A Tribute to Richard Headrick
By Paige Patterson
October 5, 2020, is ineradicable in my mind. Early in the morning of the last day of his 77th breathtaking year on this earthly circumference, Richard Headrick peacefully took his last shallow breath and moved like an arrow from a taut bow into the arms of Christ. The “Rhinoman,” as he was popularly known, abandoned the land of danger where he had grazed for a long life and exchanged that for the pleasant vistas where the Rhino-Shepherd tenderly superintends the meadows of eternity.
A tiny yellow booklet entitled “Rhinoman” was written so that anyone can comprehend Richard’s story of excitement and adventure, which includes climbing the Andes in Peru, canoeing the Amazon fishing for piranhas, searching for gold in South America, walking away from three airline crashes, running guns and drugs to guerrillas in the shrouded forests, and even near suicide when he thought life was no longer worth living. As Richard put it, “I missed hell by seconds.”
As a three-year battle with cancer wound its way to termination, I visited with Richard and his faithful wife Gina on the tenth floor of their Florida condominium. Suffering profoundly, Richard said, “I want to give you the very first copy off the press of my new book about cancer.” I was not excited until I saw its title as he presented it to me. Punctuated by a parachuting man in freefall, the book was titled Life, A Most Wonderful Gift. Richard had learned how to bring happiness and joy to the lives even of those who suffer what some call “terminal illness.”
Many times Richard walked through the maze of gaunt-looking officials and soldiers at international checkpoints, leaving them convulsed in laughter. I thought, as I looked at that little book Richard had written, he was never a “victim” in his own eyes but rather a man on a mission to erase sadness and sorrow from every life and permeate each person with the joy and happiness that engulfed his own life every day of his existence—and even more so now!
Now there were moments when I had my doubts. Attempting to dig into parched Pakistani soil for cover beneath a spreading tree with limbs falling, broken off by bullets from Ak47s, I glanced at Richard who was smiling. He bellowed loud enough for Satan to hear it in hell, “God could not have put us in a better place to tell the story of Jesus!” Richard was fearless, trusting completely in the sweet providences of God. There was no one with whom he would not share the love of Christ. And strangely, I never saw one soul unhappy or angry with Richard for sharing his story.
Richard’s body will be escorted from New Orleans, LA, to Laurel, MS, by the members of Hellfighters, Richard’s gang of bikers snatched from the brink of hell by a caring Savior through the faithful witness of Richard and Gina, who love to share Christ with those who seem to be without hope. The Mission at the Cross and the Hellfighters, under the direction of Richard, have become a formidable force for truth and righteousness across this nation.
After a failed marriage during the years of his rebellion, Richard married Gina and then modeled what God intended marriage to be. No one ever doubted that they loved each other devotedly, and Gina loved the adventures she and Richard shared. Together they travelled the world with the message of Christ, and together they rejoiced in many coming to faith in Christ.
Let there be no mistake. One of the greatest and most consistent witnesses of our contemporary era has moved on from earth to the heaven about which he loved to talk and write. Our prayers are with Gina who is today rejoicing in Richard’s triumph but also sensing the loss of the love of her life. If Richard could tell us one thing from heaven’s gate, I think I know what it would be: “You boys don’t get too tied up with earthly circumstances. After only ten minutes up here, those ‘circumstances’ have been virtually forgotten. All that matters is who you brought with you. Oh, I have to go. Here come some more folks that I led to Christ!”
This article first appeared at paigepatterson.org, Oct. 5, 2020.