Rick Rightnowar, a basketball standout at Whitmer High School and the University of Toledo and a sales standout at a local auto dealership, died Friday in ProMedica Toledo Hospital. He was 48.
His death was unexpected, and the cause was unknown, his wife, April Rightnowar, said. He had been ill about a week.
In 2004, he developed an immune disorder, idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura. For nearly a year, he was away from his sales manager duties at Brondes Ford Lincoln of Maumee, said Dennis Jackson,general manager of the dealership .
“It was like he willed himself to get better. It was amazing,” Mr. Jackson said. “He still dealt with health issues, but it never affected him.”
Mr. Rightnowar began his career at Brondes on Secor Road and moved to Maumee in 2001 when Brondes opened that store.
He was smart and likeable, Mr. Jackson said, and brought the competitive spirit of college athletics to the sales floor.
“He was out for other people to be successful as well. That’s what made him a good manager,” Mr. Jackson said.
Ricky L. Rightnowar was born Nov. 6, 1969, the youngest of Betty and James Rightnowar’s three sons. The brothers were competitive, middle brother Ron, who played professional baseball, told The Blade in 2009.
He was a 1988 graduate of Whitmer High School, where he played varsity basketball for 2 ½ years. He had three varsity letters and helped lead the Panthers to a state semifinal spot in 1987 and regional final in 1988.
Mr. Rightnowar attended in January when his 1987-88 team was inducted into the Whitmer Athletic Hall of Fame. He was a 2014 inductee for his own achievements and also was inducted with the 1986-87 team, his coach, Rick Kaifas, said.
“He was an ultimate team player,” said Mr. Kaifas, who put the team’s record at 46-6 with Mr. Rightnowar aboard. “He could pass and shoot with the best of them. Very outgoing. We used to kid, he always had a smile on his face.”
UT offered Mr. Rightnowar a basketball scholarship, and he signed before his senior year at Whitmer. To have his family close “made things go a little more smoothly,” he told The Blade in 2008, adding that he did not spend much time thinking how things would have been different had he not gone to UT.
“The advantage was that I was the local guy and people knew me,” Mr. Rightnowar told The Blade. An offensive player at Whitmer, he was told at UT that unless he played defense, he wouldn’t play.
“So I worked to be the best defensive player I could be,” he said in 2008. “I tried to get the crowd involved by diving on the floor, jumping over the press table, trying to pump up the team and make us play a little better.”
In February, 1992, he was coming off an ankle sprain when he had a career-high 32 points against Kent State University, including 22 successful free throws in 23 attempts, which tied a UT and conference record. His final free throw with 35 seconds left in the game resulted in UT’s 66-64 win.
Mr. Rightnowar later was an assistant coach at Bedford High School and a color analyst for UT basketball broadcasts.
Surviving are his wife, April Rightnowar, whom he married in 2016; sons Ricky and Ryan Rightnowar; daughter, Nicole Rightnowar; stepson, Regan Judson; stepdaughter, Devyn Judson; brothers James and Ron Rightnowar, and sisters Shirley Rightnowar Wilson and Linda Haddix.
A memorial gathering will be held from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday at Northwest Christian Church, Temperance, with a service at 7 p.m. Arrangements are by the Michael W. Pawlak Funeral Home, Temperance.
Guidelines: Please keep your comments smart and civil. Don't attack other readers personally, and keep your language decent. Comments that violate these standards, or our privacy statement or visitor's agreement, are subject to being removed and commenters are subject to being banned. To post comments, you must be a registered user on toledoblade.com. To find out more, please visit the FAQ.