Rick by Lar deSouza

This has been a very difficult piece to write. Having known Rick for nearly 25 years, our relationship swung from highs to miserable lows and latterly to a more even keel. I wanted to be honest about things and not just apply an airbrush to his life. I hope people will forgive me if this makes for painful reading, since mental illness is still a taboo subject for many, yet so many people suffer from it to some extent.

I first met Rick in the late 1980’s at a BOS convention. he spoke admiringly about a model I had exhibited and we very quickly hit it off. He had a great sense of humour, loved origami and was wonderful company. I met his wife Julie (a truly lovely person) and we started to exchange letters on a regular basis – this was before the age of the internet, for younger readers! I still have many of these letters, they were ebullient, happy, carefree and full of mischievous humour. We supported opposing football teams and so no opportunity was wasted to have a dig at each other about this. When working in the Derby area, I met and stayed with the Beeches and Rick came up to Sheffield when he could.

After a few years in the BOS, Rick decided to follow my own path and began work as a professional paper-folder. Whilst not a creative folder, his natural charisma and acting experience made him perfect for entertaining and the dreaded art of “table-hopping” (which involved going round a room of diners, folding little presents for them and generally schmoozing). Being less outgoing, I was delighted to pass on requests for this type of work to him and concentrate myself on the more creative aspects such as commissions, authoring etc.

Rick Beech by Robin Macey

However, it wasn’t long before Rick began to branch out into every aspect of origami work and it soon became clear that he and I (along with Paul Jackson in London) were in effect competing for the same work. Paul and I were sanguine about this – there was enough work to go round and we bid for work on our own merits. Rick didn’t always feel this way and began to see us as encroaching on work that he felt should be his. His communications with me slowed and became more and more heated whenever I did work that he felt was rightfully his. By this time he had two young daughters and no doubt felt under huge pressure to support them financially, not an easy thing to do, as I can attest.

Sharing a train journey with him to a BOS council meeting, I became aware that Rick had mental health problems and he admitted taking his medication irregularly, resulting in quite extreme mood swings. This also resulted in a degree of paranoia and he later accused me of ringing his clients and trying to sabotage his relations with them. He also had a carefree approach to origami copyright that set him at odds with many other professionals. He saw everything as “fair game” and simply couldn’t understand the fuss that he left in his wake. Origami was his love and he wanted to share any and all of it in whatever way he saw fit.

His not infrequent intemperate exchanges with clients eventually saw him excluded from the BOS, after considerable opportunities to amend his ways. Whilst he never really understood the reasons for this, it must have hit him hard. He began to develop an alternate career in hypnotherapy and even sold a large part of his precious book collection to fund this. Over the last few years, I tried hard to repair our relationship and we once again exchanged cordial emails. His medication seemed to be keeping things stable and all his close friends hoped the promise of a new life in Canada with his fiancée Giselle would be the chance to put the past behind him.

Alas, it was not to be and I can only imagine that the death of his ex-wife took him to a place from which he could see no light and he took his own life. His two daughters thus lost both parents within a week and my heart goes out to both of them. His struggles against mental illness were (sadly) not unique, nor did they justify his acerbic attacks on anyone who didn’t share his views. However, they were responsible for much of the pain in his life and probably for the ending of it.

All this is deeply sad, but it’s not the whole story of his life. At his funeral, his elder sister told me that he was devoted to origami from his early years. His folding travels took him around the world and many people who met Rick in passing were struck by what a good-natured, generous and charming man he could be. His teaching of origami was consummate and almost legendary, allowing him to successfully teach even very complex designs to his classes. His tastes in origami were also of the highest order – if he recommended a design, you could be sure it was worth folding.

This is the Rick I try to remember.

Part of an early exchange about origami and football, from 1990

26 Responses

  1. Although I hardly knew Rick (he ‘appeared’ during my sabbatical years) this is an honest and heartfelt piece based on my knowledge of the situation.
    Well done for having the strength to publish.

  2. Rick was talented but troubled and this article is a fair and kind reflection of his life. It’s hard to write ‘warts and all’ of somebody who is no longer with us so well done Nick for combining facts with feelings so eloquently.

  3. Very nicely done, but I’d add something – though Rick was troubled and handled conflict poorly and explosively, it doesn’t mean that he wasn’t “right” about things at times. However, because of his nature and outbursts during these situations, he wasn’t taken seriously by anyone. His accurate sense that his claims were just were overridden by an out-of-proportion response to the situations, which no doubt made things much worse for him and for others.

