'A heart of gold': Rick Schwartz remembered for his commitment to family, community
REGINA -- Saskatchewan’s hockey community is mourning the loss of Rick Schwartz, who died suddenly in his Regina home on Monday evening from a heart attack at age 59.
To the public, Schwartz is known as the father of a Stanley Cup champion. His son, Jaden, is a member of the St. Louis Blues who won the cup in 2019.
Schwartz is also known for the dedication that he and his wife, Carol, have for the Mandi Schwartz Foundation. It is named after their daughter who lost a public battle to cancer in 2011. The foundation has focused on advocating for bone marrow drives and donations.
However, to those closest to Schwartz, he’s being remembered as a man who put family and community before anything.
Ramona and Patrick Vigneron, who are long-time close family friends of the Schwartzes, say they’ll remember Rick’s jokes, smile and laughter the most.
“And just how much he absolutely loves his family,” Ramona said. “He always said ‘family’s first.’”
Schwartz had three children: Jaden, Rylan and Mandi.
The two families would travel together, often to watch their children play hockey. Some of their trips took them to Colorado, North Dakota, St. Louis and Germany.
“With the celebrations he’d always include family and friends,” Ramona said.
Whether it was during the kids’ minor hockey days in Wilcox or watching a Stanley Cup Championship, Schwartz always provided a fun time for those around him.
“One of the most entertaining things you could do is watch a hockey game with Rick with one of the kids playing,” Patrick said.
“It was great watching games with Ricky because he got pretty emotional as he watched the boys and Mandi play,” Ramona said. “It was really part of Ricky’s life, you could just see him come to life watching the kids play.”
BONE MARROW DRIVES
In honour of Mandi, the Schwartz family launched a foundation that is often involved in bone marrow drives in hopes of helping people who need a donor find their perfect match.
“Rick was determined to make sure Mandi’s foundation continued on with the stem cells, and match program was very important,” Ramona said.
Bone marrow drives continue at Yale University, where Mandi played. The St. Louis Blues also held a drive in 2013. Four years later, an 18-year-old woman was able to find her perfect match from a man who was swabbed at that Blues game.
The Schwartz family hosted both the donor and the recipient, both from the United States, in 2019 for the annual Run for Mandi in Saskatchewan.
ATHOL MURRAY COLLEGE OF NOTRE DAME
Rick and Carol’s three children all attended Athol Murray College of Notre Dame in their childhood and teenage years.
They participated in multiple sports, but hockey was the biggest. It’s been about a decade since any of the kids played there, but the Schwartzes have always stayed involved in the community.
“The great thing about Rick was that he loves hockey,” Rob Palmarin, the president of Athol Murray College of Notre Dame, said. “He’d still come out to our arena and would visit with our coaches who were the coaches of his sons and daughter, and our hockey staff. He was a frequent visitor to our arena so he was just one of the family.”
After Mandi’s passing in 2011, the Schwartz family helped to honour her at the school.
“The Schwartz family has set up an endowment fund and that supports a number of our female athletes, particularly hockey players, on an annual basis,” Palmarin said. “That came out of the tragedy of Mandi Schwartz dying of cancer in 2011. So it’s been almost a decade of them working to keep her memory alive.”
Palmarin said Rick and Carol were role models of parents who had children playing hockey.
One of the mottos painted in the rink at Notre Dame reads “Never Lose Heart.”
“That motto is painted up there not only as an inspiration to our student athletes when they practice and play, but it’s also an inspirational motto for all of us to remember the Notre Dame Hounds family, both living and deceased,” Palmarin said. “Rick is now going to be part of that.”
Most recently, Schwartz worked with the Saskatchewan Safety Council. Patrick worked there with him for the past five years.
“We’ve got a couple of projects on the board right now and I’m not sure where they’re going to end up, but we’ll try to make them work for him,” Patrick said.
Ramona said right now, the Schwartz family is cherishing the time they were able to spend together over the summer.
“One of the blessings of COVID-19 was that Rylan came home from Germany and then Jaden came home from St. Louis and they were with their parents for literally four months,” Ramona said. “Carol kept repeating these last few days ‘it has been awesome how much time Rick got to spend with his sons for the last four months.’”
She said the memories of playing golf and cards will long be remembered by the family.
“The death is a shock. There’s a lot of people who have been affected by Ricky and just how passionate he is,” Ramona said. “He has a heart of gold.”