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James Richards; professor was cat expert

James Richards was director of Cornell's College of Veterinary Medicine's Feline Health Center. James Richards was director of Cornell's College of Veterinary Medicine's Feline Health Center. (Alexis Wenski-Roberts/Cornell University)

ITHACA, N.Y. -- Renowned Cornell University cat veterinarian James Richards, who was injured when he crashed his motorcycle trying to avoid a cat in the road, died two days later , the university said. He was 58.

Dr. Richards, the director of Cornell's College of Veterinary Medicine's Feline Health Center, was thrown from his motorcycle during the accident Sunday, according to police. He died Tuesday.

Dr. Richards regularly appeared on network and cable television to discuss the world of cats.

An authority on vaccination protocols for cats, he was a former president of the American Association of Feline Practitioners and the author of several books and articles, including the "ASPCA Complete Guide to Cats.

"He was the most competent feline expert, perhaps in the country, but even more than that, he was just a wonderful, caring person and a very dear friend to many, many people," said Donald Smith, dean of Cornell's veterinary school.

Dr. Richards was born in Richmond, Ind., and he held a mathematics degree from Berea College in Kentucky and his doctorate in veterinary medicine from Ohio State University.

He joined the Cornell veterinary college in 1991 as assistant director of the Feline Health Center and was named director in 1997.

Colleagues remembered Dr. Richards as a charismatic and popular teacher who was concerned about the students he mentored.

Also, "He loved his motorcycles," said Christine Bellezza, a feline consultant who began working with Dr. Richards in 1999.

"All you had to say was it was a nice day for a ride, and he would get a big smile on his face."

His colleagues weren't surprised that a man who dedicated a good portion of his life to improving the lives of cats put such effort into avoiding a cat in the road.

According to The New York Times, Dr. Richards leaves his wife Anita Fox Richards; his mother, Marion of Ithaca, N.Y.; and two sons, Jesse and Seth.

He had one cat.

A memorial service will be held tomorrow in Bethel Grove Bible Church in Ithaca.

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