Obituary of Richard Leon Hovasse
Click on the link (above) to connect to the funeral home's facebook page (sign-in is NOT required). A live-stream of the funeral mass will begin a few minutes before 10am on Saturday, Feb 18th.
Richard Leon Hovasse, a retired Burlington Police Patrolman, passed away peacefully surrounded by his family on Sunday night, February 12, at the Kaplan Family Hospice House in Danvers. He was 81 years old.
Dick was born in Chelsea, Massachusetts on July 14, 1941. He was one of five children born to Joseph and Mary Hovasse. The family lived in Chelsea until Dick was entering freshman year of high school, when they decided to move to Burlington. Dick joined the high school football team and quickly made new friends. To those who only knew Dick as an adult, they would be surprised to find out that he was a pretty scrawny kid. However, he had a certain intensity and fearlessness that made up for his thin build. Dick was a member of the Burlington High School Football team that won the Merrimack League Championship for the first time ever in 1958. Dick and his fellow teammates were inducted into the Burlington High School Athletic Hall of Fame in 2003.
After graduating from Burlington High School in 1959, Dick enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. He served for almost six years, notably spending time in Okinawa to train the South Vietnamese soldiers’ marksmanship. He held the rank of Lance Corporal and was the recipient of the Good Conduct Medal, and Expert Pistol and Rifle Badges. He boxed during his service time and won the Marines Lightweight Division Boxing Championship. When he was a Marine, Dick fell from a helicopter and survived— thanks to some thick bushes that cushioned his fall. He was proud to serve his country and even prouder to be a U.S. Marine. While on leave in Bermuda in July of 1964, Dick met the love of his life, Dianne Whitty at Elbow Beach. When he returned to his duties in the Marines, they kept in touch by writing to each other. Upon getting out of the service, she was the first person he called, and the rest was history. Dick and Dianne got married on January 28, 1966 and began their wonderful life together.
Dick’s next phase of life was his role as a patrolman for the Burlington Police Department, where he worked for over forty years. He was the K9 Officer during the 70’s, 80’s, and the early part of the 1990’s. His canine partners— Lance, Duke, and Duke— lived at his home and were often called upon during difficult situations. They were involved in drug busts, missing children, a bank robbery, and fugitive searches. Dick and his dog were featured in an “Unsolved Mysteries” television episode for an unsolved murder case involving a body found in the woods of Burlington. He received two commendations for his assistance to the Secret Service guarding United States Presidents. In 1960, during his time in the Marines, he served as an honor guard to President Dwight D. Eisenhower. He also worked as a guard to President George H.W. Bush when he visited Burlington in 1990. Dick’s fearless nature was something his fellow officers knew to rely on. He was never one to hesitate in the subduing of a fugitive or criminal; he even lost half of his left middle finger during one of these altercations, and had another finger bitten off. One of Dick’s most serious incidents resulted in his greatest comeback. During the Blizzard of ‘78, he was hit by a car in a high speed chase and shattered his femur. The doctors did not know if he would ever walk again, but he went wildly above and beyond anyone’s expectations. Dick both returned to his job at the police department and began an extreme physical fitness regimen, immersing himself into weight lifting and powerlifting. He had gym memberships at the Hillside Gym, World’s Gym, and Planet Fitness. One of his proudest achievements in lifting was winning a police officer bench press competition with a 525 pound bench. Dianne and his mother, affectionately known as “Nana Hovasse”, were his biggest cheerleaders and made sure to attend every competition. During this period in his life, he was a police officer that no one wanted to mess with. After his retirement, he still served as a specialist for the department working details.
Dick filled up his leisure time with plenty of hobbies. One of his most prominent interests was golfing. He was a regular in the Knights of Columbus Golf League with friends and later at the Billerica Country Club League with his son Richie. He loved playing in golf tournaments like the Burlington Open Golf Classic, and would often take golf vacations with his friends to Myrtle Beach and other golfing destinations. At home, Dick was an avid gardener. He spent much of his time with his wife carefully cultivating dozens of flowers, fruits, vegetables, and other plants. In the spring and summer, there would not be a day where you didn’t see Dick outside tending to his garden and lawn when you drove by. He also loved doing puzzles, building intricate models, and watching movies in his free time. Anyone who knew Dick knew that he absolutely loved food. He could always be seen with the biggest slice of cake at birthday parties. He loved going out to eat with Dianne to their favorite restaurants in Burlington; they were regulars at The Escadrille and would always be at Bickford’s with the gang on Friday mornings. He also enjoyed going on vacation with his family, especially to New Hampshire. Sunset Lake was a favorite destination for his children and Lake Winnipesaukee for his children and his grandchildren. He loved amusement parks as well, especially riding the roller coasters. He always retained his affinity for football and he and his wife were die-hard supporters of the New England Patriots. Their joint love for watching sports also translated to their children and grandchildren. They never missed their family’s games, events, musicals, plays, and any other activity or event that was important to them. This unwavering support and dedication never went unnoticed by his loved ones.
Anyone who knew him would agree that there is truly only one “Dick Hovasse” in this world. The most standout thing about him besides his body-builder physique was his off-color sense of humor. He was hilarious and ridiculous— a notorious prankster, instigator, and daredevil. Everyone has a “Dick Story” and almost all of them are true. His clothing style was also outlandish; he had a t-shirt and hat collection that would make you shake your head in disbelief. He partly did all of this to entertain others, but also to make the statement that people shouldn’t take themselves so seriously. Underneath his crazy clothing and personality was a man with a heart of gold. He resuscitated individuals on death’s door by CPR, Heimlich maneuver, and his medical training. He was that police officer that scared a mischievous kid and then understandingly gave them a break. He was the grandfather or “Bumpa” that made every grandchild feel like they were his favorite. He was a big man with an even bigger heart. There are countless individuals that are eternally grateful that Dick Hovasse was around to offer first aid, respond to a crime, give someone a chance at redemption, or just make them laugh, smile, and shake their head. He was a legend, a life saver, and life changer, and someone whose memory will surely bring a huge smile and a chuckle to everyone who was blessed to know him.
Dick was the loving husband of Dianne (Whitty) Hovasse for 57 years. He was the proud father of Richard Hovasse & his wife Stephanie of Burlington, Melissa Bauman & her husband Michael of Billerica, Tim Hovasse & his wife Lisa of Burlington, and Michele Abramo & her husband Phil of Burlington. He was the proud “Bumpa” to Samantha, RJ, Max, Lily, Julia, Sydney, & Brooke Hovasse, Madison & Morgan Bauman, and Joey & Mia Abramo. He was the brother of Joan Gaff of FL, Ed Hovasse of AZ, the late Buddy McCarthy, and the late Charlie Hovasse.
Visiting hours will be held at the Edward V. Sullivan Funeral Home on Friday, February 17 from 4-7pm. Funeral from the Sullivan Funeral Home on Saturday, February 18 at 9am, followed by a Mass of Christian Burial at St. Margaret’s Church in St. Veronica Parish, www.stveronicama.org, 111 Winn St., Burlington at 10 a.m. The burial will be private.
Memorials in Dick’s name may be made to the Special Olympics, Special Olympics Massachusetts, 512 Forest St, Marlborough, MA 01752, www.specialolympicsma.org.
For online guestbook, video tribute, and livestream of the funeral mass see www.sullivanfuneralhome.net
Edward V. Sullivan
43 Winn Street
Burlington, MA 01803
Ph: (781) 272-0050