Tuesday, December 9, 2008

OR Towing Company Owner "Went Above and Beyond"

Yesterday, I posted a bit about the funeral for Richard King, owner of American Towing in Bend, Oregon. Here's another story from the Bend Bulletin about his contributions in his hometown:

Richard King 1963 – 2008

By Scott Hammers / The Bulletin
Published: December 09. 2008 4:00AM PST
Richard King

Richard King

Bend’s Christmas Parade was missing one of its biggest boosters on Saturday because longtime parade sponsor and organizer Richard King died Nov. 23 at the age of 45.

Born in Prineville, King worked in the towing industry for 25 years, eventually buying American Towing. Throughout his career, he was a supporter of several community causes, sponsoring sports teams, concerts, the Bend Metro Park and Recreation District and Sparrow Clubs USA.

In 2005, King was diagnosed with a bone marrow disorder. He tried a variety of treatments over the last three years, and in September, he underwent a bone marrow transplant at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. Friends said King was recovering from the transplant until his health took a turn for the worse in mid-November.

King is survived by his wife, Terri; son, Tyler King; a daughter and son-in-law, Anne and Stuart Thom; and his parents, Mike and Margaret King, all of Bend. Services were held Sunday, complete with a procession of dozens of tow trucks from companies from across the region.

John Maxwell, an employee at American Towing for the last four years, said King was dedicated to his employees, and was always ready to jump into action at a moment’s notice.

A few years ago, Maxwell was driving one of the company trucks up Century Drive, when it caught fire. Maxwell was able tto get out and call King, who was with his son at an orthodontist’s appointment. King left his son in the orthodontist’s chair, Maxwell said, and raced up Century Drive — past the sheriff’s department’s roadblocks — to see the fire for himself.

Maxwell said King reminded his drivers that people who had to call a tow truck were already upset, and that they should try to provide them the best possible experience.

“His tow trucks were spotless — if we had down time, he wanted the trucks cleaned,” Maxwell said. “His motto was, if a person got in the truck wearing a white suit, he wanted them to get out of there wearing a white suit.”

Jeff Leland, the founder of Sparrow Club, said King and his family gave a lot to his organization over the years. Terri King has worked as Sparrow Club’s office manager for six years, and through his company, Richard has put up at least $2,650 to sponsor a sick child every year for nearly as long.

“It was a long, hard, drawn out ordeal for them, but they’re such a wonderful family,” Leland said. “It’s hard to have to see them go through that because they’ve given so much to others.”

Rick and Debbie Clothier have been friends of the King family for several years. The Clothiers run an auto repair business, and like the Kings, are members of Trinity Lutheran Church.

“We always carried his cards around in our cars because if something ever happened, we knew we could call him and he’d be there, even if we were over in the Valley or something, he’d come over there and tow us home,” Rick said.

Debbie, who along with other members of the church organized fundraisers to offset the family’s expenses in King’s last months, said King was proud of his service without drawing attention to himself.

‘Never asked for anything in return’

“He really went above and beyond for people and never asked for anything in return,” Debbie said. “He’s not a person who would do a favor so you’d owe him a favor later, it was more, just do a favor or take care of a need because it was there, and that’s what he wanted to do.”

Ernie Gilpin, chairman of the Christmas parade, said King’s presence was felt at this year’s parade, even though he was not there. Shortly after his death, King’s family called Gilpin to say that American Towing wanted to stay on as an award sponsor, that the company would provide a tow truck just in case a float broke down, and that the company float would be in the parade, just like any other year.

Still, Gilpin said it was difficult not seeing King hanging around the corner of Northwest Nashville Avenue and Harmon Boulevard, where parade organizers have set up their temporary headquarters for years.

“He’ll be missed, for sure. He already is,” Gilpin said. “He and I would just mess around together right there at that corner. We’d have Starbucks coffee, and we’d always have it available to people right close by, and he was always right there. He wasn’t right there this time. That was the difference, it really was.”

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