NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. (WKYT) – Kentucky-based R.J. Corman Railroad Group's founder and namesake lost his decade-long battle with cancer Friday. He was 58 years old.
Corman battled multiple myeloma, a cancer of impacting a person’s plasma cells, a type of white blood cell present in bone marrow, since he was 45.
After high school, Corman started working in the railroad business with one piece of equipment. He was at the helm of the Nicholasville company since its founding in 1973. The company works on derailments from the East Coast to the Colorado Rockies and operates in 21 states.
“Richard Jay Corman is hardly a household name,” wrote Forbes magazine in 2011. “But this entrepreneur, a son of Kentucky, has made himself a force in the railroad industry, where in up-from-nothing fashion he has created a thriving, highly respected company.”
Despite his battle with the disease, he still spearheaded his company’s massive railway-repair job in areas ravaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
“Most people probably know Rick from the red RJ Corman colors that now cover overpasses in Lexington, his rail yard near Rupp Arena, and his headquarters in Nicholasville that often hosts charity events in one of his two airplane hangers,” said WKYT’s Sam Dick who has covered numerous stories over the years involving Corman.
In 2009, Corman took his private jet to Memphis to bring newly-named University of Kentucky basketball Coach John Calipari and his family to Kentucky. He and the coach have since remained close friends.
"It’s been a tough day," Calipari said on his social media sites after learning about Corman's death. "I’m not in the frame of mind to talk about it right now, but I will shortly. Rest in peace, my good friend."
Corman’s fascination with trains went beyond the company regular business. In August, Corman launched a lunch and dinner excursion train that runs from outside Lexington’s Rupp Arena.
“Rick is a legend in the railroad business, and many people in Kentucky have come to appreciate his big heart and generous nature,” said Dick.
Saint Joseph Hospital Foundation, part of KentuckyOne Health, is Corman was the largest philanthropic supporter in Saint Joseph Hospital Foundation history.
Among his many contributions, RJ Corman, along with the RJ Corman Railroad Group, provided funds to establish and build Saint Joseph Jessamine RJ Corman Ambulatory Care Center in 2008.
“Rick Corman and his legacy are so important to the Saint Joseph Hospital Foundation and his friendship was very special for us,” said Barry A. Stumbo, President and CEO, Saint Joseph Hospital Foundation. “We will always be extremely grateful to Rick for enhancing the health for thousands of our patients and families. The impact of his loss will be felt in the community for years to come. We have the Corman family in our thoughts as we mourn the loss of one of the most unique and generous individuals the Commonwealth has ever known. Rick was a true philanthropist.“