A former Ohio University professor and local mainstay was killed Friday night after being struck by a car near his home in rural Athens County.
Richard Syracuse, 80, was struck by a van at roughly 9:30p.m. while he was crossing Radford Road on foot, according to a news release from Ohio State Highway Patrol. The driver of the van, Sarah Harkins, of Athens, was not injured as a result of the crash. The crash is pending investigation, according to the release.
Doctors pronounced Syracuse’s death at OhioHealth O’Bleness Hospital later Friday evening.
The professor emeritus taught keyboard classes in OU’s School of Music and served as an artist-in-residence.
"We are deeply saddened by the news of the sudden passing of Richard D. Syracuse, emeritus professor of music at Ohio University,” said OU President Roderick McDavis in a statement. “His long-standing dedication to Ohio students and to the study of music has made an indelible mark on his field and on our community. Our hearts are with Professor Syracuse's family and friends during this difficult time."
Syracuse played piano for diners at the Ohio University Inn’s Cutler’s Restaurant on a weekly basis.
“He was an absolutely magical man. He will definitely be missed,” Pete Holey, manager of the restaurant, told The Columbus Dispatch. Holey said Syracuse was performing for a private party at the inn as recently as an hour before his death.
Management at the OU Inn wasn’t available for comment Sunday afternoon.
Brandon Thompson, a music producer and resident of Athens, frequented the restaurant with his family from an early age.
“He was just always there… he would come over and ask how I’m doing. He was just a really nice guy,” Thompson said. “It was always something kind of cool and special about Athens.”
Thompson got to know Syracuse well while he worked for the Ohio University Inn. He said his death “hits everyone so hard” because he was so well-known by Athens’ older crowd.