By Jennifer Kotila
HOWARD LAKE, WAVERLY, MN Many people in the Howard Lake area knew Heinrich Erwin Donovan as Rick, Ricky, Peewee, Shorty, Poopsie, or even Goat, according to his daughter, Angie Donovan.
Rick passed away Dec. 11, 2012, at the age of 60, from complications of leukemia, which he was diagnosed with in February 2012.
Rick married his wife, Sherry, May 7, 1977, in her parents’ backyard, and they had five children, Tom, Jenny, Matt, Angie, and Amanda.
Before he was married, Rick served in the Coast Guard for nearly three years, stationed in Duluth and shipped to places such as Thunder Bay, Alaska, and California.
“He said he could see in the fog when he was driving because of his experience in the Coast Guard,” Amanda said.
A man who worked hard all his life to support his wife and children, Rick went to school for cabinetry and graduated, but spent his career working concrete construction in a union.
He retired from his job at Concrete Sawing and Coring at the age of 50, according to Amanda.
That allowed him to spend more time with his children and six (soon to be eight) grandchildren at his home on Lake Mary, where he lived since 1988, according to Amanda.
“He loved spending time (with his children and grandchildren), and loved when we would come out to the lake to visit,” she said.
Being an avid sports fan, Rick made sure all of his children were involved in sports at a young age, Angie said.
He practiced with them in a neighbor’s yard, cheered them on during games, and offered input about what they did right or wrong after games.
Passionate about the Howard Lake Orphans, Rick was very proud that his son, Matt, continued to play baseball with the Orphans after graduating from Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted High School, according to Angie.
In fact, Rick once told Angie he was kind of living through Matt, since he was not able to continue his love of playing baseball as an adult.
Some of Angie’s favorite memories are participating in the fishing contests on Lake Mary with her dad and brother, Matt.
She once caught a large sunfish, strong enough to break the fishing pole she was using.
“I knew I was going to get spanked or reamed for breaking one of his things,” Angie said. “But, to my surprise, he was more proud of the fish I had caught than angry about me breaking his pole.”
Although he loved his family, Rick was also a really strict and stern father, trying to raise his children well.
“One thing my dad taught his children is nothing in life comes free. You have to work hard to get to where you want to be and there will be no handouts,” Angie said. “My brothers and sisters and I would not be where we are today if it weren’t for him and his guidance.”
However, Rick was also a loving father who helped his children in times of need.
One of those times was helping Angie as she worked three to four jobs as a teen mom.
Rather than spending his free time fishing and hunting after his retirement, he babysat his grandchild singing songs like “Barbie Girl” and “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” and allowing his granddaughter to dress up his long gray beard and hair.
Rick loved being outdoors, whether it be hunting, fishing, cutting wood to keep his house warm in the winter, or just lying out in the yard in his hammock, Amanda said.
One of his hobbies was mounting deer antlers, and his garage is full of mounts of antlers friends and family gave to him.
“He wrote their names on the back of the mounts so he wouldn’t forget whose they were, and hung them on the wall,” Amanda said. “It looks really nice, and when people come to visit, they always ask if they can look at the deer antlers in the garage.”
As Rick was battling leukemia, he never failed to tell his doctors and nurses about his family, and he was not afraid to show or say how proud he was of them, Amanda said.
“It means the world to any kid to hear that their parents are proud of them,” Angie said. “I’d like to encourage all parents to take the time to tell your children that they are good enough and that you are proud of them no matter how much they’ve done wrong.”
A benefit to help the Donovan family with medical and funeral costs will take place Saturday, March 2 from 11 a.m. to midnight at the Waverly Village Hall.
A bean bag tournament will begin at noon, and other activities will take place throughout the day.
A silent auction will take place until 6:30 p.m., and Bad Dogg Entertainment will begin at 8 p.m.