Rick Higham died Sunday, December 6, 2009, at 7:30 p.m. after a 7-month battle against small cell lung cancer and later brain cancer in a hospital room in Springfield, Mo. His wife Pat was by his side. She had been there all week. The last of their four daughters had left an hour before to catch a flight back home to Denver. Given the week he had in the hospital, his family thought he would be able to live for a few more months. It wasn’t meant to be. Through his battle with cancer, Rick never displayed pity. He thanked everyone who came to visit, helped him with his treatments or called to check in.

He was a gracious man.

Rick was 74-years-old. He had a good life. He also worked hard to have that life. At age 16, his father died of a heart attack, and his teen-age years disappeared. He was the second oldest of eight and the first born son. His mother was pregnant. The family had a small gas and service station so the responsibility of running the family business fell on him. As is sister Christine said at the funeral, “Rick was always there. You knew you could always count on him.” Christine and Rick were 15 months apart in age.

He was a responsible man.

Rick worked at that gas station for the next 10 years. He worked out an arrangement with the nuns where he could leave class early each day to operate the station. After high school graduation, he went to school part time to pursue an engineering degree at Gannon University in Erie, Penn., which was a 45 minute one-way commute. His desire to learn and better himself continued throughout his life. Rick was an avid reader and he remembered what he read.

He was a life-long learner.

Rick and his wife Pat were married for 47 years. They had one of those rare marriages where their love continued to flourish and expand each year they were together. Life wasn’t easy for them in the beginning, but they managed to build a life together and for their family that many cannot seem to figure out. They did it out of hard work, commitment to one another and a deep faith in God. They had five kids — four girls and a boy — in an eight year period. Their philosophy with raising children was pretty straight forward — be present in a child’s life, set expectations for success and understand the value of family and friends. On November 25, 1987, — the day before Thanksgiving– Doug, their only son, was killed in a bad automobile accident. He broke his neck. The driver and two other passengers walked away without a scratch. In today’s litigious environment, the driver would be sued by the parents who lost the child. Pat and Rick didn’t sue. They didn’t need the money and suing would not have brought back their son. Instead, they focused on making sure that their daughters became loving and generous individuals and productive citizens, giving back to their community and deepening their faith in God.

He was a forgiving man.

At his visitation more than 500 people came. His wife thought 90 minutes would be enough time for people to stop by and pay their last respects but three hours later the line was still long with people. Some people later told his wife that they stopped by but couldn’t find a parking spot in the Church lot. The people who came were from all walks of life. The universal theme heard by his wife and daughters is that he was an incredible, fair and thoughtful man. His immediate family learned a lot about him on December 10, 2009, during the visitation. They heard stories about him and what he had done for others they had never heard before. Rick didn’t discussed what he did for others. He just did things without seeing attention for his actions.

He was a humble man.

Rick is gone. At least his family knows and believes, he and Doug are in Heaven tooling around in a 1967 mint-condition orange Volkswagen bug, playing flawless golf, enjoying one another’s company and watching out for his loved ones.

Heaven wanted you sooner than when we were willing to let you go on Earth.

See you some day soon, Dad.

Love, AMM