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Richard ‘Dick’ Rhodes: a river patrolman passes on his paddle

Dick Rhodes, waving, stands among his family of fellow river patrollers during a Delaware River Sojourn. To his right is Dejay Branch, current vice commodore of the National Canoe Safety Patrol and a dear friend.


May 1, 2012

UPPER DELAWARE REGION – A true servant leader is now at rest after making the waters of the Delaware River a much safer place for the past 33 years. Until the day he died on April 17 following a battle with cancer, Richard “Dick” Rhodes was still preparing to save lives during the upcoming season by sending out an email message to fellow river patrol members about their upcoming training.

That training is slated for this weekend, and according to those who knew Dick, the avid river patrolman would have liked nothing better than to mentor more people to become members of the National Canoe Safety Patrol (NCSP), an organization that he co-founded 33 years ago and dedicated his life to.

“His heart was in it until the very end,” said Dick’s wife, Mary K., who willingly partnered in the endless efforts the couple devoted to NCSP activities. Mary K. had an idea what she was in for when Dick proposed to her three decades ago at Skinner’s Falls, one of his favorite places to practice his life-saving skills. Along with the beautiful diamond came a request for permission to assume leadership of the NCSP, an arrangement that would frame the rest of their time together.

Over the years, Mary K. has shuttled and fed members who hail from Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. “Our kitchen table has transformed strangers into friends,” she said. “We’ve met some amazing people and we all take care of one another. When you’re out there on the river, you need to know that somebody’s got your back.”

Mary K. describes her husband as a world changer and mentor teacher, as well as one who made a difference to his fellow man. “He didn’t do it for the recognition. He always gave others the glory,” she said.

Dick’s motto was, “Not one of us is a true believer until he desires for his brother what he desires for himself,” according to his wife. “He lived the simple truths that uplift the value of all people,” she added. “He believed that God values all people equally no matter how they are viewed by society. There is no one at the top or bottom, only all of us in need of hope.”

Dick also had a natural gift for connecting those with differing opinions. “He stood in the gap,” said Mary K. “He always looked for solutions, to get beyond the differences to protect the environment and the river.”