Richard Henry Tankersley

November 17, 1947 - October 3, 2015
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Written By sister Arden K. Varnel
Richard Henry Tankersley was born on November 17, 1947 and passed away on October 3, 2015. Richard grew up as the fourth child of five and the only son, born into a military family, whose father, Edward, was a World War II Naval pilot and lieutenant. His mother, Lillian, was a purebred Finn, and between both parents were common interest of music, dance, education, and reading. His father loved astronomy and brought to the backyard, several large telescopes, teaching his son how to locate and name the constellations, watch for meteor showers and more. Richard claimed the spot of attention in his Dad’s instructions, being a bright little boy. The broad spectrum of education that his mother gave to him through reading to her children for most evenings for many years, and from his father’s multiple talents and disciplines, instilled in Richard a creative streak and intellectual strength that lasted most of his life. As he developed into young adulthood he became a champion salesman on encyclopedias. He took up travels in Europe, learned a complex fin art printing called lithography, created and sold many lithographs, worked extensively with photography, and alter expanded into painting. In the early 1970’s he settled in Sebastopol in a charming house on a downtown corner and opened two businesses, The Frame Shop was upstairs, and the gallery was in the living room, where he hosted magical afternoon soirees of live classical music. He was the host with the most! In addition, he had a successful and active business outside of town called “Apple Graphics” where he did signage and other professional graphics. He continued to work in photography. These were his Gold Years not in the sense of aging, but in the sense of how radiant he was. He was beautiful to be around. He started his BA at Sonoma State, completing all but the final semester with a double minor in French and German, and a double major in International Business and Art Gallery Management. He was tri-lingual and spoke and read fluent German to the end. He was a deep reader of philosophy and religions, being conversant in the 1970’s in Buddhist literature such as “The Tibetan Book of the Dead,” which tells of the concept of Bardo, where one’s soul rest for 49 days after leaving this body, at the end of which one’s soul can choose a new incarnation. After sponsoring a “Jung-Wa Puja” Bardo prayer ceremony for our mother, he knew I would have those prayers made for his soul at the end of his Bardo, which took place at the local Buddhist Gyuto Monastery a week ago. He has been blessed and prayed for in many ways. His ambition was to become an international art dealer as a businessman. Somehow, he became distracted, did not finish his BA, and moved into real estate, became an agent, then a broker. Again, his fine mind mastered the complexity of laws, but this did not turn into a career. He lost his art gallery, framing and graphics businesses. In 1984, he moved to the house he was raised in, still owned by Mother, and lived there for 23 years. A notebook from 1985 showed his daily discipline of meditation, and his taking excellent care of the property. He pursued other education paths, successfully completing several AA degrees in Paralegal Studies, Office Management, and worked part time in those fields. He assisted his mother with the care of her husband’s property business. He loved his stepdad, Paul E. Peterson, calling him “Dad“ and helping them both for many years. At his core he was an artist and his real passion was art and fine object collecting. He as successful in buy-sell-trade, but at a professional level based in his earlier life in Europe and his college studies. He was smart, knew what he was looking at, and for a while, he made his living this way. Eventually. However, a darker side of the life he lived started taking over his better nature. He struggled with drugs for a time and had a lifelong struggle with alcohol. He moved out of the Sunnyvale house in late 2007, and moved into the Berkeley apartment building in early 2008, where he lived to his final weeks. For several years, he spoke of his dying. BY September, he staged the time for his only and final stay at the hospital, choosing to go by ambulance to Alta-Bates on September 13, where he died three weeks later. He passed away at 67 years old from complications due to liver failure, COPD, diabetes and more. From talking with local people who knew him, he had a jolly good sense of humor, carrying on a dialogue with folks in the neighborhood as he made his way on errands on his electric power chair. One of his favorite cousins, Arturo (Jason Phillips) spoke dearly of Richard, his quick mind, funny and smart jokes, and that they were good friends for over 40 years. His sister Nancy, deceased in 2008, always stuck by him. They had a special understanding of each other’s artistic minds. His oldest sister, Gale Marie Brazier, of Temple, NX was very close to him. They spoke nearly daily. She sent lovely photos of him for the memorial service “Celebration of Life”, many of which are with Nancy. His mother prayed for him often, as she did for all her children. He helped raise his niece, Naomi Jean Collins and loved her. I remember them laughing together when she was a girl. He loved her little boy, Conner. In the second week of his final three, he told me, “I love you”. I told him, “I love you too”. He was my baby brother, a sweet, blond, blue-eyed boy, and we all loved him while growing up together. As Pastor Cary said, “We remember and see those we love the way God sees them”. May God Goddess All That Is watch over and bless you, Richard, in many way, forever. May Jesus Christ hold you close in His eternally gentle embrace of Unconditional Love and Radiant Light. Amen. Memorial services were held on Friday, December 4, 2015 at the Lutheran Church of the Cross, 1744 University Avenue, Berkeley, CA with the Rev. Cary Bass-Deschenes, Pastor, officiating. Inurnment was in the Heian Garden at Sunset View Cemetery, 101 Colusa Ave., El Cerrito, CA.

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Cemetery Information

Date: Thursday, January 1, 1970

Sunset View Cemetery Association


101 Colusa Avenue, El Cerrito, CA, 94530


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Timeline for Richard Tankersley

Born: November 17, 1947
Died: October 3, 2015

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