In the short life that Kishon Richards lived, he made it a top priority to help his clients achieve the most extraordinary fitness goals — no matter their age.
“Kishon wanted nothing more than to spread health and happiness to others,” said Justin Butler, a lifelong friend. “He would encourage clients of all walks of life and laughed at the idea of someone being too old to accomplish something.”
Richards, a tree climber for Good Tree & Stump Removal in Jackson, died November 6 after his 2009 Ford Ranger hit a guardrail on Jackson Mills Road and continued into the woods along the roadway where it struck several trees. The cause of the crash is still under investigation.
The 28-year-old turned his passion for weight training into a part-time job as a certified personal trainer and became known as the coach who told everyone they were never too old to achieve their highest goal.
Butler recalled a time when Richards told one of his 46-year-old clients that her age didn’t have to hold her back from doing advanced yoga and handstands. He even told her that she had what it took to become a yoga instructor, which she has now achieved.
“Kishon’s goal was to teach people to love themselves through discipline and fitness and he achieved that goal during his short life, whether he knew it or not,” Butler said.
Butler said that his best friend Richards, who amassed more than 10,000 followers on his Instagram fitness account, became a personal trainer mainly because he loved fitness and wanted to help others achieve their goals.
“He did profit from it, but he did it more because he just loved doing it,” Butler said. “He was overjoyed when people got results from his training.”
Richards was also planning on opening his own gym in the future.
“He was very passionate,” Butler said. “He had a drive that is very rare in this world.”
He spent the first few years of his life in Dominica before his family moved to the U.S. at the age four. His mother, Olive Emmanuel, believes that is the reason he was always trying to prove that he can be successful.
“He was the child of an immigrant and he wanted to prove that he could do better and succeed,” Emmanuel said.
Richards struggled with depression and his family and friends said that just before his death, he had overcome many of his struggles.
“He had a lot of internal battles that he was dealing with and he overcame most of them,” Butler said. “He had expressed how happy he was recently.”
They even said Richards told them that the last month of his life was the best month he had in the past five years.
“That makes it even harder, that he was overcoming everything and now he’s just gone,” said sister Keydella Fuller.
Richards, who started weight training in high school, started documenting his fitness journey on Instagram in 2015 because he wanted people to realize that his life was far from perfect.
“He wanted to share with the world his struggles and his depression,” Butler said. “He wanted people to see that while it might look all good and grand on the outside, beneath the surface they didn’t really know what was going on.”
Butler said many of these Instagram followers looked up to Richards as a role model and even those who didn’t know him personally had kind things to say about him.
“I have been flooded with messages on Instagram of people saying nice things,” he said. “Even people who had very short interactions with him said that he left quite an impact.”
His sister added that she felt he left a positive impact on everyone who met him.
“He was definitely one to leave a lasting impression,” Fuller said. “If you met Kishon, you will remember him.”
A GoFundMe fundraiser has been set up so that his family can support fitness and mental health causes in his legacy.
Nicolas Fernandes is the early morning breaking news reporter. A lifelong New Jersey resident, he has previously worked as a features writer and sports reporter. Contact him at 732-540-4401 or [email protected]