UPPER DELAWARE REGION — Danilo Carvajal, 59, is the latest person in a long string of those who can thank Richard “Dick” Rhodes for their very life. While not directly rescued by Rhodes, Carvajal was saved by Erika Poston on her first day of service as a trained volunteer of the National Canoe Safety Patrol (NCSP), the organization Rhodes co-founded 30 years ago, and was passionate about, up until the day he died on April 17.
Like most who have drowned on the Delaware River, Carvajal was not wearing a life jacket when he fell into the river on May 26. Poston paddled up to him in her canoe and towed him to safety.
An overflowing crowd that gathered at a tribute held at the Bethel Lutheran Church in Rowland, PA on June 8 expressed abundant love and respect for Rhodes as family, friends, colleagues, National Park Service staff and fellow NCSP members reflected on Rhodes’ remarkable life and vowed to carry on his legacy.
Described as big-hearted, crackling smart, sun-blessed and happy, very alive, deeply committed, never eager for the spotlight and always doing things with fervor, love and compassion, Rhodes was celebrated for being a mentor and leader who exuded confidence that was contagious. “Richard’s heart was big enough for countless friends, fellow travelers and entire rivers; he was life and love invested and he will be out there on that river always,” said one friend.
Rhodes’ youngest son, Ryan, who clearly inherited his father’s impressive voice and love of music, performed several deeply moving songs, beginning with the classic, “What a Wonderful World” and ending with “Brokedown Palace” and the lyrics, “Fare you well, fare you well, I love you more than words can tell, listen to the river sing sweet songs to rock my soul.” Rhodes’ grandchildren sang “This Little Light of Mine,” with a special verse that specified, “Let it shine for Pop-Pop now.”
Rhodes’ beloved wife, Mary K, also addressed those assembled. “Letting go, you and I are bidden to continue Richard’s legacy,” she gently urged. “We are bidden to emulate his patience and obedience, his spirit, self-surrender, fortitude and devotion. He calls out to us today to wear our life jackets and teach river safety so no one drowns; to cherish the person beside you who is different because we are all one family; to respond with love to those who have wronged us; to continue to study, research and learn to eradicate heart disease and cancer; to let not our problems make us bitter, but make us better.”
The NCSP has established the Richard Rhodes River Rescue Scholarship Fund in his memory. Checks can be sent to NCSP, PO Box 91, Lackawaxen, PA 18435 or visit www.nationalcanoesafetypatrol.com  for more information.