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In memoriam: R. J. Corman Railroad Group founder Rick Corman

R. J. Corman Railroad Group President Craig King late Friday announced the company's founder Rick Corman died that morning at his Nicholasville, Ky., home surrounded by his family after a 12-year battle with multiple myeloma. He was 58.

The railroad entrepreneur was known for his colorful personality and a deep and quick laugh, and for being a demanding boss who was especially insightful and strategic in growing the business, King said in a press release.

A pilot and running enthusiast, Corman founded a railroad construction company in 1973, the same year he graduated from Jessamine County High School in Kentucky. Through his hands-on approach and exemplary customer service, he built the business into R. J. Corman Railroad Group, a diversified service provider and short-line operator that has more than 1,150 employees and operates in more than 21 states, said King. The company's businesses include R. J. Corman Railroad Construction, R. J. Corman Derailment Services, R. J. Corman Material Sales, R. J. Corman Railroad Co., R. J. Corman Railpower, My Old Kentucky Dinner Train and Lexington Dinner Train.

"Mr. Corman will be remembered for his character, energy, determination, generosity and vision," said King. "He built a successful railroad company by working hard, understanding industry needs and delivering on them."

Thanks to Corman's penchant for detail and planning, the company is positioned to move forward despite his loss, he said.

"Mr. Corman prepared us for this day, so we will continue serving our customers with the exceptional quality we are known for," said King. "We will reflect on the life of this man who gave us so much and join with the family in mourning our loss."

King noted that the final line of a May 2011 Fortune article on Corman captures what those who knew Rick currently are feeling: "And, when his luck runs out, the word will go up on the company website, and the world will have lost some of its style."

Corman is survived by Tammie Taylor, with whom he shared his life, two sons, three daughters and four grandchildren.

Diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2001, Corman established the R. J. Corman Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation at Harvard. He also provided the lead gift that helped make the St. Joseph Jessamine, R.J. Corman Ambulatory Care Center a reality in 2009. Earlier this year, Corman made another contribution that funded the Sandra J. Adams Digital Mammography Suite at the medical center.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to The Richard Corman Research Fund in Multiple Myeloma, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, P.O. Box 849168, Boston, MA 02284-9168.

Several politicians who knew Corman issued statements to share their thoughts about his passing:

"Jane and I are saddened by the loss of our close friend, Rick Corman. Rick was a highly successful self-made businessman. He was remarkably tenacious in everything he did, from building up his business to fighting the cancer that threatened his health for years. He leaves a legacy of community service and a Kentucky-grown railroad empire, as well as legions of friends. We will miss him terribly, and our thoughts are with his family at this difficult time." — Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear

"Elaine and I are deeply saddened by the passing of our dear friend, Rick Corman. Rick was a proud Kentuckian and successful businessman. He was one of the most remarkable people I have known and he never forgot where he came from or the lessons he learned about hard work and honesty. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Rick's family and friends. He will be missed." — U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)

"His legacy of compassion and generosity will live on through his many contributions to our commonwealth. Carol and I extend our deepest condolences to his family, friends and to the thousands of Americans who lost a compassionate and dedicated employer." — U.S. Rep. Andy Barr (R-Ky.)

"His contribution to Kentucky is enormous. He was well thought of by members of both parties in the General Assembly, and his larger-than-life personality will be missed." — State Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer

"By any definition Rick was the American success story ... up-from-the-bootstraps, an unforgettable character, with a vigorous, charitable spirit and unshakable passion for life. He will be missed." — Lexington Mayor Jim Gray

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