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Loving husband, father lost

Rock Falls man dies during 5K race Thanksgiving Day

Rick Koeppen
Rick Koeppen

ROCK FALLS – Rick Koeppen was a dedicated family man.

He worked long, hard hours to provide for his wife and two boys.

Rick worked at National Manufacturing, Rock Falls, for 28 years until it closed in 2011, and worked for Champion Chisel Works in Rock Falls for the past year. He went back to school to get his welding certificate. He was about to start a new job at Nippon Sharyo in Rochelle.

“He was looking forward to it, because it was going to be a big change for him and for us,” said Tracy Koeppen, his wife of 23 years.

He went to every one of his sons’ sporting events and school functions. He even accompanied his older son on his long runs as he trained for the Quad Cities Marathon this fall.

“He’d do anything for us,” said his son, Cody Koeppen, 21. “On my big 3-hour training run, Dad was right there with me on the bike. It was a crappy, old bike we had in the garage. It couldn’t have been comfortable to sit on for that long. But he didn’t complain. He just pedaled behind me. That’s the kind of thing Dad would do.”

During a 5K race on Thanksgiving Day, Rick collapsed and died. He was 50.

A man in pretty good shape all his life, he had just started running. He spent evenings and weekends on the treadmill in the basement of his Rock Falls home, racking up miles and training to run a race with his son.

He started the St. Anne’s Turkey Trot in Lowell Park in Dixon on Thanksgiving morning. He never crossed the finish line, though, and never got a hug from his son.

He collapsed during the mostly uphill first mile.

Four women nearby stopped to check on him. He was unresponsive. A nurse, who was running in the race, did chest compressions, and a bystander called 911. Rick remained unresponsive.

He was pronounced dead at KSB Hospital.

The coroner’s report revealed that he previously had suffered a mild, undetectable heart attack, and that his arteries were 90 percent blocked.

“It was so great that we were finally going be able to do that together,” Cody said. “When I ran my races, he had always been right there at the finish line. ... That morning, I was going to be at the finish line waiting for him.”

A reserved man, Rick was well-liked.

“He was quiet, but he was a kind and loving person,” Tracy said. “He was the kind of guy who would do anything for anybody. He took very good care of us.”

Rick was everything to his family. Tracy called him her “knight in shining armor.” His sons, who were fortunate to be home from college for the holiday, considered him their best friend.

“He texted us every morning and told us he loved us,” said his son, Dylan Koeppen, 20.

In addition to his wife and sons, survivors include his mother; his two brothers and two sisters; and many family and friends.

A funeral was held Monday, after a visitation Sunday evening that extended 2 hours beyond its scheduled time.

“He would have been shocked at how many people came,” Tracy said.

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