The longtime Hillsboro resident, coach and sports enthusiast died March 23.
Richard Kucera. They didn’t improve them.
The 85-year-old Californian but a 60-year-old Hillsboro resident died March 23 from complications stemming from a brain tumor discovered a few weeks earlier.
He leaves behind his wife of 20 years, seven children from his first marriage, three stepchildren, 19 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. But he also left in his wake hundreds of friends, pupils, former players and students who will be missed by the man who could not play golf, but played it as often as possible; could not sing, but overdid it; and couldn’t help being the butt of the joke, which he otherwise wouldn’t have had.
He loved everyone and everyone loved him.
He wasn’t perfect, and in fact, he would have been the first to tell you that. But what he was was a perfect gentleman who knew no other way.
I first met Kucera as a kid playing golf at Forest Hills Golf Course in Cornelius. Over 30 years later, I’m just one of many sad to see him go.
Few people can overcome life’s difficulties with a smile on their face, but Kucera was that guy. He started each day with a song, each meeting with enthusiasm and approached each obstacle with class.
He joked that we would never see him complain.
“I never whine and whine. That’s one thing you’ll never see old Rich do, that’s whine and whine!”
Now he usually said that a split second before pouting about a losing hand of cards or being on the wrong side of a golf bet, but that was part of his schtick.
He also liked to gamble, but never for anything more than a handful of dollars. He would bet that anyone would take it, and if you did, he would “destroy” you forever.
He never won if you asked him, and in fact he lost “$585.35” every day – which of course was a lie, and possibly the only lie I’ve ever really heard say.
In preparation for this article, I asked a number of people what they thought of Kucera. Without exception, the answers started with his love for golf and ended with a story that said more about the man than the game he loved.
He was an Air Force veteran, an enthusiastic chess player in his youth, a sports enthusiast, and even a coach.
Bart Bass, who had known Kucera for nearly 50 years, played college basketball for him at St. Matthew’s Catholic School in Hillsboro. He fondly recalls a story of Kucera harmlessly kicking him in the butt after Bass fired a half-court shot in the dying seconds of half while his teammate stood alone under the basket while waiting for a pass and an easy score. The two had repeatedly joked about the incident while playing cards or golfing at Forest Hills over the years, fondly recalling the start of a relationship between a ‘ball hog’ and the coach who couldn’t help him. to master.
Bass said Kucera still had a plan. Every day in practice there was a checklist of things to do and an organized way to do them.
He kept a book of his bets—which he called his “brain”—and organized golf tournaments, trips, and even a monthly league he called the “Circus Traveller” of which he was the head clown.
Marcus Speros, who manages the Forest Hills golf course and whose father Dick has owned it for over 40 years, understands what Kucera has done and still means to the course, saying: “He was and will continue to be a Forest Hills icon. He is loved and missed by far too many.”
Ron Smith, Kucera’s friend of over 30 years, says it hasn’t been the same since his death.
“He was like a brother to me and I will miss him dearly,” Smith said. “Golf and cards don’t seem as fun right now.”
If this were an obituary, I would refer to his work at the Pool Gardner Lumber Yard in Hillsboro as part of his first wife’s family business. Maybe his time in the military or his job as a toy store manager in Burbank in his youth. About his family, the children he left behind or his second wife Patsy, which Rich himself told me was life changing.
But I’m not here to celebrate what he knew he had done, but rather to appreciate what he didn’t know he was doing for all those years of golfing, singing and just being him – teach people like me how to be better.
I’m a better person thanks to Rich. Forest Hills is a better place thanks to Rich. And I guess in a way Hillsboro is a better town because of the guy who spent his mornings at the aquatics center working out, countless days at the golf course playing golf and cards, evenings to dinner with his wife, and every day to sing, smile and make a difference just by being him – one of the best guys I’ve ever known.
From 1 to 4 p.m. this Saturday, May 14, they will celebrate Kucera’s life at Forest Hills Golf Course. A collection of his family and friends will eat, drink and tell stories about the man who made a difference in all of their lives. It will of course be sad, but it will also be a reminder to me and to all who had the pleasure of knowing Ol’ Rich how special he was and how lucky we were to know him.
Rest in peace, Rich, you deserve it.
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