Ellen Petersen Richards, a longtime resident of Arlington, passed away peacefully in her sleep on Friday, Jan. 26, 2018, at the nursing home in McLean where she spent her final years. She was 89.

Ellen, born in Prospect Park, Pa., had two brothers, Roger and Richard Petersen (both deceased). She attended Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa., and graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a BS degree.

At Dickinson, she met classmate Thomas W. Richards (deceased), whom she married upon their graduation in 1950. The couple moved to Arlington, where they joined the Unitarian Church, became actively involved in local politics, and raised two children.

In her immediate family, Ellen is survived by her son and daughter-in-law, Douglas Richards and Deborah Richards of Alexandria; her daughter and son-in-law, Cynthia Richards and Mark Rollins of St. Louis; and by two of her three grandchildren, Alison Rollins of Los Angeles and Christopher Richards of Baltimore.

Along with her husband Tom in 2011, she was preceded in death by her granddaughter Natalie Richards in 2010.

Ellen was very involved in community activities, as a Girl Scout leader, local political campaigner, nature guide in area parks and as a docent at the Smithsonian’s Naturalist Center. Gardening, wildflowers and birding were her passions. She will be remembered fondly for her consistently kind and generous spirit, which touched so many people over her almost 90 years.

The family will be honoring her in a memorial service in the spring, with a date to follow.

Contributions may be made in her memory to the Nature Conservancy MD/DC.

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