Richard Lee “Rich” Bunting of Beallsville, Ohio was 59 years young when he left this earth to be with Jesus on Tuesday, May 16, 2023 while a patient in Wheeling Hospital. He was born March 27, 1964 in Belmont County, a son of the late Randall Bunting and Marcy Phillips Bunting Smith Pandy.
Rich was a 1982 graduate of Beallsville High School where he played on the football team. After graduation, he joined the Army Reserves serving as a light wheel vehicle mechanic. Enjoying his time serving in the military, when his service obligation in the Army Reserves was fulfilled, Rich decided to enlist in the Air Force where he was a Security Police Specialist guarding planes and weapons. It was while Rich was stationed at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas that he became a pen pal to16 year-old Suzii Clough from Chewelah, Washington. They were introduced by Suzii’s cousin who was in basic training with Rich. After a year and a half of telephone calls and exchanging letters, in 1987 Suzii traveled with Rich’s photo, a suitcase, and $50 in her pocket to Grand Forks County, North Dakota where Rich was stationed at Grand Forks Air Base. On April 10, 1987 (Suzii’s 18th birthday) they were married at the Grand Forks County Court House.
After being discharged from the Air Force, Rich and Suzii chose to make Washington State their home so that they could be close to her mother and twin brothers. Rich became a reserve police officer but with a growing family, a daughter, Hannah Ranay was born on March 16, 1988, he needed a paying job, a profession that fulfilled his passion for helping people and serving his community. He then became a Certified Nursing Assistant at Pinewood Terrace Nursing Center in Colville, Washington for ten years. Rich was hoping to advance his career, and the facility where he worked had offered to pay for his education so that he could become an Emergency Room Nurse. Unfortunately, his dream of helping others was shattered rather suddenly when Rich became extremely ill and could no longer work. After many hospital stays with a large medical staff trying to discover what could make a then 32 year-old man so ill, Rich's condition worsened. On December 24th 1996, he did finally receive a diagnosis of idiopathic cardiomyopathy and was told that his congestive heart failure would slowly get worse. Later that night he gave his heart to the Lord right before he went into cardiac arrest and was put on a ventilator. Years later in 2001, he was implanted with a Left Ventricular Assist Device in his abdomen. The L-VAD, as it is called, is a machine that basically would take over the beating of Rich’s failing heart while his name would be added to a heart transplant list. On June 16th 2001, Rich got the call that he had been waiting for. There was a heart available for his transplant. His donor was a 16 year-old boy named Sam who died as the result of an accident in which he and some friends were jokingly jumping from the hood of a moving van. Rich always referred to his heart as “Sam.” The unselfish gift of love from Sam’s family allowed Rich to enjoy life for an additional 22 years.
In 2006, after Hannah graduated from high school, Rich, Suzii, and Hannah moved to Beallsville, Ohio. Welcomed back to his home community, he was once again able to pursue his passion for helping others by becoming a Volunteer EMT for Beallsville's EMS Squad 2. During all this time, the anti-rejection medications that Rich took to keep “Sam” alive actually killed his kidneys. Rich ended up on dialysis three times a week for four years before he was able to get a kidney transplant. This transplanted kidney lasted a few years then once again he was faced with kidney failure requiring dialysis and the need for yet another kidney transplant. In May of 2022, Rich was diagnosed with COVID. Because of his compromised immune system from his anti-rejection medicine, Rich was in the hospital for eight months out of that year. In August, he went into a nursing facility for physical and occupational therapy. Rich had always been a fighter, but he could not overcome his physical weakness and respiratory issues, lacking strength to even complete daily living needs without assistance.
With his passing on May 16th Rich has found release from his years of pain and suffering. He is at peace with those loved ones who have passed before him . . . his father, Randall Bunting; his mother, Marcy Pandy; his younger brother, Randy Bunting; and his Pap and Nanny, Homer and Irene Phillips. Left to cherish his memory are his wife, Suzanne “Suzii” Bunting and his daughter, Hannah both of Beallsville; his second daughter, not blood related, but loved as his own, Amanda Mae Dudley (James Peltier) of Port Moody, British Columbia, Canada; two brothers-in-law, Christopher (Katya) Clough of Casselberry, Florida and Donald Clough of San Fransisco, California; his nephew, Mark Ryan Clough of of Casselberry, Florida; two half-brothers, Chad (Chris) Smith and their children Gunnar and Abbie, and Josh Smith & his wife Amy, all of Ohio; two beloved Dachshunds, Tucker and Gracie Mae; also many extended family members, and friends.
At this time there will be no funeral service. However, a “Celebration of Life” with a pot-luck dinner, and a time of sharing stories and happy memories, followed by full military honors by American Legion Post 768 will be held Sunday, June 4 at 1pm at the Beallsville Veterans' Memorial Park, State 145, Beallsville.
In keeping with his wishes, Rich's ashes will be scattered at the base of the cliff off of Yaquina Head Lighthouse in the Pacific Ocean in Newport, Oregon, a place that he fell in love with while on vacation with Suzii and Hannah.
To help with expenses, memorial contributions may be sent to Wilson Funeral Home, 920 National Road, Bridgeport, Ohio 43912 in lieu of flowers and keepsakes.
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