They say a multipotentialite is a person who has many different interests and creative pursuits in life. And, that they thrive on learning, exploring, and mastering new skills. While a specialist is a person who concentrates primarily on a particular subject or activity, and a person highly skilled in a specific and restricted field. Rick was unique. He was both. A leader, a sailor, an artist, a hydrographer, a friend, a brother, a son, a husband, and most importantly a father, he made an indelible impact on the people and things he touched.
Rick's tangible talents can be observed in many places. But it is the intangible that helped create the persona. He was one to stop and seek out the “why” of a mission and help get to the root cause of a problem and not just treat symptoms. He invested time and energy into people, always wanting the best for his family and those he worked with and helping to develop and fine-tune their talents. He was one to research, learn, and act. He was never complacent. Not at home and not at work. He found his passions, the ocean, the arts, family, problem-solving and travel, and he pursued them.
Rick’s passion for the ocean was born during his early years of boating, snorkeling, and scuba diving in Florida and the Bahamas. These experiences and an introduction from an esteemed professor at The Citadel, where he earned a BS in Civil Engineering, led him to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Rick joined the NOAA Corps in 1992. After more than 27 years as a NOAA Corps he reached a career pinnacle in his appointment as Rear Admiral on April 20, 2021. The majority of Rick’s career specialized in ocean mapping and hydrography. He earned a Master’s in Ocean Mapping from the University of New Hampshire in 2005, furthering his expertise. It was, however, the journey of being out on the ocean and the nitty gritty of hydrography and data collection that he enjoyed most. He surveyed waters on the East Coast, West Coast, in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean, and in uncharted Alaskan and Arctic regions. Through it all, Rick believed people were NOAA’s greatest asset and invested his time in not only the mission, but most importantly in the people supporting the mission. Rick was known for saying, “Take care of yourself, take care of your shipmates, take care of the ship.”
The ocean, boating, hydrography and NOAA were significant to Rick and his life, but he had so many other interests. He had an ardent appreciation for the arts. He played the lead in a number of Apopka High School plays (honing his flair for the dramatic!). He excelled in woodworking, drawing, carving and art in general. He was a curious cook, wannabe horticulturist, and all-around tinkerer. He loved to build things and to solve problems, both at home and work. From designing and building his own garage and woodshop to restoring a vintage Cape Dory, he genuinely enjoyed the journey of learning how and then doing.
In a terrible turn of events, Rick was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer on October 27, 2020, mere hours after notification of his selection to Flag Officer. Rick pursued cancer treatment, adapting to a new routine while maintaining his natural drive and optimism and his career. His cancer treatment was primarily successful allowing him to accept the promotion to Rear Admiral in April. Despite the successful treatment, unexpected complications after a surgical procedure took his life on May 13, 2021. His physical journey has ended but the memories of Rick and his legacy of exploring, learning, leading, and healing will live on through his family, friends and colleagues, and the work of RTB Fair Winds.