    While I don’t claim to hold nearly his talent and charm, I’ve gone down that path – feeling so out of control of things that I’ve fought like a lunatic, and ultimately become a pariah because despite the “wrong or right” of a situation, my behavior killed my credibility. And often made situations that could have been resolved amicably, or that could have stimulated change, become so confusing and muddied it was impossible to have a clean solution.

    To say I sympathize completely with his situation would be inaccurate, but I know the feelings and how upset and frustrated someone can get when they’re dealt an “injustice” and don’t get that their disproportionalte response puts them and their friends at a huge disadvantage, and only makes the problems worse.

    Rick and I spoke about this a lot, and I’m ashamed to admit I harbored a lot of the same feelings, so I fear that I reinforced his feelings rather than encouraged him to seek help, often taking up his banner and sallying forth to battle people who had no idea who I was.

    We’ve all felt unappreciated and “persecuted,” to some extent, for being different, for taking a stand, and for pushing through those resistant to change to create what we feel is a realization of a greater product, organization, or vision. We just have to really, really know when it’s time to step back, or let someone else lead the charge, or to physically cut ourselves off from contact with others when we’re agitated. I know I’ve asked to be removed from several mailing lists because I didn’t trust that I could remain calm in the face of some conflict.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is along the lines of – just because you’ve got mental health issues doesn’t mean you’re not correct, or justified, or in the right on something. What it means is that you’ve got to work ten times as hard to keep things in the proper perspective and keep yourself level; that you’ve got to seek out good friends (not just those who agree with you and use you for a proxy for their own bad feelings); and that you MUST seek out not only psychiatric help, but also psychological counseling.

    I’ll always feel somewhat responsible for not having my own shit together enough to support Rick and focus him on the positive. But the experience has given me a sliver of motivation in my daily struggle to resist going “to war” and becoming a casualty.

    Miss you, buddy!

  4. It is well accepted and recommended in our society to go to a doctor when you’re ‘physically’ ill; but when you’re mentally ill, there’s this tabu, this ‘hide’ it and ‘hush it’ attitute, this fear of not being accepted or loved anymore if anybody finds out about mental issues; It’s embarassing to look for help. Yet, it’s everywhere… It’s so devastating. So many brilliant young people take their own lives (like Rick Beech did) because nobody is there to understand their inner tumult and unbearable loneliness that comes with mental illness.

  5. I cannot believe that a friend would publish things so personal without Rick’s permission or his family’s. I do not believe it takes strength or courage to write a piece like this. I believe what it is called is guilt. Why! after everything Rick and his family have been through do you think you have the right to write anything. I knew Rick very, very well and he told me things about all of you, but never anything negative. You should all be very ashamed of yourselves. There is a way to show respect for someone and write a piece after someone has passed that brings a great remembrance, without all the negative.(these are only viewed as your truths) Rick was a man of great honor and if he would of been writing a piece about you, after you had passed you can be sure it would of been filled with only the best of memories. Whom are all of you to judge anyone it doesn’t matter who they are! I just hope one day that you will not be judged the way you have judged Rick. No wonder he is no longer here if you were all his friends. What you have shown his family, children is that you only care to let people know how you were wronged… if what has been written here is in fact the truth. Not, that Rick was a human being that had people all over the world who loved him with all their hearts and souls. He made a difference in so many people’s lives for positive. He was a great and gentle soul that mattered and I know that he would of never did what all of you have done to him. Remember this is only from your point of views not from those that really knew Rick. Be very careful in your judgments and in your assumptions. Does it really matter that much to you to destroy someone’s image after they have passed? Are you really the kind of people who would breach the confidentiality of a friend or worst yet a co-worker after they took their life? No one has any right to tell someone else’s private confidential matters to anyone else. Gizelle Debad
    I am sure this will not be published as I have written it… because after all truths are always altered. I hope it is as you have let everyone else have a go at Rick’s expense.

    1. I’m genuinely sorry you have been offended by this. I spent a long time trying to get the balance right. There may be assumptions in what I have said, but they are honest ones and I stand by them. I knew Rick very well for around 25 years and of course, this is only my point of view. How could it be otherwise? It would have been all too easy to airbrush Ricks’ story, but I felt it was only fair to try and address his life as a whole – I’d hope for the same if/when anyone ever gets to return the favour. I feel there is a great deal to his story that you are/were unaware of, so whilst I applaud your defense of him, please try to remember things are not quite so simple as they may seem.

