Richard (Dick) Rademaker (1942-2012)

Posted by Marty Brochstein on September 25, 2012

The following remembrance of Richard Rademaker, founder of Licensing Resource Group who passed away September 20, was written by LIMA Vice Chairman Rick Van Brimmer, of The Ohio State University.

The collegiate licensing industry lost a good one last week with the passing of Dick Rademaker, whose career spanned over 50 years of bookstore and licensing business. The loss was even tougher for me, because in addition to being a mentor that helped me as I stumbled over the licensing learning curve many year ago, he was one of one of my dearest friends. The loss is immeasurable.

I could list the usual obit citations for you and draw from his impressive resume – beginning in the class ring business, years building Champion as the preeminent bookstore brand, moving on to Velva Sheen, and later forming the Licensing Resource Group (LRG) to represent university’s licensing interests – but those are just milestones and accomplishments. I want to share with you what kind of man Dick was, where his passions were beyond the edge of his desk or reach of his phone.

Dick battled leukemia the last several years, complicated by some heart issues, but neither could dim his spirit or weaken his resolve. His maladies did not take his life, they just stopped it, at age 70, and as he was stepping into retirement, and onto a recently purchased boat he had christened “Ri Ra,” Gaelic for “Good Place.” I know he is there. He enjoyed it all, all along the way – as I have said, he did not get cheated.

A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I visited with Dick and his wife Cass in their lakeshore Holland, Michigan home. Dick’s health was failing, and we expected to spend an hour or so with him at lunch, and then be on our way. But this was Dick’s day, and he had arranged a ride on his boat for us, and that’s the way it was going to be. Despite his weakness, he was going to share his passion with us one last time.

It’s that passion that attracted you to Dick, along with his disarming charm, and deft ability to make everyone feel special. He knew no strangers, and his twinkling-eye smile and hearty handshake made him a lifetime of friends and associates. His love of good red wine helped cement our personal relationship, and we vacationed several times with our spouses over the years.

When I lost my wife, Barbara, to cancer in 2003, Dick was a shoulder I frequently cried on, and when I remarried, he accepted my wife, Sandy, as if she had been part of our group all along. Dick brought people into the fold with his gentle nature and genuine caring.
We sat in the back of the boat that Saturday in Holland, and seemed to cram a lifetime of conversations into a couple of hours on the water – we talked about family, religion, his faith and belief that he life didn’t end with his impending death, the path that lay ahead of him, and how Barbara had handled the last few weeks of her journey. The conversation was honest, open, loving, full of laughter and tears, and genuine – as was our friendship, and as was Dick’s life.

He was a faithful steward to his church, St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church in Holland, and was an obvious pick to serve in stewardship and outreach activities. He was a father and husband, married 48 years to Cass, with daughters Jodi and Jackie, and son Ric as legacies to their union. He doted on three grandchildren and a great-granddaughter.

One thing I remember reading after my wife’s passing was “grief is desires unfulfilled.” My heart is heavy with grief from losing Dick, knowing that he and I will never share another glass (or more) of wine, we will never again share a concern or a joy on the phone. When I went to leave him, we held each other in a tight embrace as we stood in his kitchen, a place we had shared our shared passion for cooking so many times. It would be the last time I talked to him, and I will forever treasure that memory, and the afternoon that proved to be our goodbye.

I figured it out long ago that all we can do is affect people along our path, and hopefully leave something good of ourselves behind. Dick changed lives, and he made people better. What more can any of us ask? It was a life well spent, and I give thanks that part of it was spent with me. He made me better, too.