Richard Felix Staar
Jan. 10, 1923-March 27, 2018
Portola Valley, California
Submitted by Christina S. Peters
Contact the submitter
Richard Felix Staar died in Portola Valley on March 27, 2018. He was ninety-five years old. He was survived by his wife, Jadwiga O. Staar, until her passing one week later.
Richard was born in Warsaw, Poland, on January 10, 1923. He inherited American citizenship from his parents and moved, with his family, to Michigan when he was eleven months old. When he was twelve years old, he and his family moved back to Poland, where they were when the Germans invaded Poland in 1939.
Even though he was an American citizen, he was arrested and spent six months in a Gestapo camp. He was released, only to be arrested one year later and sent to an internment camp. Here, he was able to continue his education with the many teachers who were also imprisoned there. He took and passed an exam which earned him a letter of acceptance from the University of London; a Certificate of Provisional Matriculation. Toward the end of the war, he was part of a group of people who were exchanged for German civilians and returned to the United States.
With the help of the Warfields, a couple he had met in Poland, he was able to enroll in and graduate from Dickinson College. He went on to receive his master’s degree from Yale University.
He met Jadwiga Ochota, a woman his father had met during the war in a displaced persons’ camp in Italy. His father urged her to come to America, and, a few years later, she did just that. It was love at first sight, and the couple married a few months after their first meeting.
Richard worked for the State Department and returned to graduate school. Two daughters were born during this time, and his wife helped to support the family and his return to school, working as a nurse at the University of Michigan Hospital. Richard earned his Ph.D. in political science from the University of Michigan. He was fluent in five languages: English, French, German, Polish, and Russian.
He and his family moved to Arkansas and then to Munich, Germany, where he worked for Radio Free Europe. Then, it was back to the United States, where he became a faculty member at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. He found fulfillment in teaching and, during this time, began writing and publishing books about Poland, Eastern Europe, the Soviet Union, and communism. He also joined the United States Marine Corps Reserve, reaching the rank of colonel and receiving the Presidential Legion of Merit for his services.
He and the family moved to Newport, Rhode Island, for a year, during which time he occupied the Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz chair of political science and social philosophy at the U. S. Naval War College. After this, he accepted the position of deputy director of the Hoover Institution at Stanford, California. Here, in addition to his administrative duties, he was the editor in chief of the Yearbook on International Communist Affairs and was active in fundraising for the Institution. He also was an avid tennis player.
Richard was part of the transition team, helping Ronald Reagan take office as President of the United States. President Reagan appointed him as Ambassador to Vienna, Austria, to head the U.S. delegation at the Mutual and Balanced Force Reduction negotiations with the Soviet Union.
Returning to California and Hoover with his wife after his time in Austria, he wrote and edited more books and articles before retiring to the Sequoias in Portola Valley. He is survived by his two daughters, three grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.
Tags: veteran, teacher/educator, public service