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The man behind these major businesses left a legacy for Alzheimer's research

'I knew that the minute I looked at him that he was the person I was going to spend the rest of my life with.'
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Posted at 2:18 PM, Jun 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-16 18:39:02-04

RICHMOND, Va. — 2014 may seem like a long time ago, but the pain still cuts deep for Sherry Sharp.

“Every day. I miss him so much,” said Sherry. “Even though it has been eight years, he will always be the love of my life. I know I’m going to see him again someday, so that is what I hold on to.”

Pleasant memories of her late-husband help ease the sting.

“Most people called him Rick. I called him Richard,” said Sherry.

Rick and Sherry Sharp were high school sweethearts in Alexandria.

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“I knew that the minute I looked at him that he was the person I was going to spend the rest of my life with. I just knew it,” she recalled.

Rick Sharp’s name might not ring a bell, but you almost certainly have heard of the businesses he helped make a household name.

“It wasn’t the end of the game that was as important to him as how he got there,” said Sherry.

Rick revolutionized used car buying when he founded CarMax.

“We never went past a CarMax. We went into a CarMax. He enjoyed walking around and meeting the people and seeing how it was doing in that particular location,” said Sherry.

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The computer whiz also navigated the Richmond-based Circuit City to the top of the electronics world as the company’s CEO. Rick was also an early investor and CEO of the shoe company Crocs.

“I think when Richard left they were a $10 billion dollar company,” said Sherry. “Richard was confident, but he was also humble.”

Former Circuit City executive Richard Birnbaum said his friend Rick could outwork anyone.

“Rick was an amazing guy,” said Richard. “He embraced life to the fullest. There was no down time. Was very fun to work with and play with.”

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Professionally, Rick Sharp was soaring. But personally, an insidious disease was slowly taking its toll on the father of two.

“The part of him that he was losing was very frightening to him,” described Sherry.

Routine tasks like finding his way home became difficult.

“That was the first indication that something was wrong,” said Sherry.

Family and friends and Rick himself noticed mental lapses.

“Richard didn’t want people to know, but people did know. That was the problem,” she said.

In 2010, Rick’s doctors delivered a diagnosis.

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“You know when you hear ‘I’m sorry, but you have Alzheimer's.' It is like a death sentence,” said Sherry.

The sickness ran in Rick’s family. Both Rick’s father and uncle both died of the disease. But Rick’s diagnosis was still a blow, which robbed the dynamic leader of his memory.

Alzheimer’s disease affects six million Americans. With people living longer, that number is expected to rise in the coming years. There is no known cure.

“He felt like it was part of his DNA,” said Sherry.

Following his death in June of 2014 at the age of 67, Sherry Sharp and friends founded the Rick Sharp Alzheimer’s Foundation.

So far, the foundation has donated more than $2 million toward Alzheimer’s research.

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“We ask ourselves every day, 'What would Rick do?'” said Richard Birnbaum. “The number of donors and help raise money and help find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease in Rick’s memory is extraordinary.”

Sherry Sharp remains committed to fighting the disease through awareness.

“So I would just encourage people that if they are dealing with Alzheimer’s, call it what it is and ask for help, because you need it,” she said.

The widow says her late-husband still motivates.

“I don’t want my children, or my precious four grandchildren, to endure this vicious, ugly disease,” said Sherry.

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From used cars to computers, Rick Sharp left a massive imprint on the retail landscape across America. Aside from his family, Rick Sharp’s most important legacy just may be how many patients and their loved ones find comfort in his name when a cure is found.

“I have a lot of motivation to try to continue to work in bringing this disease to an end,” said Sherry. “I hope I live long enough to see that happen.”

If you would like to learn more about the Rick Sharp Alzheimer’s Foundation, click here.

Greg McQuade features local heroes in a weekly “Heroes Among Us” segment. Watch Greg’s reports Thursdays on CBS News at 6 or here on WTVR.com. If you would like to nominate someone to be featured on “Heroes Among Us,” click here to email heroes@wtvr.com.

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