Rich Lagemann of Wright City, Missouri, was honored for his volunteer service by being named a Hidden Hero by the Warren County Record newspaper.
One day before he and his wife were to leave town for Arkansas to watch their granddaughter play for a state championship, Rich Lagemann was outside working in the yard.
He wasn’t expecting the surprise he was about to get as his friend, Amy Horton, and Warren County Record Publisher Tim Schmidt walked up his driveway.
“What’s the occasion,” Rich asked?
And that’s when the great Wright City volunteer found out he was this month’s Hidden Hero.
“We just wanted to thank you for everything you’ve always done for the community,” Schmidt said before presenting Rich his superhero cape.
“Is this why Judy said I had to be back here by 9:00?” he asked as he laughed.
Amy and his wife, Judy, had set up the surprise presentation. Judy had the job of making sure Rich was home.
“It’s been fun, let me tell you!” Judy said.
“I told her she had to keep a poker face,” Amy said as Rich laughed.
The presentation honored Rich for all the work he’s done for the Wright City and Warren County communities since he moved to the region in 1994.
“I’m humbled and very appreciative,” Rich said.
Rich, a retired school administrator, now spends his time helping promote literacy and supporting kids in the community.
“Once I retired from being an administrator in the school district, I decided I needed to spend more of my time giving back,” he said. “And within a year, we started Warren County Literacy. Its purpose was to improve early literacy in Warren County. So that’s continued through this time.”
It was through his work with Warren County Literacy, a program that started in 2011, that Amy met and developed her friendship with Rich. It was also what drove her to nominate him as a Hidden Hero.
“He really is a hero,” she said as she detailed how integral he’s been to several programs that have greatly benefited the community.
For instance, it was Rich who came up with the idea for a program to build bookcases for kids in an effort to promote reading. And since 2011, 820 local kids have received a bookcase.
“Having access to books at home is really important for early literacy and future success in education,” Amy said. “And Rich was just integral to that.”
Now, he’s leading the charge for the Dolly Parton Imagination Library.
“We were really excited about the idea, but to also make it work, you have to have local funding,” Amy said. “It requires the support of the local champion to make that happen.”
In stepped Rich.
“A lot of that was through Rich’s passion and his energy,” Amy said. “He’s also really good about rallying the troops and getting others in the community involved to help.”
Rich also channels his energy into helping with the Wright City Kiwanis Club, working to promote the Sports Closet. He’s also on the Wright City park board and a member of the retired teachers group.
It was Rich who pushed the idea for the rubber duck race in August that raised enough money to pay the rent at the Sports Closet for 10 months.
“Without Rich, that wouldn’t have been possible,” Amy said.
For Rich, though, his focus is on the kids.
“To be able to provide that to the kids and their families is very fulfilling to me so that they can do some things that they enjoy.”
Those around him easily see the benefits of Rich’s work.
“I can just say that Rich is one of the hardest working men I know,” Judy said. “If there’s a way to get it done, he’ll find it. He just is very caring, and then he just works his tail off to get it done.”
Rich, though, said his reward for volunteering is more than that. Take for instance this year’s duck race.
The girl who won was not present at the final race. She had only bought her duck that night, when she and her little brother walked past the booth during the August First Friday event.
“When her duck won and we called out her name and number, nobody was there,” Rich said. “We got one of our members on the phone and called and her mother answered.”
Her mother had no idea her daughter had bought a ticket and had just won $1,000.
“She said we’ll be right there,” Rich said. And he said it was obvious how much that $1,000 would benefit the family when they arrived.
“You could tell that the $1,000 meant the world to them,” he said. “I was just so happy that, here’s a young lady, somebody that really needed it got it.”
And despite being exhausted from the long night and the hard work that went into the event, he said he was walking on air.
“It was like, ‘ok, everything is worth it.’”
The Warren County Record routinely accepts nominations for Hidden Heroes. The next recipient will be chosen in November. Nominations can be made online at warrencountyrecord.com/hiddenhero.
About the author: Jason Koch is the editor of The Warren County Record, and covers local news and government for the newspaper. He has won multiple awards from both the Indiana and Illinois APME and from the Illinois Press Association. He can be reached at 636-456-6397 or at firstname.lastname@example.org