Cover photo for Richard Dana Farnham's Obituary
Richard Dana Farnham Profile Photo
1951 Richard 2024

Richard Dana Farnham

September 18, 1951 — January 16, 2024

Ithaca, NY

It is with profound sadness and a deep sense of loss that we announce the passing of Richard Dana Farnham, beloved brother, partner, husband, father, son, and friend. Richard died peacefully in his home of natural causes on January 16th, 2024.  


Born September 18th, 1951 in Canandaigua, NY, to David and Mary Farnham (maiden name Ferran), Richard's early years were filled with challenges and triumphs. Rich was an Eagle Scout and had a great love of the outdoors. He fondly shared about spending time on Canandaigua lake fishing, and at Roseland Park with his brother Kevin. Upon the untimely loss of his father in a car accident at age 12, he drew support from the YMCA, his brother, his Uncle Jack and Aunt Tony Ferran and their children, his cousins Raymond, Johnny, Susan and Maryann. Rich was a loyal and caring son to his late mother, Mary Farnham, whom he cherished and cared for. Richard was himself a beacon of optimism, hope, and strength for many around him. 


Richard's journey through life was eclectic as he carved a path that was uniquely his own, marked by resilience, compassion, and a gentle zest for life. As a young man he excelled in sports, more out of an ongoing commitment to self-improvement rather than as a ruthless competitor. In 1969, he attended Ithaca College to study physical therapy and play football. After injuring his knee, he left Ithaca College to recoup and had a formative experience working with disabled veterans at the VA hospital in Canandaigua. He then returned to Ithaca College and received his BS in physical therapy in 1975. 


Post-college, Richard accepted a position at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. He had many stories of helping rehab famous athletes, musicians, and creatives. During this time, his journey in spiritual teachings deepened and formalized. After 2 years he left NYC and traveled to the West Coast, landing in northern California to work in a private practice setting with then-colleague from Ithaca College, Diane Russell (Farnham). The two fell in love and after 2 ½ years in Ukiah, CA returned to the East Coast, married, and settled in Ithaca, NY where they raised their three children.


Richard took work at a private PT practice and at the outpatient clinic at Tompkins Community Hospital. A lifelong healer, his work was very important to him. He was often exploring and researching new ways of approaching health and well-being, as well as the orthopedic challenges of his patients. In 1985 Rich started Farnham Physical Therapy, his own private practice in downtown Ithaca. After one year it got so busy that Diane joined him. The couple developed their skills and collaborated for 20 years. The business thrived, and with it the two found an honored place in the greater Ithaca area community. 


For more than four decades, Richard continued to develop a unique style of diagnostics and treatment. He specialized in cranial sacral therapy, but beyond massage and physical therapy, he was a collector of healing knowledge that spanned across modalities. His therapy sessions were typically a mix of physical healing and existential exploration, providing bodily relief, food for thought, and exploratory questions for life’s journeys. He found deep satisfaction in understanding how he could help those in pain or recovering from injuries, including his family members. Many of us left his sessions feeling both physically and emotionally uplifted. He was a self-proclaimed 'body hacker'; a playful term he used to describe his approach to healing through brainstorming, research, and hands-on contact with clients. Rich continued on with his practice up until his death, most recently sharing an office space with his partner Debra Martens, who is also a massage therapist.


Beyond his professional accomplishments, a great deal of Richard's pride lay in his personal life. Those who knew Richard remember him as a man of many dimensions. A caretaker,  giver, and “a saint” (as described by Debra), he gave to those he loved with abandon. He was playfully called “Mama Rich” by some for his consistent habit of providing delicious food for all occasions. His ability to listen to the world and those around him, even if not often explicitly expressed, was a trait that allowed him to evolve and adapt his worldview continuously. He carried with him the perspectives of everyone he met, eager to learn and grow. His conversations with his children frequently revealed new insights, showing a man forever willing to consider different viewpoints.


Richard was a cherished brother to Kevin Farnham & wife Kathy. Kevin expressed that Rich was not only a really good brother to him, but also seemed like a genuine brother to many, and hearing this from so many since his death has been a solace to him. 


Rich and Diane spent 27 years together, running their business and raising their children; Mollie, Andrew, and Dave Farnham. With age and shifting of responsibilities, Rich and Diane's lives grew apart, and the couple divorced in 2006. Diane wishes to express her great appreciation to and for Richard for the life they built together as marriage partners, parents, and business partners for many years. She is eternally grateful.


