Rick Barber, longtime KOA overnight icon, in brave struggle with ALS disease
"A DEDICATION TO MY DEAR FRIEND RICK BARBER" by Michele Fields
I can't think of a person who deserves this fate less than Rick Barber, former KOA talk show host and my friend. Rick and I met ten years ago when his producer called me after reading my columns in The Denver Daily News on Dating and Relationships. He asked me to appear on the show which aired from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. Although that was not really my target audience Rick's reputation preceded him and I thought it would be good practice.
Rick and I had such a great chemistry on that first show that on the air he invited me to appear monthly, which lasted for three years. Meanwhile during that time Rick and I hung out discussing possible TV ideas, collaborating on topics for our shows and he attended several events with me that I was writing about on another weekly column in The Denver Daily News covering nonprofit fundraisers.
Our antics grew into a deep friendship talking everyday, getting together periodically and being there for each other. A few years ago I had foot surgery and Rick was one of three friends who was such a big help to me with doctor's appointments, shopping and anything else I was unable to do at that time. Something I so appreciate and will never forget. I have been so fortunate to call Rick one of my closest friends. He knows the definition of friendship and walks the talk!
Then a little over a year ago Clear Channel let Rick and many others go due to new management decisions. Rick always looked at the upside conscientiously applying for lots of other talk show positions at a variety of stations both in state and out of state. While doing that he enjoyed his favorite pastime of golf. Rick could golf 5 days a week and never tire of it! He cleverly applied for a position at a golf course so that he could play there for free and although the hours very crazy early, he thoroughly enjoyed the work and being outdoors on the course.
Michele Fields and Rick Barber.
In around September he experienced what he thought was a pulled muscle that took him off the course for a few weeks. Rick is special in that he does not have a problem going to a doctor (like many men) if there is an issue. The muscle seemed to heal but in fairly short order he started experiencing weakness in that leg. One never jumps to the conclusion that it is something serious so he still chalked it up to a sore muscle pull.
Eventually as you may know by now it progressed leaving him weaker and weaker having to use a cane for assistance for stabilization when he walked. That went on for a few months but the strong leg started to weaken and he found in short order the need for a walker. Shockingly after only using the walker for about 3 weeks his strong leg weakened and he is now in a wheelchair.
But Rick is the bravest person I know...he faces all of this head on not shrinking away from any subject from end of life to okay what is next, okay now it's a wheelchair, okay now it's an assisted living facility I found for him, okay whatever comes next. He stays calm, smokes his cigarettes and the cigars I give him and just takes one thing at a time. He is seeing a doctor who fortuitously phoned me for my service and turned out to be an expert on neuroviral diseases at the University of Colorado and we are hoping she comes up with another diagnosis or prognosis than the first of ALS.
Everywhere I look in my house I think of Rick because of something he fixed, helped me with, enjoyed like my cat who loves him. Little did I know in December that would be the last time he would visit my home when we exchanged Christmas gifts. I've been holding a bottle of wine and a wine cooler for him for a year but now I guess I will have to take them over to EMERITUS at Highline where he is residing. The staff is wonderful and the Executive Director, Tom Hunter, was kind enough to work with me negotiating with his superior to waive the entrance fee for Rick and get him a more affordable monthly fee for a private room.
The staff is very attentive to Rick's needs and he is safe and well taken care of there.
This is a description of my friend Rick Barber celebrating the person he is and how very brave he has been while going through this devastating illness.
More from our Media archive: "Rick Barber out after thirty years at KOA, Jon Caldara's show also ending."