‘Semper Fi all the way’: Celebration of Life ceremony honors deputy, retired U.S. Marine

ST. GEORGE — A Celebration of Life ceremony was held Saturday to honor 57-year-old Rick Massey, retired U.S. Marine gunnery sergeant and Washington County Sheriff’s deputy, who passed away last week — a loss that has caused a ripple effect across Southern Utah and beyond.

The memorial service attended by hundreds was held in Massey’s honor after he died at his home in Washington City Jan. 3.

Hundreds gather during a service held for Richard Massey, 57, who died at his home last week, at South Mountain Community Church in St. George, Utah, Jan. 9, 2021 | Photo courtesy of Bill Fortune, St. George News

A long procession arrived at South Mountain Community Church at 3158 East 2000 South in St. George at 11 a.m., where the street was lined on both sides with motorcycles as vehicles entered the parking lot.

The crowd of active and retired members of the U.S. Marines and other military branches were in attendance, along with a significant presence by the Washington County Sheriff’s Office where Massey served as a deputy for the last 15 years.

Police officers from multiple agencies throughout Washington County also attended the event to honor Massey, along with Washington City Police Chief Jason Williams.

Following the service, a ceremony was held on the grounds in front of the building that was officiated by the Utah Dixie Detachment 1270 Marine Corps League, where time honored military traditions were performed, including a solemn performance of “Taps,” the folding of the flag and the 21-gun salute. Massey was laid to rest following a separate ceremony held Monday for the family.

A ceremony is held for Rick Massey, retired USMC Gunnery Sgt. who died at his home last week, at South Mountain Community Church in St. George, Utah, Jan. 9, 2021 | Photo courtesy of Bill Fortune, St. George News

Washington County Undersheriff James Standley told St. George News that Massey was an active deputy at the time of his death. He also said that so many of the department’s personnel attended to honor Massey for his dedicated service to the department.

He went on to say he has known Massey since he started with the Sheriff’s Office and the two became friends as they served over the years.

One thing that comes to mind when he thinks of Massey is “if you want a job done right, Rick was your guy,” he said, adding that anything the deputy was tasked with — no matter how distasteful or grueling — the finished product would always be “perfect.”

“It didn’t matter what it was,” Standley said. “Rick would not only complete the job or task, but it would be flawless.”

He also said his friend was always respectful and very proper, “even when we were at my house, or wherever, Rick would always call me ‘sir.'”

Massey’s respectful nature was also brought up by Carl Lamar, the 99.9 KONY Country morning co-host and president of the Coins for Kids program.

Lamar has served as the program’s president for more than 30 years, affording him the opportunity to work closely with Massey, “hand in hand and side by side,” Lamar said, ever since the retired Marine took over the Toys for Tots program more than 15 years ago.

The two programs work off the the same list of families to provide toys, clothing and other items to Washington County children on Christmas.

2017 file photo of Rick Massey, (center) during car show held for Toys for Tots in St. George, Dec. 3,2017 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

Massey served as an outstanding coordinator of the Toys for Tots program and really loved helping kids, Lamar said, adding that he was compassionate and industrious when it came to any project or activity he was tasked with and could also be very convincing when it came to fundraising to ensure every child had the opportunity to experience a wonderful Christmas.

“That guy went after it and was fearless when it came to asking for help for those kids,” Lamar said.

More than that, he said, he and Massey became close friends.

Lamar closed by saying the loss associated with Massey’s death has been tremendous and that the retired Marine’s shoes will be difficult to fill.

In the end, “that guy was Semper Fi all the way,” he said.

A brief history

Born Feb. 25, 1963, in Yuba City, California, Massey graduated high school and joined the United States Marine Corps in 1981. He married Melanie Hansen in April 1998 during a ceremony held in Reno, Nevada, according to information provided to St. George News by William G. Fortune, spokesman for the Marine Corps League Utah Dixie Detachment No. 1270.

While Massey served as a combat engineer, he graduated from the Marine Security Guard School in Quantico, Virginia, which allowed him to serve for embassy duty as a Marine Security Guard. During this time, he was also deployed to Afghanistan and then to Costa Rica, after which he was deployed to Cuba where he worked in the minefields of Guantanamo Bay.

He spent the latter part of his military career involved in recruiting effort, which afforded him the opportunity to visit St. George; and shortly thereafter, he decided to move to the area as he continued with his military service.

After more than 20 years of dedicated service, Massey retired from the military as a gunnery sergeant and then joined the Washington County Sheriff’s Office in 2005. The following year he began serving as the Toys for Tots program coordinator, a position he held until his death.

In fact, the Toys for Tots program provided more than 600 with Christmas gifts in Washington County last year alone. Massey’s efforts and the Marine Corps League No. 1270 have brought Christmas toys to more than 5,000 children since the program’s inception more than 15 years ago in Washington County — earning Massey the nickname of “the Toys for Tots guy,” Fortune said.

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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