MADISON, Ala. - A celebration of life was held at Burritt on the mountain for Rick Isaacs Sunday afternoon. Family and friends gathered to remember the man who lost his battle with ALS July 1st. We remember him as a courageous man who battled through his disease to help others.
Rick Isaacs was a fighter. He was an engineer and program manager at Sikorsky Aircraft for 33 years building helicopters like the Blackhawk and even Marine One, the President’s ride. “That was kinda my life and I thought it was my calling,” he told me during an interview at his home last October.
But his mission got much bigger when he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS in 2013. “A day doesn't go by that I`m not doing something for ALS,” he said. “It's what keeps me going. It's my purpose in life. And quite frankly, I enjoy it.”
Rick spent his time raising awareness of Lou Gehrig’s disease, serving on several ALS boards and traveling from coast to coast speaking and offering support and advice to others who were fighting the battle. “I'm going to enjoy life and it's different and some of it really stinks but I try to ignore the bad and enjoy the good,” Rick said.
His wife Cindy and the "Team Rick" family loved the time they had with rick raising money for research to find a cure for the disease that would eventually take him from them. Cindy shared these thoughts after her husband's passing. She writes, "I want to thank the Huntsville community and local ALS Clinic of Excellence for their support on this long, hard journey. Being a caregiver is one of the hardest things I`ve ever done, but I would do it all over again for Rick. A day never went by that Rick did not say thank you. I pray for strength and courage for all the other caregivers out there."
Rick was concerned about that as well when we talked last fall. “I'm more concerned about what it does to others than what it does to me. You know, family, friends. It hurts them too,” he said.
ALS robbed Rick Isaacs of his muscles but it couldn’t take his spirit. “I'm still in there. It's the same old Rick Isaacs. I haven't changed. I've got a warped sense of humor,” he said with a smile. “I still like to drink beer. I like people and I think that's what gets me by.”
Rick hosted fundraisers at local breweries. “The people that come out are trying to help out in any way they can and what better way to help out than to have a beer and enjoy it with your friends,” he told us. His friends at Straight to Ale brewed a special beer in honor of Mango, his service dog. A dollar from each pint went to ALS research. It sold out. Rick called it one of the best beers he’s ever had.
Rick’s son told me the brewery is going to make another batch. And when they do, we’ll gather to raise a glass to Rick and continue the battle for him. Rick's family and friends will carry on his legacy by continuing to do all they can to bring awareness to ALS and find a cure.
If you want to make a donation to the ALC Association in Rick’s name, you can do that by clicking on the link for “Team Rick ALS.” And mark your calendar for October 14th. That’s when the Huntsville Walk to Defeat ALS will be held at Hudson Alpha.
Here's how Rick Isaacs spent his time trying to defeat ALS and how he served those who are fighting the disease:
Board of Trustees – Alabama Chapter of the ALS Association
Served on the advisory board for the National ALS Association
ALS Research Ambassador – for the Northeast ALS Consortium
Heroes with ALS Award – National ALS association – Atlanta, GA
Patient perspective at the ALS Clinical Trials Guidelines 2016 workshop – Warrenton, VA
National ALS Advocacy Day and Public Policy Conference – 3 time attendee – Washington, D.C.
National ALS Clinical Conference guest speaker on patient perspective – San Diego, CA
Speaker at various regional hospice and ALS support group meetings
Eric S. Obermann Humanitarian Award – ALS Association Alabama Chapter
Created “Strategies for Enjoying Life with ALS” educational video series for patients & caregivers