    2. I was shocked and saddened when i came across this article tonight.The last time i heard from Rick he had just got engaged To Gizelle and was full of dreams and expectations and excited to start a new life In Canada. I knew Rick when i was in my 20s and he was a charming handsome man with a wonderful sense of humour and a he was incredibly talented both as an artist and a n origami master. I still cannot believe he has gone…i didnt expect that Julies death would drive him to take his own life when he had so much to look forward to in his own life. I was aware of his mental health problems….he had had them from before the time i met him … but i had hoped thatwith the right care n medication he could have enjoyed a happy n productive life. Mental health issues need to be addressed. The mind can be healed but it takes time….and while they heal its vital that those who claim to be their friends show compassion n patience….my thoughts and prayers are with Ricks girls and their families….and all who knew and loved him

  6. I just find very unbelievable that some one, that uses the title of ‘friend’, would write such things. These sort of things are not out of ‘friend’s’ mouth. Once I read that a true friend is the one that stubs you face to face not on the back.(or dead). Specially now that Rick is not alive to defend himself. I find it to be very cowardly to so.
    I knew Rick for a very short time, and I have nothing but great memories and the out-most respect for his friendship, kindness, and guidance that he provided to me.
    When writing of a dead person as a friend you keep to yourself any bad things because HE is not around to respond.. and by doing so you show the true measure of friendship.
    Please do not apologize to me, or tell me that there is a lot that I do not know.. true I do not know the ‘whole’ story and this post only shows your side of it. If there is someone to apologize that someone is a friend that is dead.
    Congratulations you have demonstrated how great of a person you are by putting down a “friend” and to show your bravery this friend is dead and unable to respond.

    1. I’ve no intention of apologising to you, especially since you are so swift to criticise and clearly have no intention of letting the facts get in the way. “I do not know the whole’ story” – indeed you do not, but you’re still happy to judge (in public) in exactly the same way you accuse me of.

    2. Hey , are you the William from the origami class on the P&O cruise . Your entry was written as a true friend . My condolences to yog and Ricks family and friends .

  7. I greatly appreciate this piece. It is all too rare to see writing that is obviously heartfelt and honest about someone after their death, particularly in the case of suicide. I only “know” Rick Beech from his publications, but you have actually brought him to life for me even while writing movingly of him after his death. Bravo.

  8. Just belatedly catching up on the news of Rick’s passing. I thought your obituary was nicely balanced, Nick. I remember some very happy times spent in the enthusiastic company of Rick throughout the 80s and early 90s at conventions and mini meetings in Nottingham and Derby. I had the pleasure of travelling with him to the Origami USA convention in in New York in 1993 – a most memorable trip. RIP Rick and Julie.

  9. Thanks a lot for tuhis post. Rick Beech works has been very important for me. I discovered Origami because of him. Thanks a lot

  10. Only just heard the sad news of Ricks passing . I knew him very briefly , meeting him in one of his Origami classes on a cruise ship one Christmas. He and his close friend Bill were teaching this amazing class to a group of passengers . His passion shone through his teaching . My condolences to his family and friends .

  11. I didn’t know of Rick as an origamist, but I knew him on and off for nearly 30 years, before his tragic death. We dated for a while in our early 20s. He always had an opinion about my life, which, if I am honest, sometimes infuriated me, but we could talk for hours about the meaning of life, in full accord. The last time I spoke to Rick, I was visiting Nottingham with a friend, less than a year before his tragic death. Rick tried to get me to visit with him for an hour, but my friend and I were on a tight timescale, plus he didn’t know Rick. I thought at the time that Rick sounded like he needed to see a friend on that day. I will always regret that I didn’t respond to that veiled plea. I think of him now and again, my old buddy, and miss him!

  12. I just recently learned of Rick’s passing from a mutual friend. I am both shocked and saddened. Rick’s illness is still greatly misunderstood, even by the closest friends and family, as mental illness is something that society has very little understanding of, let alone a great deal of compassion. I will pray for him and all those who miss him.

  13. Have just found out of Ricky’s passing we grew up together in spondon and only found out as there was a school reunion and Ricky’s name was on the sadly missed board such a tragic waste rip Ricky

  14. I dated Rick between his divorce and just before he went off to work on the ships. We spent more time discussing hypnosis than origami although he would often present me with little paper boxes with delicate paper flowers inside. I knew of his mental illness and his struggles with it -tended to be more of a counsellor than a girlfriend. Very saddened to hear that he passed away – especially upset to have only found out so long after the event and even more saddened to find that he died via suicide. He was a stubborn, at times opinionated but also a very charming at times funny, and often a romantic and gentle soul….sometimes this world is not suited to people who are too vulnerable to cope with the peaks and troughs. RIP Rick. X

