Obituary: Saanich police officer wrote lyrics of popular Canadian song

Thomas David Richardson, the Saanich police officer whose lyrics for the 1970 love song Wildflower helped it become one of the most-performed in Canadian popular music, died Sunday after a short illness.

The lyrics were written as a poem for his girlfriend, a nurse at Royal Jubilee Hospital. He passed it over to friend David Foster, then in the band Skylark, and it found its way into music history after guitarist Doug Edwards gave it a melody.

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Since then, Wildflower has sold millions of copies in more than 75 versions. It has been interpreted by the likes of Hank Crawford, Johnny Mathis, the Neville Brothers and Colour Me Badd.

Richardson, known as Dave, was low-key about the success of the song over the years.

“I always felt that all I did was hold the pen in my hand and God did the writing,” he once said.

Valley Hennell, a longtime friend who handles the administration and publishing for Wildflower, said the words were written in just 15 minutes. She said Richardson was inspired to write it after his girlfriend — who later became his wife — had a difficult day at work, seeing two geriatric patients die.

“It was what they call, I guess, a one-hit wonder for the group Skylark,” Hennell said.

Richardson was born in Pembroke, Ont,. in 1942 and by the age of five had decided he wanted to be a police officer and a songwriter. He went on to serve 30 years with the Saanich Police Department from 1966 to 1997, reaching the rank of staff sergeant.

Policing turned out to be a family pursuit, with his brother, Doug, joining the Victoria department and becoming chief.

“The few of us left who worked with Dave have very fond memories of him as an old-school cop and a colourful character who loved serving his community as a proud member of the Saanich police,” said Saanich Police Deputy Chief Gary Schenk.

He offered condolences from the department.

Doug Richardson described him as “the classic big brother, always looking out for me.”

“What sticks in my mind is the selflessness of Dave,” he said. “It just seemed like all he ever cared about was helping other people.”

Hennell said his actions showed what type of person he was.

“Dave was just a large-hearted, generous man who in his last decades devoted himself to working with addictions, and moved to Jerusalem to open a kitchen to feed the homeless and the needy.”

He eventually returned to Canada.

A memorial will be held at 1 p.m., Sept. 13 at North Douglas Pentecostal Church in Saanich.

jwbell@timescolonist.com

Wildflower

She's faced the hardest times you could imagine
And many times, her eyes fought back the tears
And when her youthful world was about to fall in

Each time her slender shoulders bore the weight of all her fears
And a sorrow no one hears
Still rings in midnight silence in her ears
Let her cry, for she's a lady (She's a lady)

Let her dream, for she's a child (Child)
Let the rain fall down upon her
She's a free and gentle flower growing wild
And if by chance I should hold her (If by chance that I should hold her)

Let me hold her for a time (Let me hold her for a time)
But if allowed just one possession
I would pick her from the garden to be mine (I would pick her from the garden to be mine)
Mm-mm-mm, mm-mm
Be careful how you touch her, for she'll awaken
And sleep's the only freedom that she knows
And when you walk into her eyes, you won't believe

The way she's always payin' for a debt she never owes
And a silent wind still blows
That only she can hear, and so she goes
Let her cry, for she's a lady

Let her dream, for she's a child
Let the rain fall down upon her
She's a free and gentle flower growing wild
Let her cry, for she's a lady (She's a lady)

Let her dream, for she's a child

Let the rain fall down upon her
She's a free and gentle flower growing wild
She's a flower growing wild
She's free

Copyright Edsel Music 1972 renewed 2000
www.wildflowersong.com

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