comments

Hitch was more than just a climber

Roseville man coached 29 teams, served as director of coaches for local soccer league
By: Bill Poindexter/Roseville Press Tribune Sports Editor
-A +A

Rick Hitch wasn’t just a mountain climber. That’s evident from the “Wall of Fame” in the Hitches’ home in Roseville.

On this wall are dozens of team soccer and softball pictures and plaques of appreciation. Trophies stand tall atop cabinets. Several team photos include Hitch, friend and fellow coach Eric Wilson and wife Loretta Hitch, who usually served as team manager.

Rick Hitch died Sunday while climbing Mount Everest. Hitch collapsed just before arriving at Camp 3 at more than 23,000 feet elevation and never regained consciousness.

Loretta Hitch accompanied her husband to Mount Everest, as she did for his other climbs. Mount Everest would have been Rick Hitch’s last of the Seven Summits. They walked into base camp together on April 9, their 23rd anniversary.

Loretta Hitch said Thursday she had no regrets about Rick climbing the highest point on the planet, but she also didn’t want him to be remembered “just as a climber.”

“He was a coach or an assistant coach or a timer for swimming, and he coached or assistant coached on 29 teams,” she said. “He was director of coaches for Roseville Youth Soccer for 14 years. He had given back to his community willingly and actually cherished the time that he did it. I didn’t want him to be known just as a man that died while climbing. He was a wonderful husband and a terrific father, and he spent time with his children and he did everything that he thought was right.”

Wilson said he never met a harder worker than Rick Hitch. When they took soccer coaching classes, Hitch studied and was driven to do his best. When they formed traveling teams, they didn’t limit their time together to practices and games. They became friends, attended other games and movies together and had barbecues.

“Whenever there was something you were going to do, it would get done,” Wilson said. “The teams he created became like families, and a lot of that is because of things he set in place.”

Loretta Hitch recalled several years ago, when their three daughters were young, Rick would go into each bedroom after they had fallen asleep and absorb the moment.

She said the time they spent together on the way to Mount Everest and at base camp were “three of the best weeks that I had.”

Loretta said Rick, who turned 55 on April 24, would wait for her and walk with her as they trekked in. They exchanged a high-five each time they reached a new elevation. They talked and watched movies together on her Nano and his DVD. She returned home April 12.

“I told him before I left how grateful I was and I thanked him for allowing me to do that with him,” Loretta said. “And he thanked me for doing it because he said he didn’t know if he would be able to be on the mountain without me being there first.”

A viewing is planned for 4 p.m. Thursday at Mt. Vernon Mortuary. A graveside funeral is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Saturday, May 14, at Roseville Cemetery, and a celebration of life will be held from 2-7 p.m. Sunday, May 15, at the Woodcreek High School cafeteria.