  15. I just found this article and I am extremely sad and devastated to learn that Rick Beech has passed away! Just after Rick was divorced from his wife Julie, I had the pleasure of meeting Rick. He and I developed a good friendship. At this time his ex-wife Julie had been diagnosed with cancer, which eventually, and sadly took her life. During some of our conversations he would talk about Julie and it became apparent to me that the divorce and her illness was more than Rick was able to handle. He talked about his two daughters and how much he loved them. He even sent me photos of them. I knew that there was something different about Rick, but I didn’t know what that was at the time. Rick had been working on cruise ships entertaining people with his paper folding techniques. He would send me beautiful roses and other wonderful gifts that he had made in the mail to me. I thought he was extremely talented. He invited me on one of his cruises, but I declined to go because I was attending classes at a local university and was caring for my children at the time. Then Rick and I lost track of each other for a while. Life gets busy like that. A few months later he called me to let me know that he was getting married to a girl who lived in the United States. He invited me to attend the wedding, which I did. I wonder how many of his friends knew about this marriage? About a week after the marriage, I got a call from Rick saying that he felt that he had made a mistake. He discussed some of the reasons why he felt this way. I knew that something was not right with Rick, so in some of our daily phone conversations I encouraged him to seek counseling not only for his marriage, but for his mental well being. He became upset with me for suggesting this to him. After a weeks marriage he packed up his belongs and went back to his home in England. I have wondered if his short marriage was annulled? Then later, I found him on Facebook and friended him. Then he removed me as one of his friends. I was OK with him doing this, and I am sure there was a part of him that never could forgive me for suggesting that he seek counseling. While I am extremely sad to learn of Ricks death there is a part of me that knows that he is free now. No doubt that he is united with Julie again and free from all the struggles that he had here on this earth. I hope his two daughters are doing well. They both looked like sweet girls! My heart goes out to the rest of his family as well. In spite of Ricks issues, I found him to be a caring and loving person! He was very thoughtful of others when he wanted to be. I know that he touched my heart and there is no doubt that he touched the hearts of many others as well during his short life on this earth! RIP Rick!!

  16. I have just learned of Rick’s passing today 7th March 2020
    I spent a very beautiful day with Rick, Julie and their 2 girls and my then partner Barry with my 3 kids. I have been trying to find him on Facebook for a while and just couldn’t find a trace of him. I first connected with Rick, not through Origami but through Rick Wakeman. Great pen pals and a final meeting in the late 1990’s. A beautiful family together and having read of his passing and Julie’s, I am so ashamed of myself for not keeping in touch with him after their split. A truly beautiful friend inside and out. I am devasted at hearing this news even after all this time of his passing. My heart goes out to the girls and they probably won’t remember our day as it was so so long ago and they were only very young at the time. I have a beautiful family photograph somewhere in my albums and will treasure a lasting memory of Rick.

  17. I read of Rick’s death in the BOS magazine at the time, but having taken a back seat from origami for some time, am only just reading this obituary. Nick, I am grateful to you for attempting the difficult task of summing up another life – you drew the threads together beautifully and I feel captured the brilliant, kind, generous and yet tortured soul that was Rick.
    I joined the BOS sometime in the mid-nineties and knew Rick well – he offered to put me up when the convention was in Nottingham, and I gratefully accepted, being on a shoe-string budget at the time. It was only when the time to retire for the night came, that I realised he and Jules were going to kip on the sofa, whilst I had their bed….I was very touched by that. I have a vivid memory of the next morning, Rick kneeling on the floor cutting big squares of paper for a demonstration later that day, in his dressing gown! He was very very encouraging to me when I was starting out (as all of you old-timers were!) and presented me with many inspirational models and diagrams over the years. Many memories and long conversations overlaid with the sense that forces too big to handle were at play.
    I stopped folding for many years due to an eye problem, but with decent glasses am now finding peace and solace with origami during Lockdown. The first book I decided to fold from was one of Rick’s – and that made me want to look him up online….that’s when I came across your piece, Nick. Thank you for rekindling my memories of a lovely man.

  18. It was shocked to learn about Ricks passing. I knew Rick briefly in the late 90’s.I was aware he struggled with his mental health, met his wife and his two daughters too. Rick was always very good to me and he helped me through a few difficult times when my mental health wasn’t great. I’m just sorry I lost touch with him, so tragic to hear about his wife too. I hope his daughters are doing ok. A lovely written tribute to Rick which seems very fair and honest about him. Thoughts with all his family and friends.

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