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Richard Bennett Thacker 1933 – 2023
Richard Bennett Thacker

Richard Bennett Thacker, 89, spent the last days of his life surrounded by loved ones and passed away peacefully in his sleep on Jan. 4, 2023, at his home in Lecompton, Kansas.

He was born on Oct. 26, 1933, in Beloit, the son of Clinton Orville and Lillian (Bennett) Thacker. The family moved around a lot, so Richard attended 10 grade schools and four high schools before graduating from Clearwater High School in 1951.

He worked for the Santa Fe Railroad from 1951 to 1995. He was first working a summer on an “extra gang” laying track when he met his future wife of 67 years, Ella Martin of Welda.

They were married on an unseasonably warm Christmas Eve in 1955 at Ella’s brother Frank’s house in Wichita. The day after Christmas, Richard received his mail which included a draft notice into the U.S. Army, so after basic training he was off to Germany.  Ella stayed behind on the Martin farm and wrote him a letter every day. He achieved the rank of Sergeant and received training that would advance his career at Santa Fe.

After returning to Kansas, he told Ella he did not want to move around a lot. He resumed working at the Santa Fe Shops in Wichita and later transferred to the Topeka shops. Richard and Ella lived in Lecompton and raised two children. They built their own house and never had to move again.

Over the years they took many trips throughout the USA, usually with Richard driving the car and sometimes pulling an RV. They enjoyed attending the Santa Fe reunions, and family reunions in Welda and Oregon.

He was the former assistant chief of the Lecompton Volunteer Fire Department and was a lifetime member of the Lecompton Historical Society. He was also a member of the Brotherhood of Railway Carmen of America (later known as the Transportation Communications International Union (TCU).  He enjoyed rebuilding cars and had the nickname, “Hot Rod.”

He is survived by his wife, Ella; two children, daughter Susan of Great Bend and son Ron (Karmell) of Lawrence; two granddaughters, Jami (Kevin) Maxey of Lawrence and their children Levi, Kaitlyn, Arielle, Jace, Abigail and Bailley Ella; and Leah (Scott) Pender of Tonganoxie, and their children Hannah and Amelia; one brother, Morris Thacker; and many nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents, brother, Harold, and sister, Ruth.

There will be a celebration of life at Empty Nesters Winery in Lecompton on Friday, Jan. 13, 2023, from 5-7 p.m. There will be no viewing as cremation has taken place. Funeral service will be at 11 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023, at the Lecompton United Methodist Church, with Pastor Changhyun Kim officiating, followed by graveside service at the Maple Grove Cemetery in Lecompton with military honors.  

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations can be made to the Lecompton Historical Society at P.O. Box 68, Lecompton, KS 66050 or the Lecompton United Methodist Church at P.O. Box 91, Lecompton, Kansas 66050. Funeral arrangements are provided by Warren-McElwain Mortuary in Lawrence. The full obituary can be viewed online at

Funeral arrangements provided by

Warren-McElwain Mortuary

120 W. 13th St. 

Lawrence, KS 66044

Great Bend (Kan.) Tribune, Jan. 8 2023