Richard W. Michaels, 87, of Southbury, Conn., died Wednesday surrounded by his family. He was 87. He was president of Michaels Jewelers.
Michaels was born Nov. 4, 1920, in Waterbury, Conn. Known as “Dick” and “RW,” Michaels attended The Driggs School, the Gunnery, and Suffield Academy. He graduated from Peekskill Military Academy and the University of Connecticut (Class of 1943), where he was a member of the golf and football teams.
His education was interrupted during World War II, where he became a member of the Army Air Corps, 5th Air Force 33rd Squadron, 22nd Group, as a celestial navigator. He flew 56 missions in the Pacific Theater, was awarded a number of medals, and rose to the rank of Captain.
After the War, Mr. Michaels began his career with Michaels Jewelers. Michaels Jewelers was founded in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in 1885 by his grandfather, Abraham. The company moved to the United States in 1905. Michaels’ father, Harry, led the company’s expansion through the 1920’s and 1930’s. Michaels was a third generation member of his family business. Like his father, he managed the downtown Waterbury store for a number of years, and served as its president from 1975 until his retirement in 1986. Currently his son, Richard (“RH”), is president of the 12-store Michaels Jewelers Company.
Michaels became the first Certified Gemologist in Connecticut in 1960 and established one of the first Accredited Gemological Laboratories in New England. He was active in the American Gem Society, serving on the board of directors, the nominating committee, the admissions board, and conclave committee; and was the Master of Ceremonies at Conclaves numerous times. In 1986, he received the Shipley Award by the American Gem Society for his outstanding service to the Society; for his significant contribution to the science of gemology; and for exemplifying the high purpose, objectives, and ideals of the Society.
Michaels was instrumental in establishing the Michaels Jewelers Scholarship Fund at the University of Connecticut. The Foundation awards eight scholarships annually to student athletes from Connecticut who attend UConn. Michaels also served on the UConn Business School Board of Visitors and in 1993, accepted the UConn Alumni Association Distinguished Corporation Award on behalf Michaels Jewelers. In 1995 Mr. Michaels was inducted into the University of Connecticut’s Business School Hall of Fame.
Michaels distinguished himself in the local community as president of the Kiwanis Club and the Waterbury Symphony Orchestra; a board member of the Greater Waterbury Chamber of Commerce, Center Bank, The Salvation Army, Easter Seals, United Way, and the Woodbury Board of Education. He was a corporator of Waterbury Hospital and The Waterbury Foundation. And he was past president of the Connecticut Jewelers Association.
Michaels was an avid golfer, having played rounds with Sam Snead, and played, as an amateur, in the Houston Open. He helped bring Arnold Palmer and Gary Player to Waterbury in 1963 for an exhibition round at Western Hills. A 50-year member of the Country Club of Waterbury, Michaels won the CCW Championship in 1961. He also was a dedicated fisherman.
Michaels spent most of his life in Woodbury, enjoying summers at their house in East Orleans on Cape Cod, Mass., and winters at Eagle Creek in Naples, Fla. After raising their family, they moved from Woodbury to Southbury in 2000.
He is survived by his wife of 60 years, Betty Jane (Hall), their five children and their spouses: Dale and Peter Wade of Eastham Mass., Patti and Reed Gramse of Cape Elizabeth Maine, Karen Michaels of Waterbury, Jyll Michaels of Middlebury, Conn., and Richard H. and Laurie Michaels of Woodbury; and nine grandchildren: Emily Wade of San Francisco Calif., Andrew Wade of Eastham Mass., Amanda Gramse of Boston Mass., Tyler Gramse of Boston Mass., Brett Gramse of San Diego, Calif., Cassondra Michaels Funk of Middlebury Conn., and Justin McGregor, Bryce Michaels and Jarrett Michaels of Woodbury.
A gathering for a Celebration of Life will be held Sept. 10 at the Country Club of Waterbury: 1 Oronoke Road Waterbury, Conn. 3 p.m. – 7 p.m. with a U.S. Military Honor Guard to play Taps at sunset.
Contributions, in lieu of flowers, may be made to Nonnewaug High School Golf Team, 5 Minortown Rd Woodbury CT. 06798 or to the VNA Hope Team 50 Brookside Rd. Waterbury CT. 06708.