For the last 15 years, Rich shared a loving partnership with Debra Martens, whom he met through their mutual backgrounds in bodywork and caregiving. He was deeply supportive of her, and received the same support in return. Rich regularly expressed how well they understood each other on a profound level. The two shared many memorable adventures and laughs. Rich was also a dear friend to Debra’s late mother, Kay Martens. Like two peas in a pod they shared many a laugh and always had a good time together.


His children, Mollie, Andrew, and Dave, were his pride and joy. As a father he was loving and kind, working to imbue qualities of generosity, creativity, perseverance, optimism, patience, and humor. He was quick to say how proud he was of all three of his children.


Andy, Richard's son, recalls yearly trips to North Carolina as a family and has especially fond memories of getting up at 5am to go fishing. Richard liked fishing and especially fishing from the shore in the Outer Banks, never knowing what you will catch. Andy remembers how supportive Richard was of everything in his life. 

 

Mollie, Richard’s daughter, remembers him as a great dancer, healer, and teacher with deep patience and remarkable optimism. She saw him care so much for others, and always hoped he would allow others to care for him too. To her, he was a transgenerational trauma cycle-breaker, fueled by his deep spiritual beliefs, from which she feels she learned so much and is so grateful for this expression of his love. Richard was also a grandfather to Aela and Charlie Richard Stratton, the children of Mollie and her husband Bill Stratton. Endearingly referred to as  “Grandpa Richie”, he was known for loving sweets as much as the kids did, and giving toys that made noise or games that required balance (physical and otherwise). He would, without fail, take the kids swimming whenever the opportunity arose.


Richard's son Dave remembers him as a father, friend, intellectual sparring partner, awesome gardener – especially of potatoes! – and healer. Dave feels that his sorrow is a manifestation of love and admiration for his Dad, and takes solace in the fact that his grief is matched by a deep gratitude for the lessons and love that his father imparted. He takes immense pride in calling Richard his father, and is particularly thankful for how warm his Dad was to Elisabeth “E” (Dave’s wife) since day one. He was always great at making sure E felt at home, was well-fed, that her body was in alignment, and that she had a few deep laughs each visit.


Richard cherished his friendships deeply, often engaging in activities with others that were fun, intellectually stimulating, or spiritually enriching. A group of his friends (collectively self-referenced as “the science guys”) recalls weekends filled with laughter and meaningful conversations, a testament to the curious and fun-loving boy that always remained within Richard. In keeping with his quirky sense of humor and his love for challenges, it is worth noting that Richard started doing 1 ½ flip dives, then transitioned to performing headstands on his birthdays later in life. Indeed, he performed a headstand for his 72nd birthday just this past September. This feat, albeit small, encapsulates the spirit of a man who lived life on his own terms, consistently challenging himself, pushing boundaries, and embracing life's joys.


Rich and his best friend Crow accompanied one another for over 25 years on a parallel spiritual journey and quest. After many adventures together (which they sometimes referred to as “shenanigans”) they found a loving and welcoming community in Ontario, Canada where they supported one another and participated in an annual Sundance since 2012. Crow shared: "Rich was and continues to be my spiritual brother since the day we met in 1998."


We commemorate Richard Dana Farnham, a man whose life was a testament to love, healing, compassion, and unending curiosity, as we mourn his passing and celebrate his remarkable journey. Richard taught us the value of determination, and the essence of joy and love. He leaves behind a legacy of healing, both physical and emotional, that will continue to inspire and guide us. 


The family requests the presence of those who knew and loved Richard to a celebration of his life April 20th at The Foundation of Light, 391 Turkey Hill Rd, Ithaca, NY 14850.  Please come share a memory of Richard, including how he may have shown up in or impacted your life. Formal sharing will be at 2pm, with a meal and dancing to follow.


In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you make a donation to the Advocacy Center of Ithaca in his name, helping a cause close to Richard's heart and reflecting his lifelong commitment to helping others.


Richard, you may have left this world, but your spirit, your laughter, and your profound wisdom remain with us. Rest in peace, dear friend, father, partner, brother, and healer. Your legacy will live on in the hearts of all those who had the privilege of knowing you.

To order memorial trees in memory of Richard Dana Farnham, please visit our tree store.

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