One of the colorful personalities that lived in Door County when I worked for WDOR Radio was Arni Richter. After moving to Madison, and while working with State Representative Lary Swoboda, Arni Richter was also a constituent with needs and thoughts. When he would call the office for business he was never too busy to also just chat on the phone. I recall I would often ask what the weather was like up his way, and he would let me know when it was sweltering in the statehouse that there was a cooling breeze off the lake for the residents of Washington Island. He very much loved the island. He was always a gentleman on the phone with me, even when our politics clashed. I wish that I could have heard more of the stories he could tell about the decades of living on Washington Island.
Late this week I heard that he passed away in mid-December 2009. His obituary was as interesting as the man himself. In part it reads…..
He was born on Washington Island, Feb. 5, 1911. He was an island resident his entire life where he was notably engaged in the ferry transportation service.
On April 11, 1940, Arni and his father, Carl, purchased two wooden ferries from Captain William Jepson. This began a close association with the daily ferry business as a captain and company president that continued through his retirement in 2001.
One notable occasion was in October 1960, when the only bridge in Sturgeon Bay was rendered inoperable by a collision from the foreign freighter, Carlsholm. Within hours, Arni dispatched two ferries to help keep traffic moving from the east to west sides of Sturgeon Bay, with the resulting Door County Advocate headline: “Little Island Helps Big Island.” In May of 2003, the island’s newest and largest and most powerful all-season ferry, ARNI J. RICHTER, was christened in his honor.
In 1990, Arni was quoted in the book Over and Back saying: “I have no regrets..looking back, it’s been an interesting life, and rewarding, too. It makes one feel good to do some of the other things which improve living here overall. I am one of only five children in my family who was able to stay on the Island…I’ve often said it was because I couldn’t do anything else!”