Rick Sutherland Obituary (2022) – Resident of Los Gatos, CA

Rick Sutherland
September 15, 1956 – March 22, 2022
Resident of Los Gatos
Dad passed away on March 22, 2022 at his home in Los Gatos, Calif., from an unexpected heart attack. Dad was a 24 Hours of Le Mans winning race driver, entrepreneur, mountain biker, dirty martini lover, loving husband, father, brother, CEO and friend. Nicknamed “Wrong Way” by the Mountain Bike & Martini Club, Dad always found a “different” route to take, so it’s no surprise he did it one last time.
Dad grew up in Springfield, Virginia, where he and his sister, Carol Langford, were raised by their single mother, Martine Langley (deceased) who worked as a full-time high school teacher. At an early age, Dad showed an affinity for entrepreneurship. When he was just 8 years old, he started selling Krispy Kreme donuts door to door. He liked to share his story of learning not to eat all of his inventory. He went on to do many different jobs as a child, collecting bottles for recycling, shoveling snow, mowing lawns and managing three log routes. Besides being a young businessman, dad was also an athlete, playing baseball, basketball and football.
In 1973, when Dad was only 16, he started fitting tires. He worked on commission and soon began earning more than his high school teachers. Dad was quite financially driven and prioritized work over school almost every day, much to his mother’s dismay. This inevitably led to his withdrawal from high school. As you can imagine, this upset his mother, one of those high school teachers, and she kicked him out of the house. Dad then moved in with a friend and continued to work. After eight weeks of summer school, he received his high school diploma in the school hallway outside the men’s restroom. There was no official cap or gown or diploma, only the high school janitor was there to witness it.
Dad continued to work at this tire shop until he and his friend, Mike Hexner, decided to start their own tire installation business in partnership with a tire supplier, and Wheel Works was born. After a very successful start with one store, their partner, Universal Tire, asked them to open stores in their other eight locations. With no additional equipment or staff, at just 19 years old, Dad signed a $100,000 loan and he and Mike continued to grow the business and eventually sold the business to Universal Tire. Soon after, he and Mike moved across the country to restart Wheel Works in Northern California. In 1980 they opened their first location in Santa Clara. In 1999 Wheel Works grew to 25 locations in the Bay Area and was eventually acquired by Bridgestone Tire. I mean, dad, could you have set the bar higher?
Inevitably working in the automotive and tire industry, Dad became obsessed with fast cars. When he first moved to California, he bought a 246GT Dino Ferrari. After too many speeding tickets, Dad decided to try his hand at racing and bought his first race car in 1982. He spent the next 22 years racing a total of 31 different race cars , built an entire team, received sponsorships, won two championships. , and won the infamous 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2004 (you know that all day and night race in the Ford v Ferrari movie).
After Wheel Works was sold, dad had a short stint in retirement when mom recommended, not so subtly, that he get back to work. So Dad founded ClickAway, a technology services company in 2001. Over the past 21 years, he has fearlessly led ClickAway, mentored countless associates in their careers, and helped over 800,000 customers. Dad had a rare vision and genius for customer service. We can only hope to share his level of care, integrity and ethics.
Shortly after moving to California, dad met mom, Lani Sutherland, a gorgeous 20-year-old college student in 1981 on what’s called a blind date. Dad often referred to that day as the second best day of his life. He proposed to mom while they were on vacation in Paris. In 1987, dad married the love of his life in San Francisco on what he called “the best day of his life.” Mum and dad were due to celebrate their 35th birthdays in June.
Growing up with a dad like him, we couldn’t help but be proud to have a cool dad. The dad who picked you up from school in a Ferrari. The dad who would watch us race cars on ESPN. The dad that everyone, and I mean everyone, could hear cheering in the stands. We can still hear his voice shouting “Let’s go defend!” We have also been the beneficiaries of his incredible generosity. Dad was known for his surprise birthday parties and elaborate trips. For mum’s 40th birthday, he threw a huge surprise 300-person birthday party at the Ritz Carlton in Half Moon Bay. For her 50th birthday, he surprised her again with a two-week trip to Italy where she showed up at the airport with nothing but a suitcase we had packed for her. Dad was also very sentimental. He performed wedding services for three different couples and cried more than them during the ceremony. Any speech or birthday card for that matter, Dad would rip. It was just him.
For those who knew dad, a celebration of life will be held May 3 at the Montalvo Arts Center in Saratoga at 11 a.m. Please RSVP here http://evite.me/VP44w8ejGv if you plan to attend.

View the online memorial for Rick Sutherland

Published by San Jose Mercury News/San Mateo County Times on April 17, 2022.


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