Richard Wyatt Earp's profession as a tax accountant was the polar opposite of his namesake and distant cousin Wyatt Earp, the Old West lawman romanticized for his legendary gunfight at the O.K. Corral.
But as a prominent partner at accounting firm Arthur Andersen, Earp made his own mark working for big-name clients like Schwan Food Co. and Apache Corp. He was often quoted in national and local business articles about tax laws and was even invited to the White House during the Carter administration as part of a group of national experts to discuss new tax proposals.
"Dick was the go-to man, and the clients loved him," said Jack Jasper, a friend and retired partner at Arthur Andersen. "And he was an unbelievable mentor to the young people."
Earp died Sept. 6 in a memory care facility in Edina. He was 84 and had Alzheimer's disease. Twelve days later, his wife of 61 years, Mary "Pat" Earp, also died after a long illness.
Richard Earp was born in a small town in North Dakota and raised in Moorhead by a single mother, Judith Arvidson Earp, during the Depression.
While working on an accounting degree at the University of North Dakota, he met his wife, Pat, when they were members of a fraternity and sorority. They married in 1954 when Earp graduated. A few years later, he earned an MBA from Indiana University.
"Dick could have been an engineer or doctor; he had so many interests," Pat said in an interview a few days before she herself died on Sept. 18. Daughter Susan Hume, agreed. "If he was born 30 years later, he would have been a whiz with computers," she said.
As a pilot for the Air Force and later for the National Reserves, he was activated during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962. "I asked him where he was going," recalled Pat, who felt nervous for their young family. "He said, 'I can't tell you, but listen to [President] Kennedy on the radio.' "
The family moved to Bloomington in 1958 after Earp landed a job with Arthur Andersen, at the time one of the "big five" accounting firms in the United States. He eventually became a partner and the firm's top tax specialist, as well as joining the board of the Minnesota Taxpayers Association.
"When Dad talked about accounting, it sounded so boring," Hume said. "He said it was one of the most creative careers you can do." Earp was the epitome of the "Mad Men" generation with his demanding profession requiring long workdays, Hume said. "But he came to all my piano recitals — although he'd read accounting journals when the other kids played," she said.
Among his passions were flying his own small airplane and investing in local companies he believed in. Laine Sou Weinberg, fashion designer and owner of Minnesota clothing manufacturer Kokoon, was on the brink of closing her business in the 1990s when he stepped in.
"Dick was a kind and generous man who took a chance on us," she said. "If he had not come on board as an investor, we wouldn't be in business today."
After retiring from Arthur Andersen in 1988, Pat and Dick vacationed around the world, "traveling in style for 12 years," Pat said.
When Earp read about the Enron scandal and the venerable accounting firm's demise in 2002, "it was heartbreaking for him," Hume said.
"Dad had a strong work ethic and a sense of integrity when he was with the firm," she said. "He was proud of what he had accomplished."
In addition to his daughter Susan Hume, Earp is survived by children Mark Earp, Mike Earp and William Earp; niece Rosemary Winquist, seven grandchildren and five great grandchildren. His funeral services have been held. Pat Earp's funeral will be held at 4:30 p.m. Friday at Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church in Edina.