By Ken de la Bastide
Tribune enterprise editor
Veterans and the Howard County community lost a strong advocate after Rick Riddle accepted a new position to manage the Golden Corral restaurant in Evansville.
Riddle managed the Kokomo restaurant since 2001 and during the past few years was the driving force behind Military Appreciation Days and bringing the American Veterans Traveling Tribute to Kokomo in 2011.
“Rick will be very hard to replace,” said Tyler Moore, president of the Howard County Board of Commissioners. “He was supportive of all the veteran groups and events.”
Moore said Riddle was recognized nationally by Golden Corral for his efforts in Howard County.
“What he started,” Moore said of recognizing veterans in November, “he encouraged other businesses to participate.
“It’s tough to get groups to cooperate to get something done. Rick was able to get the community to rally around it.”
Moore said Riddle has put in place the groundwork for the community to expand Military Appreciation Days in the future.
“Words can’t describe the appreciation that we as a community should have for his efforts,” he said. “We have always as a community been supportive of veterans. He took the appreciation of veterans in the community to a new level.”
Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight agreed.
“I don’t know if you can replace him with one person,” Goodnight said. “It will take more than one person to step up. Rick is the kind of person you look for in a community activist. The passion was evident.”
Goodnight said Riddle was dependable. If he said something would be done, it was accomplished.
“He took the support of veterans in the community to the next level,” he said. “He wanted to do his part.”
A native of Ohio, Riddle came to Kokomo in 2001 and had the opportunity to purchase the restaurant in 2007.
“I put it in God’s hands, and the decision was not to buy it,” he said. “The next year the economy went into a recession and I could have lost everything.”
Corporate policy didn’t allow Riddle another chance to buy the Kokomo location.
“Since 2008 I have been offered other stores around the country,” he said. “I love Kokomo, but I wanted to fulfill my long-term goals of owning a store.”
Riddle said the general manager in Evansville was retiring and he was offered the chance to relocate to a store ranked No. 2 in sales in the nation.
“I almost didn’t take the opportunity,” he said. “I could have stayed in Kokomo, but I wanted to own a store.”
Riddle said he will miss the support of the local community and the many people he made contact with in Howard County.
“Veterans are near and dear to my heart,” he said. “I have pride in a company that has been offering free meals for 11 years.
“The veterans in Howard County made me feel like a part of their organizations,” Riddle said.