Dedicated life of Officer Jon Richey
Procession for Officer Jon Richey at his funeral services. K-9s howled as the casket of Richey, followed by his family, passed. (Aspen Perry/City Journals)
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In 1984 at the young age of 19, Officer Jon Richey was hired as a police officer for the West Jordan Police Department, making him the youngest officer in the state of Utah. In 1988 he helped start the K-9 program for the Salt Lake City Police Department, and served various communities throughout Salt Lake County for over 30 years.
Richey passed away at home on Feb. 11, just a little over a year after surviving gunshot wounds in both legs during the same incident that took the life of Officer Doug Barney.
Given the dedication Richey showed to work, as well as to family and friends, it is not surprising the auditorium of Olympus High School was filled with family, friends, colleagues and citizens on Saturday, Feb. 18 for his funeral service.
“Besides his family, and being a police officer, I don’t think there was anything Jon loved more in the world than training dogs,” Sgt. Chad Reyes stated during the service.
Richey was an accomplished K-9 trainer and officer, having received the
Medal of Honor, Purple Heart, and two international police K-9 championships (Germany and Canada), to name a few.
Accomplishments fitting for an officer of Richey’s dedication, as Reyes said: “(Jon) used to say you need to thin-slice everything — if you have a particular problem you have to dissect it in such fine slices that you and the dog understand how to overcome it.”
Despite Reyes and Richey not being fast friends when Reyes initially became Richey’s superior, the bond they built after that initial hurdle is one Reyes said he would forever cherish.
“He was a genuinely compassionate person, and cared about everyone … one of the most valuable things he taught me was to have that human perspective always,” Reyes said.
In addition to Richey’s dedication to his work, he was well known for his sense of humor and love of education.
As Richey’s widow, Hannah Yun-Richey, said, Richey earned his BA in business management while working full time, as well as attending specialized trainings through the FBI and West Point Academy.
“(Jon) was so into education, and tried to learn everything he could from others. He was one of the best dog trainers in the country, but he was always willing to learn from other people … very open minded,” Yun-Richey said.
For Richey, learning extended beyond classrooms into life experiences. As his youngest son Devin described during the funeral services, his father often took up hobbies from scratch, and enjoyed including his two sons in any of those hobbies they showed interest in — from tying flies, playing chess, brewing beer, or creating the perfect meatball, only to move on to something new once he had mastered what he set out to achieve.
“I think more so than the activities themselves, Dad enjoyed the feeling of finding something he wasn’t good at and pushing past the limits and hesitation causing so many to shy away … earning (what) he became good at,” Devin said.
When asked how Richey loved spending his time, Yun-Richey was quick to answer: “Cooking. We liked to cook different food … his son Devin would often come around and cook and watch a movie.”
Yun-Richey, a dog trainer from South Korea, first met Richey six years ago through an online K-9 forum when she was seeking recommendations in training her border collie, Clara, for search and rescue.
Richey, who was the head K-9 trainer for Unified Police Department at the time, began answering Yun-Richey’s questions, and a friendship from halfway around the world blossomed.
In December of 2011, Yun-Richey brought Clara for a snowy vacation to Salt Lake City and when she and Richey met in person there was a natural connection.
Although their time together was short, Yun-Richey is grateful for the time they had. When asked what Richey brought to her life, Yun-Richey paused to hold back tears and said: “Love … unconditional love that he gave me, so much joy and happiness to my life.”
Despite the difficulty in losing her husband, Yun-Richey expressed her gratitude in regards to the community support, with specific mention of letters she has received from citizens stating their appreciation for Richey’s commitment to service.