Hatteberg's People - Building Bridges, Changing Lives

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Sunday, July 1, 2012

On Hatteberg's People, when you build it, they will come. And they have, the media that is, to Larry and Barbara Richardson's backyard in rural Mulvane. Eleven years ago I introduced them to the world in a Hatteberg's People story. Larry built a replica of the Golden Gate Bridge over the Cowskin Creek. A few weeks ago, they got a thrill of a lifetime. But first, the bridge that started it all.

"Everything is hand done. The bridge is a 150 feet long and 8-foot wide and a little over two stories tall. It took 97 and a half tons of hand mixed concrete. The suspension cables came out of Boeing Salvage. The bridge crosses the Cowskin and it's just a place where you can sit back and forget everything else," said Larry Richardson.

"I always thought it was just a bridge. But you look at it and every day we come out and look at it. I look at it from my bedroom window...it's amazing...it's big," said Barbara Richardson.

The real bridge in San Francisco is what prompted Larry to build his replica. In 1969, he crossed the bridge as he was headed to Vietnam. He bought a postcard and vowed to build one himself. He did...over the Cowskin.

"It was 30 years before I could do it, but my wife said, 'Go for it. You've got your chance. You've got a chance to build your bridge," said Larry Richardson.

Then the media came calling, from the New York Times to the San Francisco Chronicle and the Today Show, and Larry Richardson's Golden Gate Bridge became famous.

"You communicate with people and all of sudden the world is a lot better place to live," said Barbara Richardson.

Reader's from the San Francisco Chronicle set up a fund so the Richardsons could visit. A hotel owner paid for the airfare and gave them a hotel suite in San Francisco. One of their tour guides was the wife of the co-founder of Apple, Janet Wozniak. She's actually a Kansan and wanted to meet the Richardson's.

"We took a boat cruise out and went to the bridge, and when we came out the water way. It's just an emotion, like seeing someone you had lost for years and years, there it was out in front of you," said Larry Richardson.

"I told Larry, 'It's not our little bridge, but I can see in the cables the similarities.' Even though theirs is orange and ours is gold, it's OK," said Barbara Richardson.

They were feted with gifts, but most importantly they saw the bridge that changed their lives. As the headline says, they weren't in Kansas anymore. For them, it was a series of firsts.

"Riding in an airplane, riding in a taxi and staying in a hotel," said Barbara Richardson.

These have been a series of firsts for the Richardsons, but the bridge they built is more than a physical symbol of a dream. It was also Larry's goal to get closer to his father who helped him build the bridge. His father could be a difficult and remote man and for years. The two didn't get along but the bridge brought them together.

"We built a bridge between us. It wasn't just a wooden or metal bridge. It's a bond that gave me seven or eight years that I didn't have with him before. I've got memories now that will never be erased. It gives me a purpose," said Larry Richardson.


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