Andrew "Andy" William Rix
"You never said I'm leaving, you never said goodbye.
You were gone before we knew it, and only God knew why.
A million times we needed you, a million times we cried.
If love alone could have saved you, you never would have died.
In life we loved you dearly, in death we love you still.
In our hearts you hold a place that no one could ever fill.
It broke our hearts to lose you, but you didn't go alone.
For part of us went with you, the day God took you home."
- Author Unknown
Wickenburg has many special people and now it has lost one of them. He was one of its own and someone who will long be remembered with love and affection.
Andrew "Andy" William Rix passed away on June 13, 2022 at Abrazo Arizona Heart Hospital in Phoenix with his family at his side. He was 45.
Andy was born on February 9, 1977 to Bill and Marilu Rix in the small town of Spencer, Iowa. After his birth, he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and CMT, another neurological disorder. His parents were told he would never be able to walk or talk. They didn't believe it. Nor did they accept it.
Bill and Marilu set out on a course to prove the doctors wrong. Little Andy, even before attending pre-school, would take a one-hour bus trip each way to receive the rehabilitative care he needed to learn how to walk and talk. It was the beginning of a lifetime of Bill and Marilu never telling Andy that he could not do something.
In 1986, when Andy was nine, the family moved to Wickenburg where Bill and Marilu took over what would become the popular "Willows" restaurant. They were following in the footsteps of Marilu's parents who had owned "Rudy's Stateline Club," another popular restaurant that literally sat on the border of Iowa and Minnesota. In keeping with the family tradition, and over the next 18 years, Andy and his big brother Chris could often be seen at the Willows helping out Mom and Dad.
During those years, Andy attended Wickenburg schools and graduated in 1997. As he walked across the stage to receive his diploma, it was handed to him by School Board Member Curtis Arnett who insisted on doing the honors. After graduation, Andy proudly went on to take community college courses including a favorite - sign language.
Many in Wickenburg will remember all the times a smiling Andy would help them with their groceries when he worked at Bashas' and then at Safeway. He also began what would become many years of community service, volunteering at the Wickenburg Public Library for 17 years and later at the Wickenburg Hospital. While at the library, Andy happened upon the "Hank the Cowdog" series, which he would read and re-read over the years. At one point, the series was destined to be taken off the shelf, but those working at the library protested. "Oh, no, you can't do that," they said, "those are Andy's books!"
Andy's greatest community contribution, though, would be the instrumental role he played in the creation of Wickenburg's first program for adults with developmental disabilities. He was the inspiration for the "Wickenburg Ducks in a Row Foundation," a non-profit that advocates and supports independent living for those with developmental disabilities. With the assistance of the Wickenburg Community Services Corporation, two group homes for men have been established and an expanding day program has been created for both men and women.
In the beginning, and at a critical meeting, it was suddenly discovered that the state required not the parents or the advocates, but the disabled themselves to ask for a group home. Andy's sense of fairness pulled him right out of his chair. He stood, all 7' 2" of him, and told those in charge, "I want a group home!"
That was the beginning of these crucial services for the adult disabled in the Wickenburg area and will continue to be Andy's legacy. Because of his contributions, he was appointed to the Arizona Governor's Advisory Council on Developmental Disabilities serving Maricopa County. Throughout his adult life, Andy became a true disabilities advocate helping to educate others within his own community and beyond.
Like many others with disabilities, Andy had rare gifts. He could tell you, for example, every mascot for every college team in the country. Whether it be a mascot who lived close to home like "Sparky the Sun Devil" or one far away like St. Cloud State University's "Blizzard T. Husky," Andy knew them all.
He had the same phenomenal memory for names, often surprising people - even those he didn't know that well - by calling them not just by their first and last names, but by their middle names, too.
But perhaps Andy's greatest gift was that he could make us all smile. He was a people person and there was something special about his energy. He could burst into a room and be laser focused on whomever was there. His enthusiasm was infectious and you couldn't help but grin. As his brother Chris remembers, "He wanted to make you his best friend."
It's not to say that Andy couldn't be strong minded and sometimes downright persistent, which was certainly the case when he stood up for his group home. But always humor and kindness were just around the corner. One of his frequent phrases, which he would say to himself, was "Be Patient and Be Kind." It was a line from Cinderella, one of his favorite Disney movies.
Andy loved Disney. He loved sports. He loved going to Wickenburg High School football games with Pastor Duane and his friend Randy Coxwell. He loved watching basketball and football on TV with his Dad. He loved playing Bingo at the Elks Club on Thursday nights, telling his Mom, "Sure I lost, but I had fun." He loved going to the Elks on Friday's, too; never growing tired of hearing the band "Desert Heat." He loved going to the movies with his best friend Nicki DeLoria, playing games at her house and having their favorite dinner together - hot dogs. He loved traveling to California to visit his beloved niece and nephew where it became a July 4th ritual to share homemade banana splits made by his sister-in-law Kathy. He loved his group home and day program members and staff. And he loved his mentor and good friend Dean Anast who has always been there for him.
As Andy would tell you, "I love my parents, I love my friends, I love the Elks Club." Andy was love.
Andy, you have cast a shadow that is so much greater than your height of 7'2" and you will never be forgotten by your loving family, your many friends and by the town of Wickenburg.
Andy is survived by his parents, Bill and Marilu Rix, Wickenburg, AZ; his brother Chris (Kathy), and niece and nephew Lillian and Connor, Elk Grove, CA; his uncle Mike Wendel (Kathie), St. Cloud, MN; cousin Michelle Wendel (Chris Lange), St. Cloud, MN; cousin Nathan Wendel (Erin), Omaha, NB; his dear friend Dean Anast, Wickenburg; and his best friend Nicki DeLoria, Wickenburg. He was preceded in death by his paternal grandparents Elwood and Dorothy Rix and his maternal grandparents Rudy and Rosemary Wendel.
Funeral arrangements are being conducted by Wickenburg Funeral Home, and an announcement of a celebration of Andy's life will be coming in the days ahead. In lieu of flowers or other gifts, the family suggests that contributions be made to the Wickenburg Community Service Corporation's "DD Network" in support of group homes and day programs; or to Wickenburg Ducks in a Row Foundation, the organization inspired by Andy that will continue to be his legacy.
A Celebration of Andy's life will be held on Saturday, August 20th at 10:00 AM at the Mount Hope Assembly of God Church with Pastor Duane Middleton as officiant. Casual dress is appropriate.
Celebration of life will be livestreamed on Facebook.com/mounthopewickenburg