Remembering My Friend, Builder & Client Rich Napier

My friend Rich Napier was just 66 when he died last week.

The Richmond native fought a short, but courageous battle against gastric cancer. Diagnosed in April 2017, Rich ultimately made the difficult decision to wind down his business at Napier Signature Homes, an award-winning custom home and remodeling company, to focus on his health and spend more time with his wife.

Over the past 12 years, Rhudy & Co. Strategic Communications had the opportunity to work with Rich on his marketing and public relations campaigns. I met Rich through a fellow communications consultant who said, “This guy is awesome, and he needs PR help.” She was so right.

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A fast friendship
In the spring of 2006, Rich and I met, talked and immediately laughed like we would later do many times over the coming years. He always had a smile. We quickly realized that he actually built our house for another family just five years earlier. Months earlier before Rich even knew us, he delivered a set of floor plans to our Realtor as my wife and I contemplated buying his brick Georgian.

Rich initially worked with Rhudy & Co. on a PR campaign for the 2006 Richmond Symphony Designer House that he built as the first-ever brand-new house for the longtime fundraiser. The 7,600-square-feet showplace in Midlothian was arguably Rich’s greatest construction. He was a master builder.

Living the golden rule
When I met Rich in 2006, Rhudy & Co. was working with Ukrop’s Super Markets as its public relations firm. As I learned about Rich’s family business and how his father, Oscar, opened a real estate firm in 1958, I couldn’t help but think about the similarities between the two family-run businesses that also included two brothers. Oscar even owned two grocery stores before getting into real estate.

Both the Ukrop and the Napier families treated others how they’d personally like to be treated. As a family business, we’ve strived to do the same at Rhudy & Co.

In Rich’s own words
In a 2001 news article, Rich said, “I’ve sold some homes that didn’t make money but made people happy. It’s part of the business. It goes back to the work ethic ingrained in us by our father. There’s a lot personal satisfaction in building a home, watching it come out of the ground and serving customers. We’re helping people all the time … changing families and lives.”

Rich demonstrated the golden rule throughout his life: He was honest. He was straightforward. He thought of others first. He always did the right thing. He gave back. He delivered more than promised.

I saw this time and again as I interviewed dozens of Rich’s clients. His customers raved about his integrity and his attention to even the smallest of details. Rich took the time to do things right.

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He sweated about where to put electrical outlets to highlight beautiful millwork and why drywall corners should be rounded. As a result, Rich’s home building legacy lives on in some 130 Richmond-area homes, identified with a small marker our firm made for the coat closet. Thanks to Rich's younger brother Jim and Jim's daughter Megan, the family real estate firm continues through Napier Realtors ERA.

Giving back
As passionate as Rich was about his custom homes and remodels, he was equally as committed to giving back to his industry via volunteer leadership roles and to the Richmond community.

In his late 50s and early 60s, when many people typically dial back in their careers and community, Rich ramped it up. In recent years, he served as president of the Powhatan Rotary Club, where he supported dozens of charities, and helped found Backpacks of Love, a community feeding program for kids in Powhatan, Cumberland and Buckingham Counties. His legacy will live on.

Back in 2001 Rich said, “There are a lot of people that want to take shortcuts. I don’t do it that way. All you can take with you from this world is your reputation.”

And Rich did just that.

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Jonathan Rhudy loves to study floor plans, and if he wasn’t running a PR firm he just might be selling real estate or operating a grocery store.

Read more about Rich's amazing life in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.