Utah Stories

Honoring A Hero Through His Hobby

After dedicating his life to shutting down meth-labs, Officer Rick Dukatz died of cancer. How family and friends honor his commitment, by committing to his passion.


Officer Rick Dukatz

After dedicating his life to shutting down meth-labs, Officer Dukatz died of cancer. How family and friends honor his commitment, by committing to his passion.

by Mary Ann Coral-Amasifuen

Officer Rick DukatzAlthough there seems to be too much sad news to report this holiday season, there is one that merits telling. It is a devastating loss for a family and the community of Murray, Utah. Thursday morning, one week before Christmas, Rick Dukatz died at the early age of 46 from pancreatic cancer. A disease almost certainly caused by exposure to chemicals while investigating illegal meth labs.

Rick led a life of purpose. In its core were family, friends, community and his commitment to serve Murray as a police officer. He was a friend to many, including the German Shepherd that he partnered with in the K-9 unit. As an example of his generous nature, when his K-9 partner could no longer be of service, Rick took him into the family home.

There were many things that made Rick a remarkable member of the community; a long list of friends and associates, a loving and lasting marriage, devoted children, a big heart and a passion for restoring a classic 1968 Camaro. The family car was used for vacations and getaway outings. When Rick’s children were young, the working on the car allowed Rick the opportunity to put aside the stresses of a profession that weighed heavily on the young father’s mind.

Not long before his deadly diagnosis, Rick’s desire to reconstruct his old Camaro was both a hobby and a project to renew and reinvent a symbol of the past. He became friends with like-minded classic car lovers Chris and Kelley Purdum, owners of the Customs and Classics Car Restoration in Murray. They assisted Rick from the preliminary design, to the original factory specifications. The project was of a considerable cost, detail and labor. Not too long after the start of the restoration of the Camaro, Rick was diagnosed with cancer. Two months and one day after the diagnosis he passed away, long before the car could be completed.

To those who are passionate about classic car restoration, the work is an act of art and love, down to every last automotive detail; a tribute to the design and invention of the automobile. Some car models were destined to receive admiration as works of outstanding design and beauty, while others are disasters and eventually rust away in a car parts junkyard.

The Camaro was a gold standard for design, performance and beauty. Although Camaros are being made today, they had a special place in the hearts of car lovers in the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s.

1968 Camaro

The classic Camaro stood alongside the Dodge Challenger as a car of style and longevity, displayed in films of the 80’s, 90’s and into the twenty first century. Classic Camaros can be seen in films like 1987’s Beverly Hills Cop and Will Smith’s mega hit of 2007, I Am Legend.

As humans, we desire to put our mark on the world, to say we were here, we did something, built something, created some beautiful monument, large or small, to validate an existence. It might be a material object or humanitarian legacy that others will care about and benefit from long after we are gone. Death and its inevitability may be an unfathomable abstraction, but leaving behind, for example, the discovery of a uniting theory for understanding the physical world, or creating a multicolored and intricately molded fresco as a tribute to God, or a marble sculpture, a cure for a deadly disease, stone statues on an island, a temple, a gift to charity, are all statements of the human passion to be remembered in time and place and journey.

There still remains a lot to be done on the car that Rick started to rebuild. Chris, Kelly and the community of Murray hope to somehow raise the funds to complete a project of enormous value for Rick, his family and friends.

Rick Dukatz funeral will be held Saturday, December 27 at the high school in Murray, Utah.

Donations to restoring the 1968 Camaro in honor of Rick Dukatz and his life and work as a police officer can be made by clicking here.

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