Most people who are regulars in the Randolph area, probably are familiar with Ricky Holbrook. Even if the name doesn’t ring familiar, you’ve probably driven by him: the short guy toting his fishing rod, looking for a ride to or from the lake; the guy playing his ever-present guitar and singing joyfully off key as he walks all over town.
Ricky died earlier this month at Dartmouth-Hitchcock after nearly recovering from a bad accident on his bicycle.
Seeing Ricky hitchhiking along a back road was a pretty regular occurrence and he could make for good company if you stopped to give him a lift. He was such a well-established character around town that you wouldn’t think twice about stopping and making space in your passenger seat, even if it did mean making space for his guitar, fishing rod, and a couple bags as well.
“No matter how far away he lived,” recalled Tom Jacobs, “Ricky was determined to get into town seven days a week.”
Ken’s Barbershop, which Jacobs owns and operates, was one of Ricky’s regular haunts, along with Village Pizza, Gifford Thrift Shop, and Champlain Farms, where he bought lottery tickets. He visited just about every day the barbershop was open and, Jacobs said, he even showed up “when I’d be in cleaning the shop on my day off,” said Jacobs.
I was surprised to learn that Ricky was 64—I would’ve guessed 10 or 20 years younger. But the folks at the barbershop knew his age well. “He’d remind us all year long that his birthday was December 10, the same as Ken,” Jacobs’ father and the shop’s founder.
Though he was disabled, Ricky was often quick to help out, sweeping the floor or shoveling the snow and would let people know that he was a good sweeper, a good guitar player, and a good piano player.
Ricky was also a regular volunteer at the Randolph Area Food Shelf. Fellow volunteer Joan Miles remembered that he would write letters to the food shelf, sometimes several times a week and drop them off. They’d always be signed “your best Food Shelf volunteer.”
“Rick got such joy out of the small things in life,” Miles wrote in an email to The Herald. “He loved hanging out the open flag and writing his name on the white board as a volunteer for that day. We have a spot that is labeled, ‘Who’s working today.’ When Ricky would write his name, he would put ‘boss’ after his name. He thought that was very funny.”
People seem to agree that Ricky had a very big heart, indeed. “He would do anything for anyone,” Jacobs recalled. “I think the community needed him as much as he needed the community.”
The last time I saw Ricky was earlier in the summer, while I was out for an afternoon drive on West Street in Brookfield. I was heading south, back toward Route 12 after an unfruitful search for photos. He was walking along the side of the road in the opposite direction.
I stopped and rolled down my window to say hello and we talked about fishing for a few minutes. He was on his way to Sunset Pond, pole and tackle box in hand, and tried his best to convince me to turn around and take him the rest of the way, but I was already late getting back to the office and had to keep going.
I hope that Ricky made it to the pond that day.
I don’t know what Ricky believed about life after death, but whatever it was, I hope it included ample space to fish and play guitar and plenty of friendly folks to talk with and get rides from.