Fazakerley Leadership Elevated BVA in 90s
Prominent Army Major General Richard Gregory Fazakerley (Ret.), BVA’s 29th National President and past Director of the Field Service Program, passed away March 17 at the Fort Belvoir Community Hospital near Alexandria, Virginia.
BVA National Headquarters staff members Al Avina, Kathy Ruais, Brigitte Jones, and Stuart Nelson attended a mass in his honor on March 28 at the Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Alexandria. Former Administrative Director John Williams and his wife, Jan, were also in attendance. A burial service with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery will be announced at a later date.
Born and raised in Oakland, California, Dick Fazakerley was known for his strong work ethic, energy, and ability to work effectively with others. He was appointed by the BVA Board of Directors to the position of National Vice President in April of 1994 following the passing of then Vice President Bobby Ridener. In August of 1995 he was elected National President at the historic BVA 50th National Convention in Arlington, Virginia.
“Dick was an excellent role model for all of us blinded vets,” said former Executive Director Tom Miller. “His vast management experience, particularly in the area of finance, was a real asset to the Association and a huge help to me as the Executive Director.”
Tom also said that the personality and demeanor of Dick Fazakerley did not fit the gruff stereotype of an Army Major General.
“Dick was as personable and friendly with everyone as you could expect from anyone,” he said. “While he was results oriented, he was also always patient and understanding—and he didn’t look down on anyone.”
Dick joined BVA in 1987. He served as the organization’s National Field Service Program Director from 1988 until his retirement in 1992.
Following his retirement, he remained active in BVA, volunteering weekly at national headquarters and representing BVA on the Korean War Veterans Memorial and the POW-MIA DoD Commissions. He was a featured speaker at the Korean War Memorial on the ten-year anniversary of its dedication on July 27, 2005.
Dick was also selected by then National President Carl Foley to serve on the newly formed BVA Investment Fund Advisory Board. Within the rich Fazakerley legacy also is a strategic plan that included a leadership training program that would travel to each of the six BVA districts.
Dick envisioned the same type of training one day at the national convention, a dream that has now been realized at least in part at recent convention seminars and workshops.
The Strategic Planning Project entailed a document that detailed responsibilities, functions, and objectives for the national and field service staffs.
“I think the challenge for us as we pass our 50th anniversary is that we have an opportunity to lead the way and carry on with the same courage and spirit that we saw in those who preceded us,” Dick told then Communications Coordinator Christopher Bentley in an interview shortly after his election as National President. “Our past history has been one of overcoming some very substantial obstacles, and I believe that BVA is the one organization that opens to the door to benefits not only for the blinded veterans but also for their families and those around them who love them and want to support them properly.”
Dick also believed strongly in the need to strengthen and make greater use of BVA volunteers within the existing BVA Field Service Program, a concept that remains important today.
“The volunteers staff small offices throughout the United States and can provide us with a tremendous amount of feedback,” he said. “Our volunteers are the local points of contact for our members as well as other blinded veterans who are not yet our members.”
In 1995 the Bulletin featured a President’s Page exactly as it does in 2016. In his first President’s Page Dick wrote that the convention celebration of BVA’s 50th anniversary just concluded begs the question: “What about the next 50 years?” He indicated that the next 50 years would be a large order if BVA were to carry on with the same spirit and advocacy of the past and set a course to meet the priority needs of its members.
Left to right at BVA 54th National Convention in San Juan, Puerto Rico, August 21, 1999: Terry Fazakerley, whom Dick referred to as both wife and Chief of Staff; National President Elect Bob Smith, 3rd; Dick Fazakerley; and Past National President Carl Foley.
His overall goals for BVA at the outset of his presidency were: 1) Vigorous advocacy for blinded veterans at the federal, state, and local levels, 2) Active support of BVA regional group activities and programs, 3) Increased BVA membership and public awareness about the Association and capabilities of blinded veterans, and 4) Adherence to sound fiscal and resource management practices.
Dick’s Washington Post obituary of March 22 reported that while attending the University of San Francisco, and while enrolled in the ROTC program in 1941, Pearl Harbor was attacked. Like many of the “Greatest Generation,” Dick immediately sought to enlist. He had hopes of becoming a Navy pilot but was turned away when the enlistment eye exam revealed that he was color blind. He moved on to the Army where a senior recruiter told him surprisingly that the war would be long and costly, and that it would be better for the Army if he first completed his degree in Economics and ROTC. Dick did just that and fast-tracked his four-year degree in two years and nine months.
Dick attended Artillery Officer Candidate School and was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the Costal Artillery Corps in February 1944 in Lexington, Virginia. His Army career continued another 38 years while he served in such positions as Comptroller for several generals, Commander of the U.S. Army Finance Center, and Assistant Comptroller of the Army for Finance and Accounting. Despite the importance of these positions, he often said that his two years as Battery Commander with the brave men of the 68th AAA Gun Battalion during the Korean War could be placed in a category all its own.
Dick was awarded the Bronze Star Medal (Korean War) and took part in seven campaigns. He also received the Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit with cluster, the Joint Service Commendation Medal with cluster, and the Army Commendation Medal. The Army also sent Dick to the University of Southern California in 1954 to earn a Master of Business Administration Degree.
He retired from the Army in 1981 as a Major General and went to work soon after as the Associate Superintendent of Schools in Montgomery County, Maryland, until 1986 when macular degeneration made it difficult for him to continue. He discovered BVA and residential blind rehabilitation shortly thereafter, thus beginning the phase of his life dedicated to BVA and his fellow blinded veterans.
“The thing that most stands out to me about Dick Fazakerley and his dedication to BVA was his preoccupation for the future of the organization, especially the long-range future,” said Immediate Past National President Mark Cornell. “While we on the Board are always concerned about our activities and budget for the next year or two, Dick was always reminding us that we needed to look beyond that time—and this explains his dedication to a BVA Strategic Plan that actually encompassed 15 years!”
Dick married his childhood sweetheart, Terry McCarthy, on April 3, 1944. Terry was always with Dick at the national conventions and frequently dropped him off at the National Headquarters while he continued to work on the Association’s Strategic Plan. Terry passed away in 2009 shortly after their 65th wedding anniversary. He is survived by his four children—Veronica, Gregory, Robert, and Susan—eight grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren.