Pubdate: Sat, 20 May 2017
Source: Daily Courier, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2017 The Okanagan Valley Group of Newspapers
Author: Don Plant
Page: A3


Richard's rant is over. Richard Babcock, the tell-it-like-it-is AIDS
activist who started the Okanagan's first compassion club, was
penniless and living in a storage locker shortly before he died of
pneumonia last month. He was 57. He chose to buy a vehicle instead of
pay rent so he could get to his doctors' appointments, said his
sister, Melody Kelly.

As a young man in the '90s, Babcock visited prostitutes and used
needles to inject the cocaine he craved. Soon after he was diagnosed
with AIDS, he became clean and started advocating for others afflicted
with the disease. He could be abrasive, but at his core he was "just
another human being - not as self-centred or as ignorant as I was," he
said in a 2005 interview.

His sister, now planning next week's memorial, agrees Babcock just
wanted to be treated as a regular person.

"He didn't want his disease to define him," Kelly said. "But if you
asked him his story, he was almost brutally honest. He had no problem
telling anybody anything about him. He was an open book."

Babcock was a force in the early 2000s, writing newsletter columns,
penning letters to the editor and speaking on TV and radio about HIV
and AIDS. He strived to tear down the stigma surrounding the illness,
using the discrimination he experienced to push for wider acceptance
of those struggling with an HIV diagnosis.

He worked at a Central Okanagan restaurant until someone revealed his
condition and he was fired. Like many at that time, his boss
mistakenly believed the disease could be spread by casual contact, he

"People won't touch food that I've touched. They won't hug or touch me
or anything because of the disease," he told The Daily Courier.
"People know what the hell cancer is. If you've got AIDS, no one
knows, no one cares. They don't know what you're going through."

Babcock directed his anger toward community work. Seven years after
his diagnosis, he founded the Okanagan Compassion Club Society, a
volunteer group that provided counselling to people who were HIV
positive and promoted the legal use of marijuana for the terminally

Sadly, he got too sick to carry on and transferred the society to the
Living Positive Resource Centre. He started using illegal drugs again
and ended up in jail for two years for shooting a friend in the thigh
in 2010. He called 911 and admitted to police he shot him.

"He didn't prepare for jail. I took the dishes out of his sink," Kelly
said. "He was very ashamed of what happened. He could be an ass  . He
never lied, never stole. He had integrity."

Babcock survived his jail stint but was broke. He lived in Osoyoos for
a time before moving to West Kelowna, where he tried to live in the
storage locker. The operator found him unconscious and called the
RCMP. He spent a week at the Kelowna Gospel Mission before an
ambulance took him to hospital. He died the next night, April 25.

His memorial is set for 11:30 a.m. May 26 at Hanson's Funeral Home in
West Kelowna. A Go Fund Me campaign (Richard's rant is over) has
raised $150 toward his funeral expenses and headstone.
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