A natural and charismatic charmer, Rick Beech was the Brit with the exotic accent and quick wit who made the women of America swoon, and the men of America feel instantly clumsy, inarticulate, and envious. I'll wager I'm not the only guy who spent time in the mirror trying to affect his manner and his "British speech" to attract the ladies.
Of course, we failed, because Rick's presence was more than clever wordplay; he could captivate a room full of 400 people as well as he could engage you personally, never appearing dismissive, arrogant, or insulting. When I first met him, I complimented him on his instructional style, and he spent an hour with me giving me an ad-hoc elocution and teaching workshop. Rick made teaching and sharing seem effortless, but behind the scenes he worked tirelessly in the world of origami, being one of the few brave (or crazy) enough to make a living at paperfolding. From gathering the absolute best and newest models for publication, to wooing vacationers on cruse ships as the resident origamist, Rick made paperfolding exciting, dynamic, and - almost - cool.
Rick produced some kick-ass publications, with the newest and best models, and lots of them, but in doing so frequently compromised rules, conventions, and sensibilities to make fellow folders happy. If you met Rick, he had no problem slipping you a photocopy of a diagram; to him, sharing origami superseded any regulations. As you might expect, this got Rick into trouble, frequently, and he did not respond well to authority, the status quo, or to people who he saw as working against him. Rick expected others to meet his own expectations and standards, and when this didn't happen, he would explode, eviscerating his "enemies" and polarizing his friends, making life generally uncomfortable to those who cared about him.
Rick and I became close friends during this time, as I could relate. I also took every critique, dismissal, or "injustice" as a personal attack. We both felt deeply betrayed and isolated when people - particularly friends - didn't rise up and support our "cause." For Rick, any action "against" him deserved an immediate, public response. His outward expression of pain and betrayal overshadowed the kind, charming, supportive, and downright hilarious fellow who contributed so much to the art of origami, and even more to the people who met him. He had a way of making even the nerdiest origami nerd feel a little more accepted - because he proved there could be a "cool" paperfolder.
I broke contact with Rick a few years ago, after he exceeded even my own threshold for anger towards the community I'd been a part of for 14 years. I wish I could say that staying connected with him might have prevented what happened, but I'm afraid that my own caustic attitude might only have made things worse. I really wish he'd had friends and family like mine, who had the patience and energy to separate his anger from his talent and his passion.
Rick Beech RIP