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Richard Joseph DeCoster, of Canton, Missouri, died June 15, 2007, at Lewis County Nursing Home in Canton following a lengthy illness. DeCoster was a veteran of World War II, a lawyer and long-time State Representative and Judge died at 85 years of age. He was the beloved father of six children and grandfather of 12, and had been preceded in death by his wife of 62 years, Jane Delores DeCoster.
Richard Joseph DeCoster was the first of two children of Jules Leander and Elizabeth McNally DeCoster born July 10, 1921, in Ewing, Missouri. He attended school in Ewing, where he met his future wife. Upon graduating with the Ewing High School Class of 1939, he attended St. Louis University before enlisting in service to his country with the U.S. Navy in 1942. He trained as a fighter pilot at Lambert Field, St. Louis, and the Naval Air Station, Pensacola FL. His Navy service included assignment to the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor.
Richard united in marriage with Jane Delores Herst at Our Lady of Loretta Chapel at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, on August 24, 1943. After the war, he returned to the States in November, 1945, taking up residence in Columbia, Missouri, attending the University of Missouri. He received a B.S. in Education from the university in August, 1948. The DeCosters’ moved to California, Missouri, where Richard DeCoster taught school and worked in the law office of Lionel Embry. In 1951, he became a member of the Missouri Bar. It was also in 1951 that the DeCosters’ returned to Northeast Missouri, moving to Canton, where they have lived since and where Mr. DeCoster established a law practice and ran for public office. In 1954, he was elected to the Missouri House of Representatives, where he would serve nine terms, including 4 years as Speaker Pro-Tem. He was elected to 2-year terms in 1954, 1956 and each election from 1964 to 1976. Mr. DeCoster also taught classes at Culver-Stockton College, Canton, and served eight years as Associate Circuit Judge prior to his retirement.
Mr. DeCoster was active in various school, social and civic organizations, serving in numerous leadership positions. These groups included Canton Kiwanis Club, 4-H, the PTA, Lewis County and Missouri State Historical Societies, Canton Chamber of Commerce, Lewis County Health Board, Canton Public Library, Canton Recreational Association, and Lewis County Young Democrat Club. He also served a term as President of the Missouri Association of Probate and Associate Circuit Judges. He was an active member of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Canton.
While serving in the Missouri Legislature, Mr. DeCoster secured the establishment of Wakonda State Park near LaGrange, and wrote Missouri’s first modern highway speed limit law. In 1991, while in retirement, he served on a committee for congressional redistricting.
Mr. DeCoster enjoyed participation in wide-ranging family activities, including family vacations. His travels included many regional destinations as well as distant locations such as Washington, DC, New England, Hawaii, California, England, Belgium and France, and to his children’s homes around the country. On a 25th wedding anniversary trip to Hawaii, the DeCosters’ were honored with a VIP tour of the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor. He enjoyed sports activities, and was an avid gardener and coin collector. He also held a civilian pilot’s license.
Mr. DeCoster and his wife celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary with a reception in Canton in 1993, with 200 guests in attendance. In recent years, he accompanied his wife and family in visits to National Parks and National Forests throughout the West in celebration of the couple’s 80th birthdays and 60th wedding anniversary. Destinations included Mesa Verde, Colorado; the Grand Canyon and other sites in Arizona and New Mexico, the Black Hills in South Dakota, and Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks in Wyoming.
Mr. DeCoster was preceded in death by his wife, Jane, his parents, a brother, Miles, and a daughter-in-law, Kathy Sue Uhlmeyer DeCoster. He is survived by his six children and their families: Richard II and Barbara DeCoster of Evanston, Illinois, and their daughters Elizabeth Jane and Patricia King; Patricia D. and Steve Brenner of Bethesda, Maryland, and their sons Robert Steven and Alan Richard; Jules (Jake) DeCoster of Canton, and his children, Miles Bernard, Nicholas Irish, Katrina Elaine, and Rockne Jules; Miles and Janice DeCoster of Reading, Pennsylvania; Tom and Virginia DeCoster of Albuquerque, New Mexico, and their children Evan Thomas and Mallory Erin; and Tim and Katherine DeCoster of Alexandria, Virginia, and their children, Andrew McNally and Jana Bingley.
A mass of Christian Burial was held Monday, June 18, 2007, in St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Canton with Father Richard Frank officiating and music by Katrina DeCoster, Miles DeCoster and Laura Cary.
Burial with full graveside military honors by Otto Bruner Post #170 of the American Legion was presented in Queen of Peace Catholic Cemetery in Ewing.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Canton Community Athletic Association. Condolences may be left online at davis-fh.com.
Alan Brenner, Evan DeCoster, Andrew DeCoster, Nicholas DeCoster, Elizabeth DeCoster and Larry Caldwell served as pallbearers. Honorary Pallbearers: Glen Bringer, Robert Cook, Robert Devoy, William L. Hungate, Joe Simeon, Don Sykes, Harold Volkmer, J. P. Wallace, J. Patrick Wheeler