Obituary of Richard Joseph Pfundstein
Richard Joseph Pfundstein, born in Queens, died in peace with the Three Kings on the Feast of the Epiphany at St. Mary’s Hospice House, in Athens, Georgia. He was surrounded by the love and prayers of his beloved wife, Cindy, cherished children, grandchildren, cousins, and dear friends.
The oldest of five children, Richard was the beloved son, born in 1951, to the late Richard and Clemency Pfundstein. His early life was nurtured in the richness of his Catholic faith by his devoted parents and three younger sisters and one brother: Joanne (Babbitt), Kathryn (Gray), Elaine (Pfaff), and Robert. Growing up in Wayne, New Jersey, Richard took every opportunity to play any sport that involved a ball and excelled at all of them. Before long he was playing third base and tight end at DePaul High School, where, in 1968, he met the love of his life, Cynthia Burck. This was the beginning of a great love story that those of us who were privileged to witness will never forget nor cease to retell.
Legend has it that the nun who ran their homeroom was going through the roll call on the first day of class, she came to Richard Pfundstein and had to ask him to tell her how to pronounce it. When he replied, “Richard,” Cindy could not control her laughter and was immediately sent to the Principal’s Office for the first time in her life. Richard’s dry sense of humor often left Cindy wet with tears and he kept her laughing from that day until he left this world on January 6, 2023.
In those days, Mass was celebrated daily in the gym at lunch time and Richard and Cindy would seize the opportunity to be together in one of the only places they could be together where some well-intentioned Nun would not tell them to move along to their next class. They will forever credit the graces received at those Masses in their first years together for being the glue that held them together through the storms of life, and they have been faithful daily Communicants as life and health permitted.
Richard and Cindy were married on November 29, 1975, setting off on an adventure across Europe for a month, beginning a long tradition of traveling together, on a shoestring or in First Class splendor, as the vicissitudes of life allowed.
Their married life started in Swarthmore, PA where Rich was getting his start in finance and Cindy was a dental hygienist. Before long, their first passenger jumped on board when Barbara (Quilliams) was born in 1978 soon to be followed by sons Gregory and Stephen, born in 1980 and 1982.
By this time, Rich and Cindy had settled in Mountain Lakes, NJ, and Rich was running the Pace Business School in Yonkers, NY. Rich took up sailing and windsurfing, and he honed his skills during long summers on Nantucket. Only rarely did he fall out of a boat leaving a toddler on a solo sail, but few toddlers grow up with wind in their hair and sea spray in their faces, with imaginations full of grand voyages and great adventures.
Many heard Richard call, “All aboard!” and friends, siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and the occasional random stranger took a ride aboard Richard’s beloved Sweet 16 sailboat. Richard’s all-aboard attitude extended to life in general, and many were invited over the years to join Richard, Cindy, and the kids on their various adventures near and far. We all cherish those memories.
It came as an unexpected blessing when in 1992 Richard and Cindy welcomed Andrew, but God is generous with his gifts, even to those who seem to have it all. Andrew arrived at a time of great transition, and soon after the family moved to Conyers, Georgia, where Richard and Cindy have lived ever since.
Just as Richard and Cindy were noticing that they were a bit older than many of the other parents in Drew’s elementary school classes, they were blessed to become quite young Grandparents when Elizabeth (Quilliams) was born in 2000 and the family continues to grow as their 17th grandchild is due to arrive any day.
Richard was a beloved friend and mentor to many. He was a natural leader and that was a gift that he did not squander. No matter the task, he always rose to the top with a humble yet assertive presence that could not be ignored. Whether he was running a successful business or helping with Catholic school lunch duty, he did it with pride and made sure to know every name as he left his unforgettable mark on every soul he encountered. He could be counted on for more than moral support; his friends and family knew that if they were ever in need, Richard would be there for them at a moment’s notice – or at least as fast as their faithful Suburban could get there. Richard always knew that sometimes laughter is the best medicine. We all remember much laughter, even sometimes through our tear-streaked faces. When we were uprooted, or heartbroken, or had lost our way, he was there for us and showed us the way.
Richard’s devotion to Cindy and their growing family was absolute. Nothing gave him greater pleasure than gathering them all from the four winds to which their inherited spirit of adventure had scattered them to celebrate Christmas in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. There he was Pop, Santa Claus, and the Old Man of the Mountain all at once, and three generations will have memories for life thanks to his generosity and hospitality.
Richard faced hardships in his life, but few were ever aware of them. He was not one to complain, and he placed his trust in God knowing that in life’s journey, God is in control. When Richard no longer had the strength to live, God made His will known, and as always Richard accepted.
Richard spent his life teaching his children how to live and now he has taught us his final lesson. As he battled lymphoma over the last three and one-half years, we learned how to suffer and die with grace and peace, faith and courage. Cindy, each of his children and oldest grandchild, Liz, were honored to have the opportunity to serve him in his final weeks.
Over a life of service and generosity, laughter, adventure, and listening to the subtle sound of water lapping off the bow and wind in the sails, Richard became a wise man. How fitting that this man from Queens with a name that means “Brave King” departed with the Three Wise Kings who came to worship the Christ Child after long journeys from lands far away. May he rest in heavenly peace. Go Dawgs!!
Visitation will be held on Thursday, January 19, 2023, from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at M. John Scanlan Funeral Home in Pompton Plains, New Jersey. A mass of Christian burial will be celebrated on Friday, January 20, 2023, at 11:00 a.m. at Our Lady of Mount Carmel, 910 Birch St, Boonton, New Jersey, 07005. The mass can be viewed live by going to this website, https://www.olmc.church/funeral/#live . Burial will follow at First Reformed Church Cemetery of Pompton Plains, 529 Newark Pompton Turnpike, Pompton Plains, NJ 07444.
In lieu of flowers, donations in Richard's memory may be made to:
The Sacramentine Nuns
Blessed Sacrament Monastery
86 Dromore Road
Scarsdale, NY 10583
In Loving Memory
1951 - 2023