Rick Zimmer Jr., 37, was an accomplished attorney, helping others as part of the Florida Department of Children and Families.
He had lots of friends and a wife and sons who will always love him. He also has a father whose world changed forever July 22, 2018, when Mr. Zimmer Jr. took his own life.
Rick Zimmer created the first annual Rick Zimmer Jr. Memorial Golf Tournament, which was played Sept. 28 at Cypress Head Golf Club in Port Orange, to honor his son and to raise money for Halifax Health Hospice Traumatic Loss Program and Mental Health America of East Central Florida.
It also was a chance to raise awareness about suicide education and prevention.
Mr. Zimmer, who owns Absolute Photography, has been a professional photographer since 1976. The Port Orange resident described his son as “a normal guy that was going through some personal issues and going through some physical issues with some back surgery that didn’t go well. I think one night the combination of both just overwhelmed him. There really weren’t any warning signs. Toward the end of his life he and I were in contact a lot.”
Mr. Zimmer said his son told him despite everything he was dealing with he would never do anything to himself.
“I really believe with all my heart it was just a momentary moment of insanity where you just do it and don’t even think about it,” he said. “I guarantee his first words on the other side were ‘Oh My God what did I just do.’
“I really do believe this was a spur of the moment thing. It was the perfect storm. You take that horrible physical pain and match it with this horrible mental pain and the two are a deadly combination,” Mr. Zimmer said. “Your emotions can do a complete 180 in seconds.”
Rick Jr. had been out having a good time earlier in the evening before he died, he said. He adored his little boys.
Mr. Zimmer said his son texted him in the middle of his last night saying “I love you Dad,” which wasn’t unusual for him to write. He received the news of his son’s death while out playing golf. He lost his fiancée two months after his son’s death and then his brother (neither to suicide). Rick Jr.’s mother died in 1996 of lung cancer.
He credits the Halifax loss program with helping him tremendously and not charging for services. He created the golf tournament because he wanted to give something back. Mr. Zimmer is a member of the Port Orange South Daytona Chamber of Commerce Golf League, having been inspired to play with a set of golf clubs his son had given to him.
The cost of mental health services is what hurts a lot of people, Mr. Zimmer said. “Even people that seemed to have a little money like my son, still he didn’t have $90 per session to go every week to see somebody. I honestly think that if he had been able to go, who knows if it would have made a difference. We’ll never know.”
Mr. Zimmer pointed out that he would like people to not use the phrase “committed suicide.”
“You commit murder; it has a negative connotation like he did something wrong,” he said. “You don’t say he committed an auto accident, he committed cancer, he could have died by any means – he died by suicide.”
Also, being asked how a loved one took their life is something a survivor should volunteer rather than be asked, according to Mr. Zimmer.
He also gives credit to his service dog, Minnie, for helping him through a tough year.
Dr. Kimberly Beck-Frate, who developed the traumatic loss program, said, “The goal of this golf tournament is to raise awareness regarding the suicide epidemic in our county while being able to focus on the full continuum of care, which includes prevention, intervention and postvention for families who are bereaved by suicide. The most important thing we can do is have the conversation with someone who may be feeling this way, be compassionate and point them in the right direction in terms of getting help and support.”
Research shows the rates for suicide increase when people have been impacted by someone who has died by suicide.
Dr. Beck-Frate stated in an email that the most recent statistics from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention show suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. and there is an average of 129 suicides per day. The cost of suicide and self-injury in those who have attempted cost the U.S. about $69 billion in 2015.
Putting the tournament together got a boost when Cypress Head Golf Pro Reggie Hunter and Kevin Hannah got on board. The Assure Group (for those bereaved by suicide) offered a sponsorship through Rita Repp, founder, and Mary Anne Jackson Trumbull. Support also came from Halifax Health with the initiative connect4hope as it tries to do something about the increasing number of suicides in Volusia and Flagler counties.
The winning golf team was Dave Bischoff, Dave Wortham, Tony Mann and Dave Mann.
Rick Zimmer Jr. lived in Oviedo. Besides his father, he left behind his wife, Jen, and sons, Nolan, 9, and Rory, 3.
For more information on the Assure Support Group, contact Rita Repp at (386) 756-3198. For more information on the Halifax Health Traumatic Loss Program, contact Dr. Beck-Frate at Kimberly.Beck-Frate@Halifax.org or call (386) 425-4738. For more information on Mental Health America of East Central Florida go to mhavolusia.org.