Family, friends remember man who died in motorcycle accident
By Felix Sarver firstname.lastname@example.org July 7, 2012 7:00PM
A large crowd turned out for a memorial service for Richard "Rick" Johnson, Jr. at Dames Funeral Home in Joliet, Illinois, Saturday, July 7, 2012. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 9, 2012 6:28AM
JOLIET — Mary Johnson remembers her husband Rick wouldn’t do anything crazy when riding his motorcycle with her when they first started dating.
“Hang on, hang on,” she remembered him saying.
However, one time he was goaded by friends into firing up his cycle while she still was on it. Mary said she remembers he revved up his “bad motor scooter” and dropped it into gear so hard and fast she felt like she was hanging on to the license plate.
She was upset, but he apologized. It epitomized her 14 years with him, she said.
“Just hang on for the ride,” Mary said. “And it was a really good ride.”
Richard D. Johnson Jr., known as Rick by his friends and family, died in a motorcycle accident Monday at age 53. A large crowd attended a memorial service for him Saturday at Fred C. Dames Funeral Home in Joliet.
He was a man with different facets, Mary said. He was a biker to his biker friends, a funny brother-in-law to her family and a sorority dad to their daughter.
“He was a brother to people, not a friend,” said Raul Mortiz, a friend and member of the D.H. Choppers. “He gave more than he could give.”
Rick was born in Joliet and grew up in the tough neighborhoods of the east side of the city, Mary said. He hung out with people for whom the cool thing was to either have a cool car or motorcycle. He chose to have a cool motorcycle.
While he liked to throw parties with the D.H. Choppers, a biker group Mary described as a bunch of goofy guys doing goofy things, Rick eventually became interested in fundraising for the Joliet Area Community Hospice.
Rick was impressed by the hospice when they treated the wife of Ron Cummins, vice president of the D.H. Choppers, after she became ill with cancer. Both Ron and Rick considered raising money for the nonprofit organization.
The Rev. Jim McGuire, chaplain of the hospice, said Rick and his friends worked tirelessly to run parties for fund raising.
Even after throwing parties, Rick would start thinking of ways to make the parties bigger and better in the future.
“He worked to make a difference,” McGuire said. “He saw what the hospice meant to the community.”
The parties would include live music, food and beer. Bikers from many clubs and backgrounds, including doctors and lawyers, would attend, Mary said. She said it was a good time for many, and there never was much trouble.
Since the fundraiser events began in 2006, the D.H. Choppers managed to raise nearly $50,000 for the hospice. Mary said she was surprised at how well her husband was able to raise so much money.
Rick always was able to get people to help him and help rent space for the parties even though he didn’t have much money himself, she said.
“He always knew how to turn on a crowd,” said Russ Johnson, Rick’s brother.
Rick’s friends remember him as a phenomenal person who always had a smile on his face and was the life of the party.