I am Richard. I’m a Mount Evans Hospice Patient.
Richard Cox keeps an envelope in his room. If he didn’t offer to show it to you, you likely wouldn’t notice it. To the unknowing eye, it simply looks like a well-worn envelope. What makes it special is what it holds – a carefully curated collection of extraordinary moments from a life lived with purpose.
For all us, life is filled with choices. Some are big choices such as which job to take or whether to move to a new state. Other choices may seem smaller – like which apartment to rent or which puppy to choose from a litter. It’s impossible to know what doors a decision will open, or in Richard’s case, which hearts. But every choice we make leads us on a path – even the choice to answer a classified ad.
Richard’s Early Years
Richard’s story begins in Bridgeville, Pennsylvania in 1938 where he was born in the family home. Growing up, his father taught him to hunt.
“When I was a kid and my dad was on strike, we ate wild game and dandelions,” explains Richard. “I harvested squirrels, rabbits and pheasants and that’s the food we put on the table.”
The lessons he learned in the woods of Pennsylvania and his respect for wildlife would remain with Richard throughout his life.
Answering the Call to Serve
After high school, Richard served in the Air Force for six years, first as a jet engine mechanic working on a top-secret missile device and later as a drill instructor.
“It seemed like the right thing to do.”
Richard’s experience landed him a job at United Airlines. However, a year later when the union went on strike, Richard decided to become a police officer. He spent close to two decades working undercover unraveling drug rings and murder-for-hire plots. He kept millions of barbiturates and amphetamines off the streets, confiscated kilos of marijuana and cocaine, and chased the largest heroin dealer in the Bay area to Mexico and back twice building a case that would put him behind bars.
Whether it was hunting, serving in the military, or working as a police officer, Richard was a good shot and an excellent advocate. His skills drew the attention of the National Rifle Association (NRA) which offered him a job as a lobbyist. The hire was a good one for the NRA. Richard successfully fought a statewide ballot initiative to limit handguns and was relocated to Washington, D.C to lead a division.
Pursuing his Passion
Richard’s love of the outdoors and wildlife eventually pulled him back to California where he took up a cause close to his heart: conservation. Tule elk are only found in California and at the time, their numbers were dwindling toward extinction.
“They were down to six elk in the whole state. I captured some of the elk, relocated them and took care of them. They recovered. There are now thousands of Tule elk,” said Richard.
To pay for habitat improvements and wildlife management, Richard helped orchestrate the authorization of two elk tags that were auctioned by conservation groups.
“I knew a lot about elk calling at that time – they wanted to know if I would help the elk hunters with elk calls or whatever was necessary.”
That marked the beginning of a career as a professional elk guide.
Answering a Classified Ad
Richard moved to Colorado in 2005 to run the Colorado Outfitters Association. He needed a place to live so he picked up the paper and searched the classifieds. He found a listing for an apartment Bob and Julie Eaton had on their property in Conifer.
“From the first time we met, it was obvious Richard has a big heart,” said Julie Eaton.
This is where Richard’s story takes an unusual turn. A lot of people rent apartments, but rarely do they forge a meaningful friendship with their landlord. A friendship that was forged into family by a pair of Labrador retriever puppies.
“Julie liked the runt of the litter. I kept telling her, ‘You need to keep the white one in mind’,” recalls Richard. “It seemed to me the white one was a good one.”
A few weeks later Julie came home with two dogs. The runt she’d fallen in love with and the little white puppy that she gave to Richard as a gift.
“Frostie Sue has been my best girl for a long time. She’s my four-legged girlfriend. She’s 9-years-old now. Frostie and I lived out in the country when I moved back to Pennsylvania and the only time we separated was when I went to the hospital with all these problems.”
A Diagnosis of Cancer
During a visit to the VA hospital, a blood test revealed multiple myeloma, a relatively rare cancer that forms in plasma cells and accumulates in the bone marrow. There is no cure, but the disease can sometimes be slowed through treatments. For Richard, the treatments proved too painful. A family member placed Richard in a nursing home, but for a man who had been fiercely independent all his life, being in a nursing home and away from Frostie was more than he could bear.
“I went back to my own property and I got back with Frostie, but I didn’t have a driver’s license so I was stranded,” said Richard. “We were alone. The only real help I had was from hospice.”
That’s when Julie and Bob, who had maintained almost daily contact with Richard, made an offer.
“It became obvious he and Frostie could not live alone. We proposed the idea of coming to live with us in Conifer,” said Julie. “Our goal is for Richard to be happy, content and comfortable, without worrying about how he is going to take care of Frostie and himself.”
It took Richard less than 24 hours to say yes. Bob and Julie traveled to Pennsylvania, helped Richard pack, and moved him back to Colorado. When asked what this meant to him, Richard pauses and with great deliberation says the words, “I’m very grateful.”
The return to Colorado signaled the entry of Mount Evans into Richard’s life.
“I have been involved with four hospice organizations – years ago for my father, relatively recently for my mother, for Richard in Pennsylvania, and now Mount Evans hospice,” explains Julie. “Without a doubt, Mount Evans is above and beyond the other three. The quality of care, the genuine personal care, the upbeat personalities, and the friends we have made as a result of Mount Evans, have meant a lot.”
Richard’s team includes a doctor, nurses, social workers, chaplain, certified nursing aides and a volunteer.
“Richard is a character and the best of storytellers. Sitting still does not come easy for him,” said Toni Aho, Mount Evans Certified Nursing Assistant. “As I spend time with him, I know that his greatest wish is to be useful to all those he cares about.”
Richard has a relentless drive to help people and leave things better than the way he found them. He wants to do for hospice what he spent his life doing for wildlife and conservation – raising money and awareness. So he gave the most important thing he has – his story.
“If I could do something to raise money for hospice that would be a no brainer. In my life, I raised over a million for wildlife and that was important but not as important as what hospice does. What Mount Evans has done for me has truly been a blessing.”
Please consider helping us reach our fundraising goal of $100,000. To schedule your donation, visit coloradogives.org/mtevans.