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Richard Hatfield, founder of Colonial Parking, dies at 89

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WILMINGTON – Richard G. “Dick” Hatfield, the founder of Colonial Parking, the largest private parking operator in the city of Wilmington, died Sept. 3 at age 89.

Richard Hatfield | PHOTO COURTESY OF HATFIELD FAMILY

The quintessential entrepreneur, Hatfield started his first business at the age of 19 as the owner-operator of a service station in Allentown, Pa. After spending two years serving in the Army in Germany, he returned home and soon thereafter founded his company, Colonial Parking, in Allentown in 1956.

Over 65 years in the parking industry, Hatfield oversaw the company that would grow to serve tens of thousands of customers in Wilmington, Lancaster, Pa.; and at the Philadelphia International Airport. In Wilmington, Colonial holds significant importance as the owner of nearly 40 garages and lots across the city, often serving some of the city’s largest employers. 

Hatfield also built the company into a multi-service provider, owning, developing, and operating its own lots and garages while also contracting operations, maintenance and development of other facilities. That full-service approach to parking set Colonial apart from many in the industry.

Robert Zuritsky, president and CEO of Philadelphia-based Parkway Corp. and a longtime friend, recalled when Colonial launched its Parking Access and Revenue Control System (PARCS), a tech-driven system to manage access to its lots.

“I was impressed that they had done that,” he said. “They’re innovators, and certainly have built a wonderful business over the years.”

As a leader in the parking industry, Dick served as president of the National Parking Association (NPA), the national trade group for parking operators, and was recognized with its lifetime leadership award. 

“Dick Hatfield is celebrated as an iconic leader of the National Parking Association, receiving its highest honor the Harwood Leadership Award for his contribution to the betterment of the parking industry,” said Christine Banning, current president of the NPA. “Dick is remembered for his commitment to business, community and family.”

Nationwide, the parking industry is dominated by family-run operations like Colonial, and the community has grown to support one another. Hatfield in particular developed a reputation as the go-to mentor for many.

Nicolle Judge, former owner of San Francisco-based SkyPark, an industry consultant and the immediate past NPA board chair, counts herself among his pupils.

“As a business and industry leader, Dick Hatfield was always focused on long-term vision and growth – ‘What was best for customers and team members,’” she said. “It was inspiring to me personally, and our family parking business on the opposite side of the country. I’m humbled to have learned from him.”

Tom Carter, president of Toledo Ticket in Ohio, is another “pupil,” who called Hatfield “an icon of our industry.”

“When I came into the industry, Dick kind of kind of took me under his wing and he’s been an incredible mentor on a business level, as well as on a personal level. He was one of the most honest, kindest men I’ve ever met in my entire life. A man of true integrity,” Carter said.

Nearly everyone who knew Hatfield spoke about his commitment to his community, as he served on the boards of the Rotary Club of Wilmington, the Committee of 100, Elwyn Institute, Artisans Bank and the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce.

Kai Lassen, a longtime Rotary colleague, noted that Hatfield was particularly passionate about developing the Wilmington club’s Educational Fund, which disperses annual, four-year scholarships to four graduating Delaware high school seniors in need.

Before he got interested in supporting the charitable fund, it held maybe $100,000 in the late ‘80s, Lassen said. Over two different fundraising campaigns in the ‘90s and 2010s, Hatfield pushed the fund’s value to over $2 million.

“He was always the person who sort of led the charge for supporting the scholarship fund,” Lassen said. “Dick loved educating kids and getting involved with the youth.”

Lassen said that he will recall his friend as someone who would always step up when called upon to help.

“We have this thing in Rotary that when you’re asked to do something as a Rotarian, the answer is always yes,” he said with a laugh. “And of course, it isn’t always that way. But for Dick, it always was.”

A visitation with the family will be held at McCrery & Harra Funeral Home at 3924 Concord Pike in Wilmington from 3 to 5 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 16. A memorial service will be held at Westminster Presbyterian Church, at 1502 W. 13th St. in Wilmington, at 1 p.m. Sept. 17, followed by a reception.

In support of scholarships for Wilmington youth, the family kindly suggests memorial contributions in Dick’s name be made to Rotary Club of Wilmington Educational Foundation, PO Box 685, Wilmington, DE 19899. Messages of condolence may be sent to www.mccreryandharra.com.

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