Rick Johnson, who, over more than a decade, had brought joy to thousands while selling candy and umbrellas outside the courthouse, died this morning after a hard-fought cancer battle.
Lawyers who grew to love Rick after years of his hugs, Christmas cards and warm, loud greetings every morning as they headed to court shared the news of Rick's death early today, saying he died around 3:40 a.m. He was not alone.
In the week before his death, thousands of those people Rick touched over the years had taken to social media to share their favorite memories of him, and hundreds donated more than $30,000 to a GoFundMe set up for him just eight days ago, intended to go toward his in-home hospice care. Fox26 Houston and HOT 95.7 were also collecting loads of Christmas cards for Rick, as he had given out so many to his friends on the courthouse corner over the years — the expensive pop-up kind that play music, lawyers told us.
“He became part of the criminal-courthouse family,” defense attorney Deborah Keyser, who helped get Rick started selling M&Ms, told us in our story last week. “It’s really quiet and lonely without him out there now."
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Before he died, Rick told us that Keyser was his "shero" — his female hero — because she had helped him get back on his feet.
Since then, he has inspired an untold number of courthouse visitors and passers-by with his simple acts of kindness: giving out free M&Ms to cheer someone up; walking a woman caught in the rain to her bus stop, holding an umbrella over her; and perhaps most famously, yelling "I love you!" and "Don't worry, be happy" to everyone he saw.
Our story about Rick that ran last week is on the newsstands today—we only wish we could have ran the presses sooner. Rest in peace, Rick.
Update: According to defense attorney Vivian King, his funeral services will be held Friday, December 16 at noon at St. John's United Methodist Church in downtown Houston. Rick's pastor, Rudy Rasmus, will be officiating.