By Jan Rosefield
Rick and I were patrons of Ken and Bettine Armstrong's series for many years. When Rick was nearing retirement, he started talking about making a travel adventure film, but I didn't take him seriously until the night he spoke with Joe and Mary Liz Adair after one of their shows. They encouraged us to come to the annual (travel adventure film) convention in Palm Springs, and followed up with a welcoming letter with all the details.
Much to my surprise, we were soon on our way south to follow Rick's dream. By the time the convention was over, Rick was sure he wanted to join the industry. Sandy Mortimer and Dale Johnson offered to mentor him. I was not one hundred percent onboard with the whole idea because I was really enjoying my life after all the years of being a stay-at-home mom, but Rick was so enthusiastic that I finally agreed we should give it a try.
And what fun we had. Without ever having shot movie film before, Rick, the eternal optimist, bought a Bolex and 100 feet of film. We went to Angel Island in San Francisco Bay to film a mock battle between two oldtime schooners. The results weren't too bad for a first effort, which encouraged Rick even more.
I started doing research on the islands surrounding Great Britain, which several people had suggested would be a good topic for a film. Rick was still employed at the time, so we used his vacation to fly to London and start filming on the Isle of Wight. He edited during that summer with lots of advice from Sandy and Dale, and continued at his job managing a heating and air conditioning firm—also planning another filming trip.
After officially retiring in 1998, Rick was ready to go back to film some more, and we spent about eight weeks on the various islands.
We loved traveling the United States and Canada to show our film. I never got tired of the farmland in the Midwest and meeting so many interesting people. (Their first film was Britain’s Offshore Islands.)
We decided to make a second film and were just finishing it when Rick became ill. The doctors were baffled as to what was going on as Rick's legs were weakening and he began falling.
After many months of tests, it was determined that Rick had some sort of muscle disease. He lost the use of his legs, but was determined to live his life to the fullest. We bought a power wheelchair and a van with a lift and were able to lead an almost normal life.
As time marched on, more muscles died, and he eventually lost the use of both arms, but he still had the use of his right hand to drive his wheelchair. His breathing and swallowing muscles lost strength, too, and life became more complicated, but he never complained.
He developed aspiration pneumonia several times, but with antibiotics we were able to control it. When he became sick in March he was hospitalized again, but this time the antibiotics were unable to do their job.
The doctors said they could prolong Rick's life by putting him on a respirator and a feeding tube, but he did not want that. So he came home and died peacefully a few days later with his family surrounding him and his care cat, Angel, at his side.
He lost his fight to live, but he never lost his wonderful sense of humor.
A Celebration of Rick's Life was held on April 21 at Piedmont Community Church in Piedmont, the city where Rick and I first met. If anyone would care to make a donation in Rick’s memory, he chose the following: Forbes Norris MDA/ALS Research and Treatment Center.