Obituary of Richard Don Puckett
After a long and courageous battle with heart and lung disease, Richard “Don” Puckett, loving husband and father, was called to his eternal home in the early hours of April 6th, 2023 at the age of 76.
Don was born in the fall of 1946 to Horace Puckett and Billie Jo Duncan in Spur, Texas. Horace abandoned Billie Jo, Don, and Don’s older brother Micheal, shortly after Don was born. Following some failed relationships, Billie Jo met and married Jack Prather, who would raise Don and Mike as his own, lovingly sharing his knowledge and skills as an automotive mechanic and woodworking hobbyist with the boys. Don fondly recounted stories of his maternal grandparents who helped with his child rearing. He described his grandmother as a Baptist preacher, who regularly put the fear of God in the boys, and his grandfather as a kind and gentle man who once took Don with him to buy a new car and gave Don a quarter so that he could pay for the steering wheel!
In his very early twenties, Don was involved in a near fatal car accident which, after several surgeries, left him with a shortened and often painful leg. Don overcame this life changing event, and went on to explore many fields of work, including (among others), law enforcement and emergency medicine.
It was while working as an EMT for an ambulance company in Tucson, AZ, that he met Connie D. McHenry, who was home on vacation from a job as a dispatcher and ambulance attendant for her Aunt Betty and Uncle Kirk’s ambulance company (Kirk’s EMS) in Lawton, Oklahoma. The two met in early March of 1973, when Connie followed a random ambulance back to its base of operations and asked if one of the men could provide a tour of the ambulance and its onboard equipment so that she might gather useful information for the company in Oklahoma. Don was quick to comply with the young girl’s request, asked her out on a date for a few days later, proposed, and presented her with an engagement ring stashed in his personal first aid kit! The two were married just a few weeks later, on April 28th..
The couple lived in Tucson, and in May of 1978 were blessed with a son, Joshua Duncan Puckett. The family moved to Challis, Idaho in early 1982 where both Don and Connie were employed at an open pit molybdenum (moly) mine. Don worked in the Safety and Security Department and later in the maintenance “tool crib,” maintaining larger tools and rebuilding smaller components for the mining equipment fleet. Don’s free time was spent exploring the beautiful country there, camping and fishing with his family and friends.
In late 1986, the Idaho mine announced its closing, and the family returned to Tucson where Connie continued to work for the same mining company at a mine near Green Valley , AZ.
Upon returning to Tucson, Don became a true “Mister Mom”, raising Joshua through his school years. Always highly involved with his son, Don became active in Little League: coaching, umpiring, and even drafted the first girl in the league onto his Minor’s baseball team. He served as President of the San Xavier Little League for a short time, during which he helped start and organize the San Xavier Girls softball league. Joshua had started playing soccer while in Challis, and continued playing after the family moved back to Tucson. So, Don also learned the game of soccer, as a parent/spectator, and before long was a volunteer soccer referee for AYSO. Don also developed his culinary skills during this time, so Josh and his friends always knew where to go if they were hungry or just wanted a safe place to hang out.
Tragically, Joshua was killed in an automobile accident in March of 2001. The loss of his son left Don with a certain sadness that he learned to live with, but never overcame.
In 2013, Don suffered a massive heart attack during an angiogram, underwent emergency bypass surgery and was on life support for a few days following the surgery. After 3 weeks in the hospital, and about a year of rehab, Don was able to regain most of his strength back and became even more humble and ever so grateful to be alive in the following years.
Friends and family will remember Don as kind, generous and compassionate, but also as having a wry, sometimes sarcastic sense of humor and ready for an argument (he called them “debates”) at the drop of a hat. He was outspoken, often critical, but always loving and supportive.
Unlike many men of his era, Don was especially supportive of women learning to fend for themselves. While in Idaho, he was spotted (by a co-worker) teaching one of the women on the cleaning crew, who was pregnant, how to put snow chains on their van. When asked why the woman was doing the work, Don replied with: “Two reasons, first, she asked me to show her how, and two, what if she needed chains on her own vehicle to get to a hospital, and no one else was around?”
He had a soft spot for the downtrodden, and collected many strays, both humans and animals. He always said he didn’t need much for himself, but gave of himself to others. Once, when asked why he adopted older dogs, he replied, “Old dogs are like old people: They all deserve to live their lives out in comfort and surrounded by love.”
Music was an integral part of Don’s life. He taught himself to play the guitar, and sang with such a gentle, soothingly beautiful voice. He performed at his and Connie’s 40th Anniversary party, serenading Connie with the song “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You?” He continued to serenade Connie at home until he became so weak that it was difficult to play the guitar and sing.
Don was preceded in death by his parents, Horace and Billie Jo, step-father Jack Prather, brother Micheal, his son Joshua, and many dear friends. He is survived by his wife Connie, son Richard Benoit from a previous relationship, cousin Theresa Mobbs (Texas) and Connie’s parents and siblings, all of whom he regarded as his family.
Don’s ashes were placed in a beautiful urn depicting a winding country road, with the inscription “Always on my mind, forever in my heart” and his urn will be placed next to Joshua’s urn in Connie’s home.
Don’s passing brings to mind a verse from one of his favorite songs from the late 60s, early 70s, by Josh Groban, The Impossible Dream:
“And the world will be better for this
That one man, scorned and covered with scars
Still strove with his last ounce of courage
To reach the unreachable…star”
A memorial for Don has yet to be planned. In his memory, if you wish, plant a tree, adopt a homeless pet or donate to an animal rescue organization in his name. Don would be honored and pleased.To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Richard Puckett, please visit Tribute Store