Do you ever to listen to a story about a person’s life and feel yourself left awestruck?
As a reporter over the years I have had the privilege of learning many life stories of those who call Imperial Valley home, and I’ve had the honor of sharing those stories with readers. And on so many occasions, I have heard stories that do, in fact, leave me with a sense of — wow!
The story of Eric Rice’s life is one such example.
Maybe it’s because he built a small wooden house for his mother and siblings in what 50 years ago was a remote area of the Valley — and he did it at age 13.
Maybe it’s because as a pilot, he flew himself to Los Angeles each week to study for his PhD. in education at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Maybe it’s because the 81-year-old father and grandfather has devoted 43 years of his life to education.
Then again, maybe it’s simply because, according to friends and family, he’s the kind of guy who would give you the shirt off his back if you were cold, would give you his last $20 if you were broke or help you find a job. And he would do it quietly, never seeking attention.
For Rice’s lifelong commitment to the Valley, his endless desire to help his community and his years as an educator, Rice has been chosen as this edition’s Man of Distinction.
A HISTORY OF SERVICE
If there’s one common theme among the men featured in these articles it is that they all care deeply for their community — and not just the immediate city or area in which they live but the entire Imperial Valley.
This is a way of life that holds true for Rice.
“He puts himself out there for other people almost daily,” says his wife of 21 years, Frances Rice. “It seems that most every day he is helping someone.”
Frances recalls one specific story when the home of a church pastor in Mexicali was destroyed in a blaze. Rice, who was raised in the Imperial Valley but educated in Mexicali, has held ties to the city across the border his whole life, and he was quick to help the pastor.
“He went out immediately to see what he could do to help,” Frances says. “He provided moral support, money … anything he could. He even had our church, Sts. Peter and Paul Episcopal Church in El Centro, donate clothing, bedding and other needs to help the pastor’s family.”
Frances adds her husband has always been a great deal of help to her.
“If I am a chairman of a committee or am serving on some committee, I know I don’t have to ask him for help. He will do anything he can to help, from getting the chairs, to helping with the food to washing dishes,” she says.
His desire to serve his community has led him to serve in such organizations as the Calexico Rotary Club, the Masonic Lodge and Native Sons.
“He’s a very loyal Rotary member who is always there to help out,” says Gil Perez, a fellow Calexico Rotary member. “He is a man who cares about his community and who wants to make a difference.”
He also serves his church, providing maintenance whenever needed.
A Man of Distinction: Eric Rice - An Educator Beyond Borders