Friends and family hugged, some with tears in their eyes, at an emotional vigil commemorating the death of Westminster resident Richard Michael "Mike" Ridgell, 52, who was one of a dozen victims of the Navy Yard massacre in Washington, D.C., Monday.
Past and present players on the softball team Ridgell used to coach, the Aces, came together to hold the vigil. The team lit candles on the softball field on which the team practices and often plays games at Jaycee Park in Westminster.
A portrait of Ridgell as a charismatic man, who put others before himself, and loved his daughters dearly, emerged as people described him at the vigil.
"I think we all agree the best thing about Mike was his smile and his attitude," said Tom Whitcomb, who was an assistant coach of the team with Ridgell.
Washington, D.C., police confirmed Tuesday morning that Ridgell was one of the victims in Monday's shooting. Former Navy reservist, Aaron Alexis, 34, opened fire at the Navy Yard shortly after 8 a.m. Monday.
The news of Ridgell's death came as a huge shock to family and friends.
"I just wanted to scream and tell everyone how upset I was," said Maddi Ridgell, 17, Richard Michael Ridgell's daughter, who said she fell to the ground and started to cry when she heard the news.
Maddi Ridgell said her father coached her in softball since she was six. She said he was a great man, who loved his daughters and always put people ahead of himself.
"Everyone is going to miss him," she said.
Megan Ridgell, 19, also Richard Michael Ridgell's daughter, said she wanted people to remember him for who was before he died, which was a wonderful family man.
"We don't want him to be known as a faceless victim," Megan Ridgell said, who was also coached by her father on the team. "He was a son, a brother, a father."
Daughter Heather Hunt, 33, said she appreciated the outpouring of support by the community. She said her father was very committed to his daughters, going above and beyond for them.
"He was an important, charismatic, social, likable guy," Hunt said.
Ridgell had worked as a security officer at the Navy Yard. He was a 1979 graduate of Brooklyn Park High School, and worked as a Maryland State Police trooper from January 1983 until August 2000. He resigned with the rank of corporal, according to Maryland State Police spokesman Greg Shipley. He then worked at Johns Hopkins Medicine from July 2000 to July 2007 as a security investigator, according to Johns Hopkins spokeswoman Stephanie Desmon. He also worked as a contractor training police in Iraq for a period as well, according to media reports.
Even at a young age, Ridgell knew and exemplified the true meaning of compassion, friends said. He was the one who'd stand up to a school bully and advocate for the little guy, according to Tony Dietz, who knew Ridgell for about 40 years.
"Mike was the type of fellow that always did what was right. He didn't back away from challenges," said Dietz, of Westminster, who spoke in an interview before the vigil. "If Mike knew something was right, and it had to be done, Mike was the type of guy that stepped up and did it."
The two attended Brooklyn Park Elementary School and Brooklyn Park Junior/Senior High School together. They played in Little League and the school marching band together. They were both members of the football team and held the same first job at Sears post-high school. Ridgell was a security guard, Dietz said.
"He was so well thought of. I don't know of anybody growing up that had anything unkind to say about Mike," Dietz said. "Everybody just spoke about Mike in the best terms."
Ridgell taught the girls more than how to hit a ball or run the bases, said Whitcomb, who's known Ridgell for about ten years. He taught them how to be a part of a team and to have a good attitude, he said.
"Mike was the kind of guy that you would want your daughter to be coached by," he said in an interview before the vigil. "He was always positive. He was always encouraging."
Through the years, the coaches formed a bond. He was a stand-up man with a positive attitude, a constant smile on his face and a word of encouragement on his lips.
"You couldn't have asked for a better friend," Whitcomb said.