Rick Barber, R.I.P.: Family reacts to death of longtime KOA host battling ALS

Categories: Media, News

rick barber 205x205.jpg
Rick Barber.
Update below: We've just received word from a knowledgeable source that Rick Barber, a longtime KOA overnight talk-show host whose program could be heard across much of the U.S. and into Canada prior to his 2012 dismissal, has passed away. No cause of death has been released at this point, but as we reported in April, Barber had been diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease. We've included that entire post below, which reveals a great deal about Barber and those who loved him. In the meantime, our sincere condolences to his family, friends and fans.

Update: After the publication of our original post, we received a statement about Rick Barber's passing from his family. Here it is:

Longtime Denver radio talk show host Rick Barber passed away early this morning in Denver following complications as a result of ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease. Barber was 67.

The U.S. Army veteran began his radio work in the 1960s, fulfilling a long-time passion for radio that began as a teenager in Rhode Island. Barber first came to Colorado and KWGN in early 1970s with positions to follow at KWBZ and KDEN. Following stints in Wyoming and New Mexico, Barber came back to Denver in 1982 and took a seat in the overnight chair on KOA. Rick also did television in the Denver market, as well.

"The Rick Barber Show" aired for an unprecedented thirty years.

Rick's final show on 850 KOA was in early 2012.

"He was a facilitator of topics and education -- that's what his show was all about. He always considered his show a radio magazine, and not just a talk show. Dad loved his listeners," said son Ian Barber.

In his final interview, Rick Barber talked about his time on the air.

"My footprint should be somebody who made you laugh, made you feel comfortable, made you feel good. That's how I want to be remembered. I want them [the audience] to think of me as the guy who did it my way. Including going out: my way. "

Barber was a passionate supporter of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, loved to teach journalism and was an avid Beatles and jazz fan.

The family appreciates the outpouring of support and well wishes but at this time would like to ask for privacy as they deal with a difficult situation.

Funeral services are pending.

In lieu of flowers and to show your support, the family asks that contributions be sent in Rick's name and memory to the ALS Association, Rocky Mountain chapter.
For more information: http://webco.alsa.org/site/PageServer?pagename=CO_homepage
Original post, 10:35 a.m. April 12: In January 2012, Rick Barber, who began hosting KOA's overnight shift thirty years earlier, found himself out of a job, replaced by syndicated programming amid budget cuts and sinking revenue.

Most people would react angrily to such an ouster, but Barber responded with gratitude and class, just as fans from across North America who'd listened for decades would have expected. And according to a longtime friend, he's facing a diagnosis of ALS, often known as Lou Gehrig's Disease, in much the same way.

We profiled Barber in the 2000 Message column entitled "At 3 a.m., KOA's Rick Barber is the only game in town," and the headline wasn't exaggerated. Even then, when terrestrial radio was relatively healthy and profitable, especially compared to now, no other local station broadcast live and local talk all night long. And thanks to KOA's 50,000 watt signal -- the outlet's nickname is "The Blowtorch" -- his program could be heard over much of the continent. A post on last year's item about his departure from the station put his reach into perspective. A listener wrote, "I am situated in Yorkton, Sask. Canada, about 200 miles north of the border, same latitude as Denver. With a clock radio beside my pillow, listening to Rick Barber every night became almost an addiction."

rick barber susan goldstein 2000.jpg
Photo by Susan Goldstein
Barber behind the microphone in 2000.
At the time he left KOA, he was hoping he'd be able to do fill-in work at the signal, but there were few if any opportunities to do so. Still, he remained hopeful that a new gig would come along. His Facebook page lists his status as "Temporarily out of work Radio Talk Show Host."

As the winter of 2012 melted into spring, Barber kept active by playing golf five times a week, and he seemed in fine health, says longtime friend Michele Fields of Bon Jour Matchmaking Service, who's written a blog about Barber.

Then, five months ago, something happened. According to Fields, Barber thought he'd pulled a muscle in his leg, and a doctor he visited treated the ailment as such. But the leg kept getting weaker and weaker, and after visiting a number of other physicians, he was told he had ALS.

After receiving this news, Fields says, Barber visited a chiropractor in Lakewood, who disagreed with the ALS diagnosis and said if he paid $1,200 for treatments over the next month, he could return him to 90 percent of his previous function. But the only thing this outlay of cash did for him was worsen his already precarious financial condition as his health continued to deteriorate.

