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Entrepreneur. World explorer. Snazzy dresser. Practical joker.

To his friends, Roland Richards was a Renaissance man.

Born in Cowlitz County on July 9, 1930, Richards went on to found a restaurant business that's lasted nearly 50 years, raise eight children and beat cancer three times. On Monday, complications from the disease got the better of him. A Longview resident, Richards was 75 when he died.

After graduating from Lower Columbia College, Richards worked at local restaurants for several years before going to work for an uncle at Yost's Family Drive-In, at 15th Avenue and Florida Street.

In 1957, Richards took over his uncle's business, changing its name to Cap'n Yoby's and introducing a nautical theme, with fish and chips a centerpiece of the menu, said Stephanie Meadows, his daughter.

"We really don't know where the name of the restaurant came from," Meadows said. "He just made it up.' "

Over the decades, Richards eventually expanded Cap'n Yoby's to add two restaurants — on Ocean Beach Highway and in downtown Kelso. To draw customers, he built a replica of a pirate ship at one store, hosted battles of the bands, and held annual frog jumping festivals.

As the restaurant's popularity grew, Richards divorced his first wife, Darlene Shafia Richards, and fell in love with and married Rebecca Brooke.

He adopted Brooke's two daughters and stayed involved in the lives of his six other children.

"He was a wonderful father," said Brooke.

In the late '60s and early '70s, cruising around town was a popular social activity, and Cap'n Yoby's was the place to be, said Dwain Buck, one of Richards' long-time friends.

"It was the destination," Buck said. "This was where you'd go to check out chicks and look at all the hot rods."

Then, in the late '70s, Richards' son Grant died, and he was shattered.

He sold the business to Brooke, and headed out into the world to mend his soul.

He skied in Aspen, backpacked through Europe, and bought a 35-foot sailboat for a tour of the Caribbean.

In 1983, Richards returned and Brooke gave Cap'n Yoby's back to her husband.

In the early '90s, Richards again decided to retire, and he again sold the restaurant to Brooke, whom he had divorced.

Brooke still owns Cap'n Yoby's, which is now a single restaurant in downtown Kelso. Business is going strong, she said.

After retiring, he married again, Meadows said.

His third marriage, to Kay Voiska of Seattle, also ended with an amiable divorce, Meadows said.

In retirement, Richards remained active in the Sandbaggers, a loose affiliation of Longview good 'ol boys who make it their mission to poke fun at the city. Richards and his Sandbagger buddies once doused cars at LCC in maple syrup and feathers, then ran from Longview police, Meadows said.

He also took up art, his friend Buck said.

"He did water colors and wire art," Buck said. "He experimented."

In 1995, one of those experiments got Richards in trouble with patrons of the Longview library, and he was asked to cover up several stylized nudes.

He agreed to cover the work, but scoffed at the library patrons who complained. "I think it's goofy," Richards told The Daily News at the time. "They only thing people can complain about is a nipple or two."

About five years ago, Richards was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

"He wanted to live so bad," his daughter, Meadows, said. "He beat the cancer three times, putting it into remission each time."

But the aggressive treatment Richards wanted damaged his spleen.

He died Monday morning after undergoing surgery to stop internal bleeding at Providence Medical Center in Portland, Meadows said.

"He had unbelievable courage," she said. "Most of us agonize over every decision. We weigh and measure everything. Good or bad, whatever happened, he really had a zest for living. Most of us would never take those kinds of risks. He would just go for it."

A memorial service will be held for Richards from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Longview Women's Club, 835 21st Ave. in Longview.

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