Richard M. Oster, chairman of Cookson Group, dies
(Providence Journal, The (RI) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Dec. 2--Richard M. Oster, who rose to the top of the business world as chairman of the London-based Cookson Group PLC, a multinational company, died yesterday at Providence's Miriam Hospital. A resident of Barrington, he was 73.
"He was a man of action and a great pride to our community and our people," said state Treasurer Frank Caprio, a longtime friend. "He's going to be dearly missed."
Oster, a graduate of the University of Rhode Island, began his business career while in high school working at A. J. Oster Co., a metals supply firm founded by his father, Aaron. Richard Oster eventually became president of the firm, which he sold to Cookson in 1979. Oster joined Cookson at that point.
Oster was active in a variety of civic affairs and philanthropic causes and raised money for Rhode Island Special Olympics and the American Diabetes Foundation, among other groups. In 1987, then Gov. Ed DiPrete named Oster chairman of the Rhode Island Convention Center Authority, which oversaw construction of one of the largest public-works projects in Rhode Island history. The Convention Center opened in 1994.
Oster was awarded honorary degrees from Brandeis University, Bryant University, Rhode Island College and New England Institute of Technology.
Among Oster's nonbusiness passions was breeding Labrador retrievers -- two of his dogs won best of breed at New York's prestigious Westminster Kennel Club show -- and fishing. He won the Rhode Island Tuna Tournament several times.
In a 1994 Providence Journal profile, Oster said he measured his life by what he had achieved. Whatever he undertook, he said, his goal was to be the best he could be.
"It's just more fun," he said.
While many accolades came his way, Oster said they were not his motivation. His work ethic -- inspired by his father, a Russian immigrant who built his own successful company -- is what drove him, Oster said. His grandfather, Harry Leach, another Russian immigrant who succeeded in business, was also an influence, Oster said.
"Everyone likes to be liked and respected," Oster told The Journal in 1994. "But that's not prominent in my mind. What's prominent in my mind is to know that I've done what I've done."
A Democrat, Oster considered running for governor in 1998.
"Instead of a dull, political race," he told the Journal in January of that year, "I think it would be especially interesting and colorful and would get people on their toes -- whether I won or didn't -- and that addressed the real issues instead of sweeping them under the rug."
But three months later, Oster decided against the bid.
Oster is survived by his wife, Sandra, five children and seven grandchildren. Services will be held Thursday at 11 a.m. at Temple Emmanuel in Providence.
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