Magistrate. Circuit Court Clerk. Business owner. Father. Christian.
Crestwood resident Richard “Rick” Rash fulfilled many roles in 71 years, but those who knew him remember a singular, binding trait—his larger than life personality.
Rash passed away May 5 after a long fight with brain cancer. Friends, family and colleagues soon reflected on Rash’s vibrant personality and wide-spanning contributions to Oldham County, where he was a lifelong resident.
As a local elected official, Rash served on the Oldham County Fiscal Court for 16 years and retired as Oldham County’s Circuit Court Clerk in 2017.
Current Circuit Court Clerk Steve Kaelin replaced Rash via appointment upon retirement. Rash previously defeated Kaelin in the race for that role but reached out after the election with a proposition.
“I ran for office the same time Rick did, but I didn’t know him prior to that,” Kaelin said. “We met along the campaign trail at different events [but that was the extent of our interactions]. He won the election, but soon after asked me to join [his staff] as the Chief Deputy and handle the day-to-day operations.”
Although they came from divergent backgrounds Kaelin said Rash tried his best to help his fellow man within the system.
“He was a politician, but he was also a pragmatist,” Kaelin said. “I’ve never been around a fellow [employee] who came to work every day with a goal to help some individual in some fashion. That is what he lived for.”
When the circuit court clerk’s office still issued driver’s licenses, Rash was “very involved” in that process and even campaigned on extending the hours for issuance. Even extended hours often weren’t enough.
“Every Thursday he would stay open past hours and he would stay and take pictures [for people] there,” Kaelin said. “Rick pushed me to find ways to think outside the box to help folks.”
Rash ultimately left an impression on most who crossed paths with him, Kaelin said.
From his gift of gab to “grand” storytelling abilities, Kaelin said few forget Rash, even during chance encounters.
“He was a larger than life character and larger than life personality,” Kaelin said.
Few were closer with Rash than retired Oldham County Sheriff Steve Sparrow, but they didn’t quite hit it off at the outset.
Sparrow first met Rash in the 90s when he worked for the Oldham County Police Department. He was dispatched on a run to the Willow Creek subdivision, where Rash lived at the time.
“When I arrived, [Rick said] ‘it’s about time you got here—someone has been making harassing phone calls to my wife,’” Sparrow recalled in a phone interview Monday.
When Sparrow later crossed paths with Rash while campaigning for Oldham County Sheriff in 1998, they had a much friendlier interaction.
A lifelong Republican, Rash pledged his support to Sparrow’s campaign. When Sparrow won the primary, he soon gained a political ally and close friend.
“After I won the primary, he jumped on board and has done nothing but help me ever since,” Sparrow said. “He has driven me door-to-door and helped place all my signs. He and I became very dear friends.”
A weekly Thursday lunch tradition at Our Best restaurant in Henry County is one way they kept in touch.
The tradition started with a suggestion by mutual friend Johnny McRoberts, who has since passed away, for the trio to meet at McDonald’s for breakfast. That eventually shifted to lunch at Our Best, where former magistrate Bill Tucker entered the mix. Mutual friends Bobby Bowles and Gene Crady also joined in.
“We made it a thing every single Thursday and we’ve never missed one,” Sparrow said. “We talk politics a lot. But you name it, we talk about it.”
When Rash became Circuit Court Clerk, Sparrow said he made a point to visit the courthouse every morning to share coffee and his friend’s favorite sweet treat: chocolate covered graham cookies with peanut butter and honey.
As circuit clerk, Rash repeated similar phrases and taglines, known affectionately as “Rick-isms.” Sparrow and Kaelin both remember when courthouse staff pitched in to create a custom t-shirt for Rash with all his favorite quips, among them “you can’t make it up,” “I’m a politician, would I lie?” and “fat, dumb and happy.”
Sparrow said he lost a dear friend and fishing partner.
“I have lost one of the greatest guys and one of my best friends,” Sparrow said. “It hurts. It really does. Rick and I did a lot of fishing together. On weekends, we’d always find a fishing hole. He even downloaded a fishing app on his cell phone.”
Coincidentally, both Sparrow and his son both caught the biggest bass of their lives during independent fishing trips with Rash.
“He’s going to be dearly missed,” Sparrow said.
Rash served nearly two decades as a magistrate on Oldham County Fiscal Court, a run that inspired his half-brother, Roger, to become a magistrate in Henry County.
“I could see him moving Oldham County in a forward position [as magistrate] and felt like I could do that in Henry County as well,” Hartlage said, adding that Rash was always a reliable sounding board for magisterial issues. “Rick was a good one to go to if you had a problem and needed it resolved.”
As a fiscal court magistrate, Hartlage said Rash took particular interest in highway safety and traffic issues, helping to establish a much-needed traffic signal in downtown Crestwood. He also made key contributions to the establishment of Peggy Baker Park.
Outside of local office, Rash belonged to the Crestwood United Methodist Church for more than 60 years and sang for the choir.
He graduated from Oldham County High School in 1970 and attended West Point Military Academy for two years before completing his Political Science degree from the University of Louisville.
He met his wife of 25 years, Norma, shortly after graduation. The couple raised their two children, Richard and Jessica, in Crestwood.
Rash owned two Crestwood businesses, first opening Wallpaper Liquidators in 1986, then the Décor Store in 1990.
His hobbies included fishing, problem solving and gospel music. He also had a soft sport for animals.
“Despite overwhelming evidence that raccoons, opossums and other ‘critters’ could survive in the wild on their own, he would faithfully set a meal out for his neighborhood critters every night,” according to his obituary.
He was also a proud Republican, who supported numerous candidates.
“He gave freely and tirelessly to all Republican candidates in the county,” Judge-Executive Voegele said. “Rick was a rock-ribbed Republican. Someone told me in his high school yearbook, he even listed that he was a Republican. He could always be called on as someone willing to help.”
Rash is survived by his two children Irvin Richard Rash III (Samantha) of La Grange and Jessica Bowman (Chris) of Lawrenceburg; three brothers, Kim Rash, Roger Hartlage, and Jerome “Dutch” Hartlage; and six grandchildren, Meredith, Peyton, Henry, Anna, Rowan and Sarah.
His parents, Ruth Hartlage and Irvin Richard Rash Sr., preceded him in death.
Services were held Wednesday at Crestwood United Methodist Church.