Obituary of Elaine Richelieu
Elaine Richelieu, Attorney, Teacher, Entrepreneur, Mother, Grandmother, and Maven of Non-convention, dies at 75.
Born Elaine Ronnie Natman in Brooklyn, New York on February 25, 1947, to Samuel Natman an immigrant from Winnitzer, Ukraine, and Shirley (Schmereloff) Natman the family moved to the Canarsie neighborhood where Elaine attended school. Summers were spent in the Catskills at a bungalow colony with grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends. An excellent student, she skipped a couple of lower grades and entered Thomas Jefferson High School at the age of 14. A lover of music Elaine played several instruments including the Glockenspiel in the T.J.H.S. marching band, the acoustic bass in a folk/jazz quartet as well as the piano. She was a member of Mensa and entered Hunter College at the age of 16.
Before leaving Brooklyn, Elaine tried her hand at business and opened her first clothing store, Birds of a Feather. It was a unisex clothing store featuring trendy style merchandise. Always a lover of California, she moved to Monterey County in the early 1970s. There she opened another store with her then-husband Gary Decker(deceased). They had 2 beautiful children together Kelly and Chance. While raising their children Elaine continued her education and earned her teaching credential before becoming a substitute teacher of high school-level mathematics. She occasionally accepted piano students and enjoyed teaching beginners. She loved challenges and was always trying something new, so it was another adventure that led her to law school around the time her children were teenagers. She graduated from the Monterey College of Law, and practiced law in Monterey County for many years, eventually becoming the director of the Monterey County Bar Association.
Elaine’s adventures and misadventures are too numerous and unbelievable to elaborate on here. A few other strengths and attributes were her love of books - a voracious reader since childhood, her love of animals, an artistic dabbler, a creative witty writer, and to everyone’s surprise, an avid vegetable gardener. As a lifelong chocolate lover, she was never a snob, preferring Oreos and Mallomars to the fancy stuff. We often thought her favorite dinner was cereal. Absolutely no one can remember seeing her eat a vegetable until she started gardening. She was someone who was always up for any challenge, she went skydiving, walked on fire, and even raced cars. When the ravages of MS narrowed down her world, she spent more time at home paying attention to her health. She grew beautiful veggies and made natural fruit jams from her fruit trees that she loved to share with family and friends.
In addition to the Bar Association Elaine belonged to numerous associations and nonprofit organizations and enjoyed working on a variety of projects. Elaine had a proud Jewish identity and it is fitting that we just celebrated the environmental holiday of Tu BiShvat which is commemorated by planting trees when discovering Elaine’s favorite organization is arborday.org which plants trees all over the globe.
Elaine lost her decade-long battle with MS on February 20, 2023. Even after their divorce, her ex-husband, Bob Richelieu, remained a loyal and dear friend. She is survived by her feline companion Roxie, her daughter Kelly Decker and son Chance Decker and granddaughters Selena and Eleanor Decker as well as a sister Zondra Barricks and a brother Irwin Natman and their children and grandchildren. A celebration of life will be held at a later date in the Spring. Gifts in her memory are welcomed at arborday.org planting trees throughout the world.
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