Hundreds share stories and their appreciation for Ranger Rick of Occidental
Word spread quickly throughout the West County community of Occidental. Their town icon had died of a heart attack in his sleep. Hardy a soul in Occidental didn't know “Ranger” Rick Kaufman. Most of his days were spent on one sde of town or the other of this two block long downtown. He was easy to spot with his full beard and outgoing personality.
On Saturday, March 3rd, well over a hundred people gathered at St. Philip's church to tell tales of their relationship with Rick. Some knew him over decades, some just in passing, yet he had indelibly marked their memories with his personality, intelligence and attitude. The church was filled to standing room only and people spilled outside, listening at open windows and milling about the stairs, sharing thier stories and memories.
When the service was over, everyone marched to the center of town in a parade of mourners following the memorial band. It was a full-on celebration of Rick's life. Nick Gravenites band played, people danced, ate, drank, smoked and did all the things that Rick would be doing if he could attend his own memorial celebration.
I caught up wth Bart Beck, Rick's close friend for decades at what is now called Ranger Rick Park...a collection of picnic tables at the east end of downtown. Bart had placed a small sculpture he created of Rick's face on a tree, added a t-shirt and dubbed it Rick's park. Rick had been the town clean-up crew of one with Bart sometimes at his side helping pick up trash, rake leaves and more. He spoke of how Rick would yell at people who threw trash on the streets, and intimidate them into picking it up. He didn't like people hanging out and making a mess of his home town.
That's part of the beauty of this celebration of Rick. He had moved to this community in the Redwoods, dubbed it his home, and the town embraced his contributions to their daily life. Not easy considering he was everything from the town encyclopedia of baseball...philosopher…teacher…clean-up crew and town drunk. As people reminisced, there were times when Rick was over-the-top offensive to endearing. It all depended upon how much he had imbibed, and what mood he was in. But that's what famiy is all about - acceptance. Occidental accepted him as a family member you didn't always want at your dinner table, but who was always invited.
Bart had been at the funeral service at Druids Cemetery this morning and recalled how Rick's mother said she recognized that Occidental was Rick's home and his ashes belonged where he had lived, rather than bringing them home to the family plot. Home is a place we choose and that chooses us in return. Occidental will miss Rick. He's one of those out-sized personalities who leave a hole in their absence.
There is a great t-shirt to purchase for $20 that wil contribtute proceeds toward a memorial statue, and if all works well, toward someone to replace Rick to keep the town clean. In the mean time, everyone needs to do their part and pick up trash, sweep the street, and keep Occdental tidy in Rick's honor. Hey - anyone want to hire Bart to take over? He's a great gardener as well...and yes, he has plenty of personality to go along with the job! Just a thought.
Check in at Bohemian Market if you want to order a t-shirt, or want to contribute to the memorial in Rick's honor. Thank you Occidental, for being Rick's family all these years.