The way Richard “Mike” Ridgell died said volumes about the way he lived.
As Vice Admiral William Hilarides recalled it at Ridgell’s funeral Saturday, the police chief at the Washington Navy Yard showed up at Building 197 on Sept. 16 as panicked people were streaming outside to escape a gunman roaming from floor to floor. Although Ridgell was a security guard at the building, he was a former Maryland State Trooper, and the chief regarded him as part of the police force.
According to Hilarides, the police chief approached Ridgell at the building’s entrance and, before heading upstairs in pursuit of the gunman, the chief told Ridgell, “Whatever you do, don’t let him out of the building.”
As his three daughters wrote in the memorial program for their slain father, “He died doing what he loved — protecting others.”
Ridgell, 52, and Sylvia Frasier, 53, a network security administrator for Naval Sea Systems Command headquartered in Building 197, were both buried Saturday, the last two victims to be interred. Services for Frasier were held at the Rhema Christian Center Church in the District.
At the Church of Severn Run in Severn, Md., Ridgell was eulogized by friends and family who evoked memories of a man who loved laughing, and making others laugh. His daughter, Heather Hunt, characterized him as someone who never lost touch with his “inner child.”
The boyfriend of one daughter recalled Ridgell sneaking up behind him while they were watching a scary movie and surprising him. Evan Picciotto remembered how when he was growing up, his uncle threw him high into the air above the backyard swimming pool. Buddy Bell, a retired state trooper who was Ridgell’s supervisor in the College Park barracks, recalled how Ridgell, who apparently had a string of minor road accidents as a trooper, announced over the radio after one fender bender, “But it ain’t my fault.”
Although most speakers said they preferred to remember how Ridgell lived, not how he died, the tragedy at the Navy Yard could not be ignored.
“He gave his life in the line of duty to protect members of our Navy family,” said David E.K. Cooper, chairman of the board of Honolulu-based HBC Management Services, the company that employed Ridgell as a security guard. “He was at his post when he was taken from us.”
Picciotto said that when he first heard about the gunman loose in the Navy Yard, he had a gut feeling his uncle would not walk out alive.
“He was not one who would run out of the building,” he said. “He would run toward it. How many lives were saved because of what he did? How many tears were saved?”
Hilarides, the head of Naval Sea Systems Command, has his office suite in Building 197, and said that for most visitors and even many employees, Ridgell was more the face of the command than Hilarides is.
“Mike made the ultimate sacrifice to protect all of us,” he said. “For that sacrifice, we, his Navy family, honor him.”