Charmoon Richardson, known as Sonoma County’s mushroom man, died July 11 after a long battle with multiple sclerosis. He was 63 and lived in Forestville.
Richardson was a beloved figure in the local food community who shared his knowledge and love of wild mushrooms by leading tours popular with professional chefs, home cooks and everyone in-between.
“There are two kinds of mushroom people, those who share and those who don’t,” said David Campbell of San Rafael, who was Richardson’s longtime business partner, friend and mushroom aficionado. “Charmoon was the kind that shared.”
Friends said Richardson gravitated toward mushrooms through a passion for the outdoors, making friends all over the world, even in his last years when his illness robbed him of his ability to walk and even talk. At the end, when he required round-the-clock care, he was able to communicate only through computers but would play Scrabble online with friends. They said he handled his illness with his trademark wit and humor.
“I think it was beautiful the way he dealt with it,” said Campbell. “It taught me a lot about my own life.”
Charmoon Richardson was born Richard Levitan in San Francisco to Dorothy and Milton Levitan and spent his childhood in Tiburon. His first career was in the gem and mineral business, and he was a longtime collector of crystals.
Friends said he changed his name to Charmoon based on a vision.
“He wasn’t what you would call normal,” Campbell said. “And that’s a huge compliment. Charmoon marched to his own beat, which made him special.”
But Richardson may have best been known in his role as the Mushroom Man. A past president and prominent member of the Sonoma County Mycological Association (SOMA), he founded the organization’s Mushroom Camp.
He appeared with Bobby Flay on an episode of the Food Network, wrote articles, led tours and hosted dinners in the woods, anything, his friends said, to spread the gospel about mushrooms.
“He was not a selfish person at all,” said Dorothy Beebee, a SOMA member and longtime friend. “He wanted everyone to enjoy the magic that was out there.”
With Campbell, he founded Wild About Mushrooms (WAM) leading foraging adventures all over Sonoma County and in the Sierra. He also provided mushrooms to local chefs.
He ran WAM until his death, continuing to handle administrative details though he had help as his illness progressed.
Richardson was preceded in death by his father. His survivors include his mother, Dorothy Levitan of Cupertino, a brother Steven Levitan of San Mateo and sister Carolyn Gutierrez of Sunnyvale, and their spouses. A public memorial service is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. August 2 in Sebastopol. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Friends and family are planning to place a memorial plaque honoring Richardson in the Armstrong Woods, where he loved to forage for mushrooms. Donations can be made to Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods P.O. Box 2, Duncans Mills, 95430.