In tribute: Hauptmann loses battle to cancer

By Karl Terry: PNT managing editor

Giving back to his local community and fellow man was central to Rick Hauptmann’s being.

An accountant by trade, he devoted himself to civic work through a long list of organizations including United Way, Rotary, the Roosevelt County Chamber of Commerce, Roosevelt County Literacy Council, Eastern New Mexico University Foundation and others.

Friends and family say he didn’t stop with membership in those groups — he was active and involved in leading them.

Hauptmann succumbed to a long battle with cancer Monday, Aug. 20, 2007. He was 62.

“I would say that his civic involvement was almost a hobby for him,” Roosevelt County Chamber of Commerce Manager and close friend Sharon King said. “He always got so involved.”

King became close friends with Hauptmann while serving on the United Way Board with him for close to 10 years and from their work together at the Chamber. She said Hauptmann’s leadership was instrumental in combining the Portales and Clovis United Way organizations into one group. King said she was skeptical of the move but Hauptmann moved it forward courageously.

Hauptmann’s real passion was collecting and reading science fiction and fantasy works. He had a close relationship with the late, local science fiction writer Jack Williamson and collaborated with him on a few projects. He also helped host the annual Jack Williamson Lectureship at Eastern New Mexico University.

“His main hobby was science fiction. We had a whole library devoted to it in our house,” said Hauptmann’s daughter Erika Peltonen.

Hauptmann particularly loved his fellowship with the Portales Rotary Club where he was a past president, say friends.

“He was one of the most unselfish and giving people I know,” said friend and fellow Rotarian, Gerry Huybregts. “He gave so much to the organizations in which he was a part. He believed in sharing rather than taking.”

Huybregts, a professor in the College of Business at ENMU, said Hauptmann, who was retired as chief financial officer of Southwest Canners, had an exceptionally sharp mind for business.

Peltonen said she had been unsure about moving to eastern New Mexico from Kerrville, Texas, in 1987 but the family, particularly her dad, grew to love it. She said he never missed his native Chicago, where he and his late wife, Janet, met while working at the Dog and Suds restaurant chain.

“If they would have stayed in Chicago, they probably would have never gotten involved with the things they did,” Peltonen said.

Choking back tears, Peltonen said the achievement her dad was most proud of was being nominated for science fiction’s Hugo Award for his bibliography of Williamson’s works.

“I was there when he got that phone call,” she said. “I know it meant a lot to him.”

Huybregts said his warmest memory of Hauptmann was when he and his wife traveled with the Hauptmanns to Huybregt’s native country of Australia. They attended a Rotary International convention and saw the sights together.

Huybregts said he nearly ran over Hauptmann’s foot with the car during a rainstorm on that trip.

“He always brought it up as ‘my attempt to injure him in Australia,’” Huybregts said.

The duo were known in the Portales Rotary Club for trading jibs, a costly proposition for Huybregts because Hauptmann was frequently sergeant-at-arms and would fine his friend liberally.

King said the Hauptmann’s loved to entertain and were always quick to help others.

“They were always just paying attention to the needs of others,” King said. “They were very generous when they knew somebody was having a hard time financially.”

Family and friends will gather informally at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Hauptmann residence, 304 E. 17th St. in Portales to celebrate the life of Rick Hauptmann.