Richard John Shields

Richard John Shields passed away surrounded by family on February 20th, 2017.  As a lifelong mortician, he could not have designed a more perfect death for himself than having slipped and fallen chasing around his grandkids after having just shared an ice cream with them.

He was born the youngest of three children in Palo Alto, California on July 10th, 1944 to Gerald V. Shields and Elizabeth Waugh Thomson Shields.  He attended Sequoia High School having graduating in 1962.  From the time of his youth, he always had a fascination with funeral service cars and decided to put that curiosity to work when he enrolled at the San Francisco College of Mortuary Science.  Upon graduating in June of 1964, he began working as an embalmer with Crippin and Flynn Funeral home in Redwood City, CA.  This job would chart the course of his career for the next 48 years.

In 1966 he made the move south to work as an embalmer and funeral director at Reardon’s Funeral home in Ventura, CA.  It was here that he met and married his wife of 48 years, Judith Lyle.  In 1976, with two kids one cat and one bunny in tow, they set off into the unknown to the small town of Ely, NV where they purchased and managed Wilson-Bates Mortuary (later Mountain Vista Chapel), having acquired it from his mentor Barkley Oliver of Crippin and Flynn.  For more than 35 years, Rick was the sole provider of funeral services in East-Central Nevada working tirelessly on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  Rick devoted much of his time to volunteer organizations such as the Sacred Heart Knights of Columbus, Past President of Kiwanis Club, Benevolent Protective Order of Elks, the Ely Volunteer Fire Department, the Great Basin Service Club, and NFDA & The Zoo.  His retirement was spent in Sun City Aliante where he enjoyed the company of his friends and family and perfectly did as little as possible.  When not spending time with his family or working, Rick could be found at the bowling alley or watching his favorite softball teams, “The Ballbearers” and Mountain Vista.

Rick is survived by his wife Judy of North Las Vegas, Nevada.  In addition, he is survived by his daughter Kristen (Clinton) Crookshanks of Elizabeth, Colorado; Chad Shields of Las Vegas, Nevada; Jeremy (Karolyn) Shields of North Las Vegas, Nevada; three nephews: Kevin (Cheryl) Giacomini of Atlanta, Georgia; John (Lori) Giacomini of Long Beach, California; and Timothy (Jenni) Giacomini of Palo Alto, California.  He will also be missed dearly by his four granddaughters, Taryn and Calla Crookshanks along with Maura and Rose-Claire Shields who were all just a few of his favorite things.

Anyone that knew him understood what a kind and compassionate person he was.  However, he was also a passionate person.  This passion extended from things like his beloved 49ers to the extraordinary measures he took to ensure everyone felt special on their birthdays with his rain man-like ability to remember any and everyone’s special day.  He was also known for his excess.  Why buy one package of 20 rolls of packing tape, when clearly 5 packages were better?  15 different types of chocolates and two-day old stale donuts were an ever-present vice that tempted friend and stranger alike, washed down with black coffee that made the toes curl in their shoes.  Ties tied seven inches too short was his trademark gift to the fashion world, while making grave-digging a spectator sport in a suit and moon-boots.

But perhaps his most enduring legacy will be that of his incredible moral courage and character.  He was universally understood as a kind, gentle, and compassionate person.  Countless grieving families, over his long and distinguished career, benefited from the remarkable charm of his character and the warm embrace of the blanket of compassion with which he enveloped them.  Complete strangers felt the sincerity of the man who knew little of the cost of investing in friendships, but rather sought to unconditionally be a part of the human experience.  He will be missed not only for the love he radiated to friend, stranger, and family alike, but also for his generous spirit and selfless dedication to the things near and dear to him.  In all aspects of his life, he was a man of excess, but in his case, excessive love.  While his life has ended, his persistent legacy of kindness, service, and compassion will live on in the hearts of all that who were fortunate enough to know him.

In lieu of flowers donations can be made to Genesis Home Health.

The Recitation of the Rosary is scheduled for Friday, February 24, 2017 at 7:00 p.m. at Mountain Vista Chapel.

The Mass of Christian Burial will be Saturday, February 25, 2017 at 10:00 a.m. at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church.  Burial to follow at the Ely City Cemetery.

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  1. Cliff Kitchener says:

    Working with this man,both with individuals from traffic accidents, to working with him at the mortuary,I gain the up most respect for Rick as he showed the up most respect showed the people he work on. God rest my friend.

  2. Angelo Fazio & Mary Prance says:

    Dear Judy and family,

    We are so sorry to hear of Rick’s passing. The wonderful write up above is most accurate from our knowledge of Rick: he was always generous with his time and friendly and supportive of everyone.
    Our prayers are with you as you hold his services.

    • Lewis & Beverly Sandberg says:

      God bless this very special spirit. He was every thing the article says he was. Don’t know of a finer person that could do what he did in Ely for many years. He had a very special sense of humor and a sweet spirit. We missed him when he left our town and we will miss him still.

  3. LYLE NORCROSS says:


  4. Judy and family,

    In the 30 years I was blessed to call Nevada home, I can honestly say that Rick was one of the kindest, most caring individuals I was honored to call a friend. His work ethic was unparalleled, and his compassion was so evident in his everyday interactions with people. As saddened as I was to hear of his passing, I am very grateful to have been able to call Rick and Judy Shields my friends.

  5. Devin Rattazzi says:

    Judy and family,
    It is with great sorrow to hear of Rick’s passing. All my love and prayers for you. It was a great honor just to have known him and you Judy. He was a great friend, thank God you two found Ely when you did, other wise we would never have known such fantastic people. All my love to you.

  6. Amber Phillips says:

    This was such a beautiful tribute to an extraordinary man. Prayers to your family.

  7. Beverly Ashworth Stephens says:

    What an amazing person. I remember his kindness during our hard times of loosing our parents. Also Rick was a very dear friend of my dad’s (Leon Ashworth). What a very blessed family to have known, loved and spent time with such a wonderful person.

  8. Bobbi morrison says:

    My deepest condolences to Chad and your family. Your dad was an amazing man and your entire family, likewise. You were always kind to me and never judged my circumstances. I will be forever grateful to your family for the compassion shown to me personally throughout the years. Sincerly, Bobbi Rowley- Morrison

  9. Patrick Smith says:

    When Rick first moved to Ely, I was delivering the Ely Daily Times to the Wilson Bates Mortuary every afternoon. Always showing kindness to all he met, Rick cared for hundreds of families throughout the years to include my own. The last time I saw him was in 2007 at my Aunt Betty Thiessen’s funeral. He still recognized me after all those years! A true gentleman and friend.

  10. Sometime you hear people referred to as a ‘national treasure’. Rick Shields was an Ely Treasure, a White Pine Treasure… a Nevada Treasure to multiple generations that he provided his sensitive and important service to – while being a friend and supporting the community. Thank you, Rick.

  11. Tracie Douglas says:

    Rest well, Rick. You took care of so many of us. My home town was better because of you and your gentle spirit. You will be greatly missed by your loving family. Thank you for taking care of my family.

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