Giesen, Richard Anthony

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A True Renaissance Man: Longtime Smith Mountain Lake resident Richard Anthony “Tony” Giesen passed away April 5th, 2022 at age 82 at Roanoke Memorial Hospital. He was born February 9, 1940 in Ada, Oklahoma and spent his youngest years in rural Konawa.

His father, Andrew Frederick Giesen Sr, was a surgeon in private practice as well as a provider of medical care to the Shawnee Indian reservation. It was in Konowa that Tony developed a love of playing Cowboys and Indians and as a young boy, dressed in cowboy attire every day; even sleeping in his cowboy boots. His family returned to Virginia when his father was called back to his home town to start Radford Community Hospital.

Tony’s intellectual curiosity was evident at a young age. He made hospital rounds with his father from the age of five; and would wonder off, only to be found in the mechanical room trying to figure out how the boiler worked. His father instilled in him a strong work ethic and the importance of having purpose in life.

Tony worshipped his Mother, opera singer Virginia Vaughan Giesen. In addition to getting his quick wit from her, she raised him in the church and taught him about civility and the finer things in life – good manners, the art of conversation, classical piano, poetry, opera, fine food and wine, an appreciation for foreign languages, and introduced him to his beloved art form American Brilliant Cut Glass.

His natural vocal talent became evident at an early age. He was a soloist in church and did local performances as young as age six. At the age of thirteen he sang for Virginia Governor Thomas Stanley’s inauguration. He played Emile DeBecque in Ferrum College’s rendition of South Pacific and performed with the Roanoke Valley Choral Society. His repertoire ranged from Puccini arias to My Cross Eyed Consumptive Sarah Jane.

Tony’s grandparents were German immigrants and he grew up immersed in the language. He became fluent at a young age and later studied in Germany. Starting in his school years he became an accomplished bridge player, mechanic, equestrian and pianist. As a mechanic, he worked on both his and his parent’s cars and in later years he also did his own boat repairs. As an equestrian, he enjoyed fox hunting and riding in the snow under a full moon. As an accomplished pianist, he mastered pieces from the Scott Joplin rags to the Chopin Etudes.

Tony graduated from Radford High School in 1958, obtained a Bachelor of Science in Rural Sociology from Virginia Polytechnic Institute, a Master of Science in Mathematics from Radford College, and did post graduate work in mathematics at Princeton. In 2016, he was awarded an honorary doctorate from Ferrum College.

He was hired in 1965 at the age of twenty-five by Ferrum College. He was Ferrum’s longest serving faculty member, having spent approximately fifty years as a math professor. He also started the equestrian program and taught German for nine years. He served on numerous committees including Program Review, Tenure and Promotion and the Steering Committee for Accreditation, as well as spending four years as Coordinator of Institutional Research. He was an esteemed professor earning many accolades from students and staff including being the recipient of the Margaret Morrison Clark Putting Students First Award. He was a long-standing member of Kappa Delta Pi.

A big animal lover, he owned several German shepherds during his lifetime. He was frequently seen around campus in the summers in the companionship of his favorite shepherd Sampson.

Tony wanted to best be remembered for his teaching. He loved imparting knowledge to his students, and in turn, learning from and relating to them. He took a true interest in his students and stayed friends with many of them for decades. It was not unusual in his travels for him to run into former students at a national park in the United States or a restaurant in Germany.

He loved Ferrum and in keeping with the college motto “Not Self But Others”, he wanted to “give back in some way”. To that end, he donated his Steinway grand piano as well as his collection of American Brilliant Cut Glass to the college. He had a lifelong passion for studying and collecting cut glass and spent over 60 years amassing hundreds of pieces. He loved the glass, appreciating its artistry while also relating it to mathematics; admiring the symmetrical lines and geometric patterns. He believed that each piece of glass had a different story to tell.

American Brilliant Cut Glass was produced in the United States between 1876 and 1916 and Tony considered the glass to be “one of only two of America’s true original art forms, the other being jazz music”. His collection includes his favorite punch bowls, decanters, pitchers, celery trays, flower centers, lamps and vases; many of which are listed in The Book of Rarities, which showcases one of a kind pieces a collector might one day hope to own. The Collection is housed in the Anthony Giesen Gallery of American Brilliant Cut Glass located in the upper level of Franklin Hall at Ferrum College. It is one of only two college-based collections in the United States.

Tony was well traveled and spent many summers in Europe most of which were in Germany, Austria, and Spain. He was a gourmet cook and if one were fortunate enough to dine in his home, they were eager to get a second invitation. He was also a wholesale dealer in fine diamonds and ran “Anthony’s” jewelry business for many years. In his twenties he became a member of the Freemasons, the world’s largest fraternal organization.

Tony had a great sense of humor and undeniable wit throughout his life. Even in his final weeks, when he was told it would take transport three hours to get him from one hospital to the next, he said, “Oh, we have time for dinner and a movie.”

Tony was preceded in death by his father and mother, Andrew Frederick Giesen, Sr. MD and Virginia Vaughan Giesen; brothers and sisters-in-law, Andrew Frederick Giesen, Jr. MD and Virginia Conrad Giesen, Thomas Vaughan Giesen and Nancy Voege Giesen; and nephew, Andrew Frederick Giesen III PhD.

He is survived by one niece, Gwendolyn Conrad Giesen and husband Keith George Milyo of Texas; five nephews, David Voege Giesen and wife Jan Hamby of South Carolina, Richard Vaughan Giesen and wife Victoria Hiott of Missouri, Daniel Mark Giesen and wife Ellie Henderson of Georgia, James Thomas Giesen of South Carolina, and George Bradley Giesen (Jennifer Norris) of Florida; niece-in-law, Linda Peterson Giesen of Missouri; sister-in-law, Deborah Smith Giesen of South Carolina; favorite cousins, Sean and Greg Jeung of Colorado; goddaughter, Helga Thompson Goodale; and many great nieces, nephews and extended family members.

The funeral service with reception following is scheduled for 10 am Friday, May 6, 2022 at St. Johns Episcopal Church in Roanoke. A private burial for family only will be held at a later date.

The family would like to express their appreciation to Dr’s Demott, Kim, Kahn and the entire 8 South ICU staff at Roanoke Memorial Hospital for the exceptional care they provided to Tony in his final weeks and a special thank you to Ronald P. Johnson for his support and guidance during this time.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to The Defenders of Wildlife, The Nature Conservancy, The US National Parks Service, Rescue Mission of Roanoke, or the charity of your choice.

The Giesen family is in the care of Mullins Funeral Home & Crematory in Radford, Virginia.