Scott Richards, a financial adviser who rose to become president of North Star Resource Group of Minneapolis, was the epitome of the "servant leader," according to his colleagues.

Richards, of Minnestrista, who had myelofibrosis and leukemia, died July 12 in Rochester. He was 45.

He grew up in Afton and was a football and hockey star at the Hill Murray School in Maplewood.

He was a walk-on for the Gophers football team, playing a couple of years at defensive back. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in economics from the University of Minnesota in 1985.

Later, he earned a master's degree in financial services from American College in Bryn Mawr, Pa.

He joined North Star Resource Group in 1986. His father, Phil Richards, bought the firm in 1969. North Star provides investment planning for individuals and businesses.

Scott Richards consistently became a top salesman for the firm, and he rose through the ranks, becoming president a few years ago.

Edward Deutschlander of Carver, North Star executive vice president, said Richards "loved to ... help others to succeed."

He said Richards was a "visionary" on the marketing side of the business. "He was so other-focused," Deutschlander said.

Counseling and encouraging employees came naturally to Richards.

Deutschlander once left the business because it is difficult to launch a career based on commissions. Richards helped bring him back to the firm.

"If it wasn't for Scott believing in me, I would not be in the business today," Deutschlander said.

Shaun McDuffee, of Austin, Texas, a North Star senior vice president, said Richards had an "infectious belief in the ability of others."

"He would believe so intensely in someone, that they could be successful, that the person would believe it," McDuffee said. "That was a rare gift."

He was president-elect of the Minnesota General Agents and Managers Association, and was a recipient of the national organization's Management Award.

Richards was a volunteer for Feed the Children, the MPD (myeloproliferative disorders) Foundation and church ministries, said his brother, Kip, of Phoenix.

"To know Scott for a minute was to love him," Kip said.

In addition to his brother, he is survived by his wife of eight years, Michelle, of Minnetrista, a daughter, Lauren, a son, Nicolas, parents Phil and Sue Richards, of Paradise Valley, Ariz., sister Christina, of Scottsdale, Ariz., and grandfather Howard Hill, of Bethlehem, Pa.

Services will be held at 10 a.m. today at Grace Church, 9301 Eden Prairie Road, Eden Prairie.