Advocate who battled cancer dies months after family tragedy
Monday, March 9, 2009
A Lodi woman who called 911 from her sick bed when her estranged husband allegedly broke into her home in December and shot her sister in the face has died after a long battle with cancer.

Denise Richardson, left, and her sister, Louisa Rodas, posing for the holidays in December 2007.
Denise Richardson, 45, a longtime advocate for the homeless, had been suffering from a recurrence of ovarian cancer for more than a year. She died Saturday, nearly three months after an alleged family dispute ended in tragedy, leaving her sister and caretaker, Louisa Rodas, with a severe brain injury.
Richardson’s estranged husband, George Hartwig, was charged with attempted murder after police said he broke into his ailing wife’s home Dec. 15 and became embroiled in a verbal dispute with Rodas, who they said had attempted to kick him out of the house. Police said Hartwig shot Rodas in the face with a shotgun, just feet from where Richardson lay asleep, requiring round the clock care and powerful pain medication. Barely able to stand on her own, Richardson reached for the phone and dialed 911, police said.
A viewing for Richardson will be held Tuesday from 3 to 5 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. at the Alesso Funeral Home, 91 Union St., Lodi. A funeral service will be held at 10 a.m. Wednesday at St. Joseph R C Church in Lodi, followed by a private cremation service.
The incident capped off a long history of domestic violence between Hartwig and Richardson, who together had managed an online business that helped tattoo artists acquire proper licenses, police said. Richardson and Hartwig had been separated for close to a year.
Bettyjean Kling, Richardson and Rodas’s mother, said today that the incident shattered her family.
“I had one daughter dying of cancer and the other daughter unable to speak, hear or see,” Kling said. “Denise was near death in December and she had the courage to insist on testifying under oath about what happened.”
Kling described her daughter as a tireless advocate for women’s rights issues and the homeless. Richardson wrote and did research for the organization, Free Us Now, started by Kling to raise awareness of domestic violence issues.
“Anyone who knew Denise had something to thank her for … She was a social worker at heart and a volunteer all her life who would take in homeless teenagers who had no place else to go,” her mother said, fighting back tears.
“She was the kindest person you’ll ever want to meet and she just could never do enough for people.”
Kling said Rodas, 41, of Hackensack, remains in a private care facility. Hartwig is at the Bergen County Jail awaiting trial on an attempted murder charge.
A viewing for Richardson will be held Tuesday from 3 to 5 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. at the Alesso Funeral Home, 91 Union St., Lodi. A funeral service will be held at 10 a.m. Wednesday at St. Joseph R C Church in Lodi, followed by a private cremation service.
The family asks that donations be made to the American Cancer Society.

6 Responses

  1. BJ, How are you and your family doing. You havebeen in my thoughts and prayers and will continue to be.You are such an incredibly strong person, but don’t be afraid to ask for help from the people that care about you. God bless you and your whole family, and Godspeed Denise.

  2. I am the minister that joined in matremony, both Louisa to her husband in Tuxedo NY a few years ago, and Denise Richardson to George many years before that. Denise was a long time and Dear friend of mine. Denise sponsored all our websites that help the less fortunate including the homeless, since it’s inception back in 1994 in Elmwood Park NJ, and later in Garfield NJ. We first started Friends of the Homeless and broke away from the florida based charity because of their coruption, then formed Friends Who Care, and for religious freedoms to better serve those in need, we formed Baskets Of Faith Church & Missions after I was Ordained. Deniese sponsored all our websites, paid for the domain names and the annual fees for the websites each and every year since 1994. When I start the homeless shelters, they will be dedicated to both Denise and Louisa. If any family member wishes to contact me, because I have pictures of both of their weddings that they do not have. They may contact me at:
    Pastor William Barhorst
    3701 Concord Rd Suite A5
    Aston Pa 19014-1213
    (610) 800-3923

    If anyone can forword this information to any of Lousias’ or Denise’s family Please do so.

    May the Lord Jesus Bless all the family members of Denise and Louisa. Lord Jesus, allow the entry to everlasting life for both Lousia and Denise writing their names in the Lambs Book of Life. I ask this in Jesus Name. Amen
    You both will be missed tremendously! Until we meet and are united once again in Heaven!
    Your Friend and Brother, forever and a Day,
    Pastor William Barhorst

    • I just got our website back online after being down for almost four years. Denise was such a great friend and loyal supporter of our mission helping the hungry and homeless and also did so much on her own. She has stored her treasure in heaven as the Bible commands us. We’ll see her when we get there. I’m praying for her sister Louisa, and her Mom BettyJean daily.

  3. My deepest and most sincere condolences to your family. I just read of Denise’s passing. As much as this saying is probably used “too much”, I would like to say that I truly believe Denise is in a better place now, void of physical pain and the emotional pain she has endured this past year over her beloved sister Louisa.

    I know you will miss Denise terribly, but I hope you find some peace in knowing that she is now free and whole again. My prayers are with you and your family.

    I continue to pray for Louisa as well.


    Marie DeAngelis

  4. I would just like to say Denise you will be missed you were my Tattoo training teacher and you taught me the best you used to even call me when id ask for for help on colors shades lines Heaven is where Angels are so i know you are there

    • Thank You Michael- that is so very sweet and I really needed to hear that today!
      Denise’s Mom

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