In Memory of




Obituary for Richard "Dick" Hemmes

Richard “Dick” Hemmes, a beloved biology professor at Vassar College and a resident of Poughkeepsie, N.Y. for 48 years died on August 22, 2020, at the Lutheran Care Center after a long illness. He leaves behind his wife of 37 years, Ruth Kava, a brother, Mark and his wife, Eleanor and his brother-in-law Victor Kava. He was predeceased by his parents Dorothy and Ted.
Dick was born in Washington, D.C. in 1941, and grew up in Great Barrington, MA. He completed his undergraduate work at Antioch College in Ohio in 1964, and his Ph.D. in animal behavior at Duke University (1969). He also completed postdoctoral work at Duke where he met his wife. In 1972 he accepted an Assistant Professor of Biology position at Vassar College, where he remained until his retirement in 2008.
Dick spent many happy years inspiring legions of Vassar students in biology courses at Vassar. A large number of his students were involved in his studies of animal behavior in birds and small rodents. He was especially proud of the numerous students who worked with him and went on to successful careers of their own.
Dick enjoyed the outdoors and toward the end of his Vassar career he spent time on sabbatical at UC Davis where he included his Vassar students as summer interns studying the behaviors of wild rodents and the protective foliage they accumulated in their nest. The information he accumulated may contribute to the ability to avoid infections transmittable to humans and other species.
Dick also enjoyed photography, wood carving and just exploring his environs. During his last decade he took several travel cruises with his wife and friends and saw parts of Europe, Central America and Africa.
Due to COVID_19, there was no immediate service but should you wish to contribute in his memory please make donations to The Nature Conservancy. Arrangements are under the direction of the Wm. G. Miller & Son FH, Inc. If you wish to send an online condolence please visit our website at