Lakewood police Officer Gregory Richards, 42, was the glass-full guy, the one who saw the better half of any situation, says his widow.

They called him Perma-grin for the smile seemingly always on his face.

Officer Gregory Richards, 42, was the glass-is-half-full guy, the one who saw the better half of any situation, said his widow, Kelly. Married nearly 18 years ago, she met Officer Richards at the H.D. Hotspurs bar in Kent, when she turned 21 and was old enough to go out dancing with her girlfriends at a club.

She was working at a gas station, selling sandwiches and working the cash register. He was working as a timber grader for Simpson Timber. He was different from other men she had dated, she said: almost angelic.

“He was too good to be true, almost. I thought, what the heck, I am going to get him,” Richards said. And as for her friends? “They all said, ‘We were so jealous of you, we all wanted a Greg,’ ” she said. “And I had him.

“Mine.”

Born in Lynwood, Calif., on Jan. 4, 1967, Officer Richards began playing the drums at age 8, developing what would become a lifelong passion for music.

He played in the marching band at Glen A. Wilson High School in Hacienda Heights, Calif., where he graduated in 1985. No ho-hum school ensemble, the band traveled all the way to Washington, D.C., to play for the second inaugural of President Reagan.

As an adult, drumming in a rock band was his release and fun — the only thing he liked better than a big slice of Costco apple pie, attacking projects in his Graham, Pierce County, yard, or playing with his three children, Kelly said.

“He could be somebody different behind the drum set. He was a rocker at heart; that was his wild side,” she said.

After high school, he enlisted in the Army in 1985 and served in the infantry until 1989 at Fort Lewis, in C Company, 2nd Battalion. He earned a Good Conduct Medal, a humanitarian-service medal and a marksman badge.

Officer Richards tried out for the state patrol, but didn’t get in. “He said, ‘I guess I wasn’t supposed to be a cop,’ ” Kelly said. But he tried again at the Kent police force and started working there in 2001. He transferred to the Lakewood force in 2004.

He took to police work, mostly enjoying the friendships with his fellow officers. “He loved going to work every single day,” Kelly said.

But then, Officer Richards was that way, finding a way to enjoy just about anything — and make things better for the people around him, his friends and family said. “When I was in Vietnam, he sent me an In-N-Out Burger in a coffee can,” said his brother Gary, of Homeland, Calif., who shared a lust for the chain’s burgers with Officer Richards.

“It took about two weeks to get there,” he recalled. “I didn’t dare eat it, it wasn’t in real good shape. But that was the most awesome thing.”

His sister Gabrielle Boole of Puyallup baby-sat Officer Richards when he was a toddler. It made sense to her that the baby brother of the family wound up being a cop. “He was the golden boy. I was the one in trouble, and he was the one telling on me,” Boole said. “He was kind of a policeman back then. He was just the sweetest little kid, always smiling and laughing, as he was as an adult.”

Everyone talks about his sense of humor, even his kids. “He was a weirdo, in a good way,” said 15-year old daughter Jami-Mae, high praise from any teenager. “He would dance in front of the TV while you were trying to watch it.”

Officer Richards and his family moved around a lot, said Barbara Belshay of Graham, a friend of Kelly’s since grade school. “It was get a house, sell a house, rent a place. They could never find the right one; it was too much, or the school wasn’t good; it was always something,” she said.

They finally found the right house in Graham just about a year ago and threw themselves into redoing the yard.

With Kelly a stay-at-home mom and Officer Richards on a police officer’s pay, the couple couldn’t afford ornamental stonework. So they gathered rocks from vacant lots in a wheelbarrow until their hands blistered, to decorate beauty-bark accents in the yard.

Next came a gazebo, made by Officer Richards with help from friends and neighbors — and so close to being complete. He just finished putting in a cement parking pad for his cruiser. “He loved that patrol car; he kept it so clean,” Kelly said. “It was spotless. He would be out there vacuuming it.”

The Richardses loved everything about their new home, Belshay said: “They liked the neighbors, and the house was big enough and the payment was right. It was close to family, and the schools were good. They loved it here.”

A needlepoint scroll hanging in their kitchen seemed to say it all: “Having a place to go: a home. Having someone to love: a family. Having both: a blessing.”

Kelly said her husband often told her: “I could die tomorrow, I’d be happy. I have everything I want.”

Before he died, Officer Richards was the one who got off the shot that hit Maurice Clemmons in the abdomen.

Among the hardest things for Kelly to face are her husband’s uniforms, still hanging in the closet, she said. And this: “I keep thinking he is going to come in the door.”

Besides his wife Kelly, sister Gabrielle, brother Gary, and daughter Jami-Mae, Officer Richards is survived by his father, James, of Peoria, Ariz.; son Austin, 16; son Gavin, 10; sister Gayle Goellner, of Moorpark, Calif.; and numerous nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his mother, Freda Mae Bouchard.

Lynda V. Mapes: 206-464-2736 or lmapes@seattletimes.com