By Jennifer Kotila
HOWARD LAKE, MN Richard “Rich” Lee Kingstedt, 59, of Howard Lake, known throughout area communities for his salsa and chili, passed away Sept. 25 after battling brain cancer.
A benefit that was planned before his passing to assist with medical bills will take place Saturday, Oct. 13 from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Howard Lake Lions Hall, with a hotdish supper and a silent auction.
Rich and his wife, Gerri, owned the Waverly Cafe and catered from 1987 to 1991, and he became known as the “salsa man” during that time.
“People loved his salsa and chili,” Gerri said, noting a friend of hers recently told her she would only eat Rich’s salsa.
The Kingstedts continued to cater after selling the cafe, and their last job was June 30, which is also one of the last days Gerri remembers him driving, which he loved.
Rich was diagnosed with glioblastoma April 26, 2011, two days after Easter, and given 18 months to live.
Doctors were able to remove a large tumor from the top of his brain within two days of the diagnosis, and he underwent an aggressive chemotherapy and radiation regimen.
Brain scans were clear until May 1, when doctors found three new tumors. Again, Rich underwent a six-week chemotherapy and radiation regimen, which shrunk two tumors.
However, the third tumor, which affected Rich’s motor skills, did not respond to the treatment.
Although he began receiving Avastin infusions as an attempt to slow its growth, Rich soon lost the ability to drive.
Loving father had ‘spiritual bags packed’
“He enjoyed cooking for people making them happy,” Gerri said. “He loved to cook, I think that was his passion. As well as being a dad he loved that.”
Rich often greeted his daughter, Andrea, with a big smile, calling her “Tootsie” or asking, “How you be buster.”
“Dad was the best dad anyone could ever ask for,” Andrea said. “He was loving, caring, protective, and funny. I loved his different suspenders he would always wear.”
Rich could often be found wearing a set of suspenders, and had a variety of them in patterns ranging from rainbow to checkered.
“After he went to the men’s retreat in February 2011, he became an even more awesome Dad,” Andrea said. “He came back from that retreat as a changed man, and claimed that his ‘spiritual bags were packed.’”
That retreat was only two months before Rich was diagnosed with brain cancer.
“He was on fire for the Lord. I remember waking up every morning after that to the smell of coffee and seeing Dad sit at the end of the couch with his reading glasses on, reading his Bible always with a warm smile,” Andrea recalled fondly.
Rich had the pleasure of walking Andrea down the aisle at her wedding June 2.
“There’s a honeymoon baby on the way. God provided that, too,” Gerri said, noting how Rich was looking forward to being a grandfather.
The night before Rich passed away, “the three of us had a beautiful anniversary dinner” with Andrea to celebrate their 29th wedding anniversary, Gerri said.
Eccentric man who loved his community
Although he was quiet and inconspicuous, and did not draw attention to himself, Rich was also well-liked and well-known throughout the community, Gerri noted.
“He was involved in the community, willing to help people who needed it,” said friend Cathy Rufer. “His contributions to the community affected a lot of people.”
In the mornings, he would take his cup of coffee and travel around town, visiting and catching up with everything going on in the community.
A friend remembers Rich as a “real community-spirited kind of guy,” Gerri said.
“It didn’t matter if you were rich, poor, troublesome, or not Rich was always kind and talked to everyone,” Gerri said.
Rich was able to see many of his friends one last time the weekend before he passed away at a benefit in Waverly, where his friends, the Everett Smithson band, performed.
Rich “loved anything a little eccentric and off the norm,” Gerri noted.
“He didn’t care what people thought about him and had the attitude of ‘this is me take me as I am,’” she added, remembering his winter cap with the ear flaps that stuck out.
Although she disagreed with him at the time, Rich told Gerri the suit he bought for Andrea’s wedding would only be worn twice. He was right, Gerri said.
Rich dressed to the nines for Andrea’s wedding, only using silly faces to add his eccentricities. “He looked more handsome at Andrea’s wedding than ours,” Gerri said.
However, for his funeral, Gerri and Andrea found a hot pepper tie to bury him in. “He had to have that little twist on the conventional, that was his way,” Gerri said, noting that many commented how well the tie fit his personality.
Rich enjoyed a wide range of music, but was especially fond of bluesy music.
That being the case, those in attendance at Rich’s funeral Sept. 28 were still a little surprised when “House of the Rising Sun” started to play, Gerri said.
The song was a version of “Amazing Grace” set to the tune of “House of the Rising Sun,” which Rich discovered and loved.
Not only did Rich love his family, cooking, music, and driving, he was also an avid biker for many years and loved trains.
His funeral procession was led by a group of bikers, and just as the procession was turning off Highway 12 to go to St. Mary’s Cemetery in Waverly, it had to wait for a train.
“Everyone cheered,” Gerri said. “It was the only part of the funeral I couldn’t plan, but it was the perfect send off.”
Although one usually gets used to trains, and does not notice them after a while, Gerri said she notices them a lot more now.
“Dad’s always going to be here,” Gerri told Andrea, “We’ll hear the trains and think of him all the time.”