By Jill Harmacinski
---- — Whether you were his student, a friend, fellow biker or someone he had just met, it was hard not to remember Richard “Rick” Donnelly’s sparkling blue eyes and outgoing personality, friends and family say.
“For him, the glass was always half full. It was never half empty ... He knew how to talk to people and he looked for the good in everyone,” recalled Donnelly’s close friend Robert Auer of North Andover.
Donnelly, 61, who had strong ties to Methuen and Pelham, N.H., was killed in a motorcycle crash in North Carolina on Sept. 13. An avid motorcyclist who owned a Harley Davidson Ultra Classic, Donnelly was en route to Tennessee on a road trip with friends, Auer said.
On Oct. 12, family and friends are organizing a celebration of Donnelly’s life and a fundraiser to help the family he left behind, which includes his two daughters Taryn Matatall and Kierstyn DeWolfe.
Starting at 7:30 p.m., all are invited to gather at the Claddagh Pub, 399 Canal St., to remember Donnelly, who worked as both a teacher and coach. The event will feature live music, raffles, food, a 50/50 drawing and T-shirt sales. Tickets are $20.
“It will be a celebration of his life,” Auer assured. “People who knew Rick know he wouldn’t want us to be mourning him.”
Born on Aug. 8, 1952, Donnelly grew up in Billerica before moving to Methuen, where he raised his own family.
For more than 36 years, he was a math and computer teacher at the Locke Middle School in Billerica. He also coached basketball and football before his retirement in 2012. Donnelly had a unique style to motivate his students, who he always looked out for.
“He did more life teaching than he did school teaching,” Auer said.
Donnelly was well known in the Merrimack Valley for his love of motorcycling. He also worked as a bouncer at many local venues, including New England Seafood in Methuen and the Upper Deck and Splash, both in Salisbury, Auer said.
Accepting and laid back, Donnelly was known “to have a big bright smile on his face all the time,” Auer said.
His favorite color was blue and blue plastic wristbands will be handed out at the Oct. 12 event.
Auer said he first met Donnelly about 8 years ago, at Big City, a restaurant in Lawrence. “ He hooked up with us and we rode together all the time,” he said. “We were best friends.”
Over the years, Auer said Donnelly picked up many nicknames, including “Dicky, Coach, Rick, Tricky Dick” and more. T-shirts showing Donnelly on his motorcycle, painted blue, of course, listing all of his nicknames will be sold at the fundraiser.
“He had a ton of different nicknames and was introduced differently every time,” Auer said.
The morning after the fundraiser, on Sunday, Oct. 13, bikers are invited to meet for a Halloween Run in Rick’s memory to Salem, Mass. The group will gather at 11 a.m. at Al’s Diner on Route 110 in Methuen.
Memorial donations in Donnelly’s memory can also be made online at gofundme.com/honoring-rick.
Anyone interested in donating a raffle gift for the fundraiser can call Auer directly at (603) 560-7888.
Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter under the screenname EagleTribJill.