations. Richard was known for offering his words of wisdom and advice about how to prepare flavorful dishes.

Richard was preceded in death by his parents, Kathleen Naudet Van Gorder and George H. Van Gorder; sister, Barbara Holland; and wife, Anne Sullivan Van Gorder.

Richard married Eileen Dougherty in 1955. From this union, Richard is survived by his three loving and devoted children, Deirdre Vassallo (Dave), Thomas Van Gorder (Brenda) and Joanne LaPorta (John); 11 grandchildren, Matthew (Maddie), Caitlin, Brendan, Meg, Autumn (Christian), Kiah (Jacob), Zoe, Jennifer, Sean, Patrick (Macy) and Brian. Richard was also blessed with six great-grandchildren, Hannah, Grace, Maelle, Zoey, Keiran and Ellianna. Richard married Anne Sullivan in 1989, and is survived by his much-loved stepdaughters, Patricia Cannizzo (Gianni), Eileen Byrne (Michael) and Colleen Dodman (Timothy); and eight additional grandchildren, Christopher, Matthew, Brianna, Caitlin, Sarah, Jack, Megan and Kerry. Richard is also survived by his ever faithful little dog, Dixie; many dear friends; and especially his loving companion, Patricia Woomer.

As many friends and family have inquired about donations, the family asks that you consider gifts to the Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation. The Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation keeps music alive in our schools by providing vital support services to school districts, and new musical instruments to underfunded music programs nationwide, giving economically-disadvantaged youth access to the many benefits of music education, leading them to success in school, and inspiring creativity and expression through playing music.

Funeral services are private.

Share online condolences with the family at Andrews Mortuary & Crematory.

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