Medical records might show that legendary Daviess County farmer Rick Kamuf died of an unexpected heart attack at age 65 on March 25, 2017, but anyone who spent any time around him knows the records aren’t telling the whole story.
“He died because he gave his heart away – there wasn’t anything left of it,” said Rod Kuegel, another local farmer and close friend of Kamuf. “He was a guy that you meet once in a lifetime – he was selfless, he had tremendous concern for the people around him and he was always last. He’s the only person I’ve ever met who accomplished putting himself behind everyone else.”
Several of Kamuf’s family and friends are honoring him by starting the “Be Like Rick Foundation” to continue his legacy. The idea, Kuegel said, is to meet people’s needs and make a difference in the community. A fundraiser earlier this year brought in $60,000, and Kuegel said the Foundation will start to distribute the money soon. They want to focus on needs that will make a difference in everyday lives, such as paying for hotel rooms when families have to travel to obtain treatment for a child’s illness.
Requests for help will come to the Foundation through a network of local churches. Each need will be reviewed by a three-person board, and funds will be distributed through the Foundation, which is operating as part of the Green River Area Community Foundation. Amy Silvert, Executive Director of the GRACF, said this allows the Be Like Rick organizers to focus on what they do best – helping people – while the GRACF handles the administrative details, including all tax and legal requirements.
Kamuf’s death precipitated an outpouring of accolades illustrating his dedication to helping those around him, either taking care of needs himself or organizing a group to solve whatever the current problem was.
“Rick would find out someone needed new tires to get to work and would go buy them that day,” said Cindy Taylor, his longtime girlfriend. Kuegel said that when a tornado hit Owensboro in 2000, Kamuf pulled his employees out of his fields and took them to the path of the tornado damage. He paid his men to clean up homes and yards for three or four days and never charged anyone a dime.
Kamuf’s help went far beyond money. By all accounts, he was beyond generous with his time and abilities, whether that meant mowing someone’s yard, fixing a water leak at a friend’s house or serving on numerous boards in the community, including the Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Development Corporation.
He was also an integral part of the Catholic community, and just before he died had served as a pallbearer for his good friend Bishop John McRaith. In fact, thanks to their shared love of rural life, Kamuf organized the tractor-pulled wagon that carried McRaith’s casket and the pallbearers honoring him through rainy, cold weather to the funeral.
Rick also had a soft spot for kids, Taylor said. “He loved working and farming and kids. If there was a need with the kids … we both just melted. Kids were a big deal for him.”
Taylor remembers talking with Rick frequently about giving money to people. They would discuss needs each week, and how they had to have faith recipients would use donations well. “If they remembered you cared enough to give, then they might (give) too,” she said. “You just don’t know how it’s going to impact and trickle down.”
Not many people can say it would take an entire group of their friends and family – along with thousands of dollars in donations from all over the community – to replace them, but the Be Like Rick Foundation is the ultimate tribute to a man who was larger than life.
“He loved people and the Lord,” Kuegel said. “The Lord instructed him to take care of people, and he did, and that’s what we’re going to try to do.”