Published May 7, 2009
ATHENS — Katharyn Richt, wife of University of Georgia head football coach Mark Richt, is one of the most visible and notable women in Georgia.
She is also quite a remarkable mother.
Katharyn’s oldest son, John, stated, “Mom has always been there for me. She has always been willing to sit down and listen to whatever I have had to say. She has been a big influence in my life. Mom and dad have been the cornerstones of my life and faith.”
The Richts have four children. Jon, who was an outstanding high school quarterback at Prince Avenue Christian School in Athens, announced in March that he would transfer from Clemson after one season in the Tigers’ football program to continue his football career at Mars Hill College in Mars Hill, N.C., near Asheville.
David, 14 and a rising freshman at Prince Avenue Christian School, is the Richts’ second-oldest son and on the Principal’s list of A average students. He plays football and is a gifted musician. He plays the piano and guitar and writes his own music. Several months ago David accompanied himself on the piano and sang one of his own compositions for a worship service at Prince Avenue. Reports from the church were that his solo and accompaniment were “great.”
When the Richts were spotlighted on ESPN’s College Gameday Katharyn stated, “While our sons, Jonathan and David, have been definite blessings we felt like there was more of us to give.”
Mark added, “In the Bible there is a scripture that talks about how the church should help the widows, the orphans and the poor, and I thought, ‘What are we doing to help?’”
The Richts found their answer in a photograph from an orphanage halfway around the world – in the Ukraine. In July of 1999 Mark and Katharyn traveled to Eastern Europe to the orphanage where they met a little girl named Anya, who captured their hearts from the moment they saw her.
Anya has a soft tissue tumor in her cheek, which has caused ongoing problems with her facial features. Katharyn tearfully explained, “Anya’s father and mother gave her up because of the deformity. They probably didn’t have enough money to care for her.”
Mark mused, “Would anyone adopt this child? I was thinking, probably not, so maybe we should.”
When Katharyn first saw Anya she was 30 months old, but weighed only eighteen pounds. She recalled, “Anya was so small and vulnerable and tiny – somebody you wanted to pull in and hug and shield from the world.”
The Richts decided they could do more than adopt just one child, so they adopted three-and-a-half-year-old Zach, who seemed to have an attachment to Anya. Katharyn remarked, “Zach was abandoned and left in a drawer. I’m not even sure at what age or how long.”
Charlotte Gray once said, “Becoming a mother makes you the mother of all children. From now on each wounded, abandoned, frightened child is yours. You live in the suffering mothers of every race and creed and weep with them. You long to comfort all who are desolate.”
Anya has been through a series of surgeries, but she has a sense of well-being and Katharyn says, “She has a confidence that is unbelievable. I am thankful that the Lord has allowed Mark and I to be the parents to help Anya and Zach to grow up. We have undoubtedly gained more than they have.”
Zach, who will have his 13th birthday May 15, has tried his hand at sports, but loves being outdoors and enjoys exploring and playing with animals.
Anya, twelve years old, is an effervescent young lady who plays basketball and volleyball. The Richts often think about what the lives of Anya and Zach would be like if they had not been adopted.
Katharyn was born in Jacksonville, Fla., but grew up in Tallahassee. She reported, “My parents were Presbyterians and took me to church. I was involved with the youth group in our church and had taken mission trips. I had done a lot in the church, but thought I was riding my parents’ coattails as far a salvation was concerned.
“In the sixth grade I went through confirmation classes. I did whatever I had to do, but didn’t understand anything about a personal relationship with Christ. I just missed that and it took a while for me to get it.”
After Katharyn and Mark got married she started going with him to FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) Camps and studying Henry Blackaby’s book, “Experiencing God.”
“After reading Blackaby’s book I finally got it,” Katharyn admitted. “My pride was not letting me go any further, so I had to lay that down and fully trust in the Lord.”