Before long, he'd moved from a cane to a walker to a wheelchair -- and because he lived with his girlfriend in a third-floor apartment accessible only by stairs, he was virtually unable to leave. After one outing, Fields says, friends had to more or less carry him up the stairs. So he seldom left, communicating with friends like Fields mainly by telephone.

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Peter Boyles with Rick Barber in January 2012.
Eventually, a neurologist with CU who Fields met put Barber into contact with an ALS expert at the university, and the ALS diagnosis was reconfirmed. Around the same time, Barber and his loved ones came to the conclusion that the apartment was no longer safe for him, so they began exploring assisted living facilities. Fields soon pointed him to EMERITUS at Highline, 1640 South Quebec Way, which she says went out of its way to make it financially feasible for Barber to get the help and care he needs. He moved in on Monday.

How's he dealing with the situation? "Better than I'd be," Fields says. "He's facing everything head on, and there's no subject you can't talk about with him.

She adds that "his voice is still the same -- pretty strong. He's very calm, much calmer than he was when he was all alone at the apartment, and he's still smoking his cigarettes. I bought him some cigars," as well as some rum-raisin ice cream, to encourage him to keep eating.

Meanwhile, admirers like Tom Jensen, music director for the Junior Symphony Guild, are rallying to raise money for Barber's continued care. Here's his Facebook post with the details:

Hi, I am happy to report that the Rick Barber (Richard Barber) Trust -- # 3026864420 -- took 30 seconds at my local Chase Bank. Dropped off a check and am glad to help Rick during his illness. Please share!!! You can also mail it in to Chase Bank re: Rick Barber, 5800 S Parker RD, Aurora CO 80015
In the meantime, Fields's blog, reproduced below in its entirety, pays tribute to the way Barber is dealing with the biggest challenge of his life.

"A lot of things are written about people after they're gone, and he's not gone yet," she says. "But I wanted to write it now, so I could let everyone know how brave he's being."

Continue to read Michele Fields's blog about her good friend, Rick Barber.

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Around 1995 I moved to Denver and had random jobs most of them had me awake late at night. I was a security officer which is where I first heard Rick's show and eventually would become a mobile DJ/karaoke host which had me working all over Denver. I would listen to his show whenever I had a chance, even on nights where I didn't work I'd listen in and every now and again I'd call and share my thoughts on a topic. Rick was a great guy a tremendous host and a great interviewer. I can only wonder how "MM" is taking this news.  God speed Rick, see you on the other side. 


I listened to Rick a lot over the years.  I did not konw what had happened to to his show. I was suprised to find out he was not on the air. Great voice Great talent.  a real icon in radio missed and missed

Big Phil

Colo spgs


Though I've never heard Rick's show, I have great sympathy and compassion for him, his friends, and his family. I initially hesitated in reading this article because I knew I would wind up in tears.... Yep.  ALS is such a cruel disease. My mom was diagnosed a year or so ago with ALS and has rapidly declined over the past 6 months. I think about her condition daily and wish more than anything that I could trade places with her. May Rick R.I.P.  I hate that such wonderful people have to endure so much pain.


Rick was a wonderful teacher, and a wonderful person. He was calm, dignified, had a tremendous sense of humor, was so easy to talk to and never took himself seriously. I admired him so much, and will never forget him.

Kitty Vincent
Kitty Vincent

Rick was a close family friend.  He will be dearly missed.

JP Thomason
JP Thomason

Spent many, many hours listening to his show. ew will be sorely missed.


RIP Brother....


Barber will truly be missed . 

NOTHING will keep from attending the memorial !

Even while he was out of work, he held his head high, unlike that wining pussy, Boyles !!!

DonkeyHotay topcommenter

Tough Disease ...

... Damn You Lou Gehrig !!

michael.roberts moderator editortopcommenter

@Humanist99 Sorry to hear about your mom's diagnosis. Please give her our best -- and thanks for the post.


@Kitty Vincent  

You have my most deepest, sincerest condolences !

I 'interned' under Rick for a minute back in the 80's . He was my original inspiration to go into radio . Never did work out for me but I DID get the chance to spend a minute beside a GREAT MAN !

Rick Barber touched a nation & his presence and silliness will somehow find a way to hang around .......

His is loved and will be forever missed by millions !!!! 

michael.roberts moderator editortopcommenter

@Morgan Boyles Three letters that say a lot. Thanks for the post, Morgan.



RIP Brother....

'Brother' ...... 

I'm fighting the tears !...

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