Family remembers 'evolution' of Dr. Mike Rice

Published: Feb. 9, 2015 at 4:02 AM CST|Updated: May. 19, 2016 at 2:26 PM CDT
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Dr. Rice
Dr. Rice
Dr. Rice and his brothers
Dr. Rice and his brothers
Dr. Rice
Dr. Rice
Dr. Rice and his wife
Dr. Rice and his wife

LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - Dr. Mike Rice, an internal medicine physician and entrepreneur who died in a plane crash in Lubbock on Feb. 4, developed a work ethic long before his M.D. according to his family.

"My parents divorced when I was two, and so Mike was the oldest boy in our family," said Keenan Rice, Mike's youngest brother, "and he really acted as a farther towards us."

Keenan will never forget how kind Mike was to others.

"Mike would get up and make breakfast and get us ready for school," he said, "and I just found it remarkable that he didn't find it beneath himself."

Decades later, Mike's responsibilities carried over to his children.

"We were very poor," said Holly Bearden, Mike's daughter. "He worked at a convenience store, the night shift."

However, Mike was driven enough to not comply with difficult circumstances.

"He started a business that had been successful, but then when the economy failed, it went bankrupt," Keenan said. "And he was a father with three children with a bankrupt business, but he started over in his 30's and went back to college to get the prerequisites to go to medical school."

Keenan had never been so proud the first day he called his brother "Dr. Rice."

"That inspired me a lot to respond to failure," he said, "to make something better happen from it."

Mike's work did not end when his stethoscope was off, though.

"He loved business, he loved creating," said Sandy Rice, Mike's wife. "He had over 20 businesses that he had started, and one of his favorites was Mighty Wash."

Mike shared his secrets to success openly with his loved ones.

"I learned more in those three years that I worked for him than from the three years probably that I was in Physician Assistant school," said Heidi Jeffreys, Mike's daughter. "I would love to continue to see his patients and to carry on his legacy in that way, in any capacity that I can."

Mike transformed from a poor sibling of nine to a traveling internal medicine physician and entrepreneur.

"His evolution as a person and where he came from and where he finished were so far apart," Bearden said, "but it's amazing that he made that journey."

Mike's path of determination lead him to treat thousands of patients even in other states, such as New Mexico and Oklahoma.

"It's hard to make sense out of his death," Keenan said, "but one of the things I'm hoping something good can come of it is all these people that Mike touched will get a little bit of inspiration to also touch other people."

The memories outside of Mike's professional life are what Sandy said will last most of all, now that his work is done.

"We were just at the UMC Gala on Saturday and he danced," she said. "He didn't do that very often and so we encouraged him to do that. Those of us who loved him were trying to get him to dance more, and I'm happy that he did."

FULL COVERAGE: Plane crash claims life of Lubbock doctor

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