Lori Cooley of Thomasville is a close person friend of Katharyn’s. They first met at Celebration Baptist Church in Tallahassee and were part of a home Bible study group. Lori stated, “I had the privilege of knowing Katharyn in the infancy of her faith and watched her grow in her relationship with Christ. I have seen her commitment become unshakable. She does not have just an outward faith, but a personal relationship with the Lord. I admire her walk of faith.”
When the Richt family moved to Athens they became members of Prince Avenue Baptist Church, where Katharyn sings in the choir. Lori revealed, “Katharyn loves the praise and worship part of the service. Her worship is so genuine.
“She has a sunny personality. She is always smiling. Her laugh is contagious and she always sees the glass as half full.”
Vanessa Miller, another friend and a fellow church member, added, “Katharyn is steady and has a great sense of humor. I have seen her spill coffee on her white pants and laugh about it. Little things just don’t upset her.
Life for Katharyn has not always been sunshine and roses, however. In the spring of 2006 she was diagnosed with cervical cancer. She underwent a radical hysterectomy to resolve the problem. Fortunately, no chemotherapy or radiation was needed.
Miller commented, “Katharyn handled her cancer as faithfully as anyone could. She and Mark turned it over to the Lord. Through her cancer she has been a wonderful witness and has demonstrated great faith.”
The four Richt children have witnessed the faith of their father and mother first hand and each of them has trusted Christ as personal Savior and Lord.
Katharyn joyfully declared, “All of our children are believers. Anya prayed with me on the way to the church’s Singing Christmas Tree. Zach accepted the Lord at the Kanakuk Kamp in Branson, Mo. David made that decision when he was seven years old. Jon prayed to receive Christ with Mark and me when he was nine.”
“Those four kids have an awesome mom,” Miller reiterated. “I have traveled with her all over the state following our children’s activities and sporting events. She is a prayerful mother. Whenever there is a family concern she and Mark take it to the Lord together.”
Few people can imagine what it is like to maintain the schedule
and meet the demands of a major college football coach. When asked how she supports her husband, Katharyn stated, “I have always liked football. I had a brother who was two years older than me and I was the statistician for his high school football team. So, I enjoyed going to games when I was growing up. I wasn’t a rabid fan, but I was always involved.
“Now, I just try to take care of the children at home and do whatever I can to make the home a sanctuary for Mark – a nice place for him to come home where he can get away from the pressures of his work. I try to be positive and not negative.
Miller observed, “Katharyn is an awesome wife, a supportive wife. She and Mark have a very good relationship. They love spending time together and with the children.”
Katharyn noted, “With Mark’s schedule we don’t have a consistent date night, but we spend as much time together as possible. Currently, we are taking ballroom dancing lessons.”
In June of 2007 the whole Richt family went on a mission trip to Honduras. Reporting on their trip Morris News Service announced, “Georgia football fans count down the days until the new season arrives at popular vacation destinations like Destin, Fla. and St. Simons Island, Ga.
“Bulldogs coach Mark Richt and his family had a different idea when they packed their bags and passports to spend six days in Honduras. This was not Club Med or Sandals. The Richt family trip last week took them to a place that the U.S. State Department classifies as ‘one of the poorest and least developed countries in Latin America.’”
Of the experience the Georgia coach was reported to have said, “I had been wanting to bring the whole family on a trip like that for the longest time. We were trying to spread the gospel and let our children see how the rest of the world lives, and we were also hoping to grow closer as a family.”
When asked what the Richt household likes to do as a family, Katharyn replied, “Our favorite thing is to sit around and talk and visit with one another. We cut off the television and ask each other some hard questions and really get to know what each one is thinking and what is going on in each others lives.”
When Jon was asked if his mom was a good cook, he answered, “No! She can cook vegetables, but that is about it.”
Katharyn countered, “That’s okay. I take him out to eat at some good restaurants.”
Despite the cooking comment, Katharyn Richt would rank right at the top of the motherhood poll in the Bulldog nation.
Abraham Lincoln once said, “No man is poor who has had a godly mother.” The Richt children are rich.
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