Over the summer, the Bulldog athletic family lost one of their biggest supporters and most passionate fans in Richard “Richie” Hillman.
Hillman passed away peacefully in an adult foster care home on July 19, 2014 in Barryton, Mich. Hillman was known around the Big Rapids community as Ferris State hockey’s own “super-fan”.
Hillman suffered from Down syndrome, but that didn’t stop him from becoming an immense fan of the Ferris State Bulldog hockey. During the 80’s and 90’s, Hillman would sport the Bulldog jersey and hat and head to the ice arena to cheer on the Dawgs. Students befriended Hillman, and his glowing personality and smile, due to his support for the Bulldog hockey team, soon enough becoming a model fan in the Bulldog family.
Matt “Monkey Man” Leindecker is the modern day super-fan for the Ferris State hockey team. He can be noticed at every home game dressed as a giant monkey in the student section. Leindecker relates to Hillman with the pride he has and the relationships he has gained through being a Ferris hockey fan.
“Meeting people and hearing their stories about their time at Ferris is one of the best parts about being a Ferris hockey fan,” said Leindecker. “The way I got into being such a big fan was just getting to know the guys on a personal level. It just became watching your friends play a sport that they love.”
Both Hillman and Leindecker were well known around the Big Rapids community as true fans of Ferris State hockey. Hillman was a model example of how people of the Big Rapids community can connect with the Ferris State sports programs.
Not many have what it takes to be a super-fan, as it is quite the responsibility to uphold. Being a fan is easy when things are going well, but in the times of a slump or a bad season, many people can lose interest. Hillman stuck with the Bulldogs through thick and thin, showing the merits of a true fan of the crimson and gold.
Most people don’t realize the effect that fans can have on the outlook of a game. The roar of the crowd cheering you on is unlike any other feeling out there. For the Bulldog family to have a super-fan like Richie Hillman means a lot to the entire program.
Hillman is survived by his brother Paul and his wife Carol Hillman; his sisters, JoAnn Briglia of and Rose Marie Forbe; brothers, Mark, Wayne, and Paul and his sister Marcia Ostrander. Hillman would have been 57 on August 19th.