Ron Rich, 65, a long-time volunteer for the Winter Party Festival, died from complications of the coronavirus over the weekend.
“Ron was a familiar face to the guests who attended the Task Force Gala, Winter Party Festival and our Fort Lauderdale house parties over the past five years as his big smile and warmth had him mostly serving on our hospitality team,” a Facebook post from the Task Force read. “He will be missed. We extend our condolences to his family and friends.”
Rich was an avid volunteer, who donated his time to other organizations as well, such as the OUTshine Film Festival.
“He was always there when we needed him, always wanted to help in any way possible, and didn't worry about getting dirty to help out,” said Victor Gimenez, Executive Director of OUTshine. “Ron didn't wait to be asked what to do but always took the initiative and asked how he could help.”
According to Gimenez, Rich’s illness and death happened quickly.
“I was shocked when I found out he passed away so quickly after catching COVID-19. Ron was admitted to the hospital and diagnosed with double pneumonia, tested for COVID-19, three days later was informed he had it when the results came back, and two days later he passed away,” Gimenez said.
The Winter Party is an annual event hosted by the National LGBTQ Task Force that takes place every year in Miami Beach. This year’s festival took place about a week before many similar type events started announcing postponements and cancellations.
Rich is the second gay man in South Florida SFGN has written about who attended the Winter Party, and then died from the coronavirus. A third gay man, a member of the Gay Men’s Chorus of South Florida, also recently died from the coronavirus.
Vim Kruger, who considered Rich his best friend, is devastated. He said Rich had a big heart and was always willing to give back.
“He was just one of the kindest people I knew. Personally, he was just always willing to help out with whatever I needed,” Kruger said. “He went above and beyond and never asked for anything in return.”
Kruger said Rich dearly loved his four children, Marc, Becky, Heather and Evan.
“He was very close to them,” Kruger said. “Not a day went by without him talking about them.”
Kruger said he believed Rich to be healthy and didn’t know of any underlying conditions he may have had. According to the Centers for Disease Control older individuals, and those with other chronic conditions such as diabetes, lung disease and heart disease are more likely to be hospitalized or die.
“He will be so missed. In my life there will be a big space,” Kruger said. “But I am sure a lot of people will feel like that. He was liked by everybody.”
Kruger said there wasn’t anything Rich wasn’t willing to try.
“He was interested in everything. No matter what you wanted to do he was willing to do it with you,” he said.
Recently Kruger formed a social group with Rich for gay men in their 60s to discuss topics like aging and sexuality. Kruger plans on restarting the group once the threat of the coronavirus has passed.
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