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Richard Polk '77 June 1, 2022 10:44 AM updated: June 1, 2022 10:48 AM

Richard Ned Polk
April 24, 1955 - May 10, 2022

Richard Ned Polk of Mason passed away Tuesday, May 10, 2022 at the age of 67. He was born April 24, 1955 to Lila Jo (Chew) and Dick G. Polk in Mason Memorial Hospital. He was a 1973 graduate of Mason High and a 1977 graduate of Texas A&M.

Richard’s career began at Burnup & Sims of Texas where he specialized in project management and cost analysis. From there, he moved on to Haegelin Construction where he used those same skills.

Like his grandfather, Ned, who was ranch manager for G. Rollie White, Richard eventually did ranch and project management for the Thompson Ranch and later Katemcy Management.

And, like his grandfather, Ossie, who was instrumental in bringing TV cable and movie theatres to Mason, Richard was a visionary who imagined “what could be.” His true passion was creative problem-solving. He could look at a challenging situation and where others saw problems, he saw solutions.

For example, during his years of night-time varmint hunting, Richard had noticed a need that was not being met –- a secure way to mount a light on a rifle without the use of hose clamps, zip ties, or duct tape. Texas DPS SWAT and narcotics teams were also aware of that need and asked Richard to invent a device to address it.

As a result of that request, in 1986, Richard and four venture capitalists formed Aimlight, Inc. Working closely with machinist, Kelly Kothmann, Richard developed the first prototype for what is now known around the world as the “1913 Picatinny,” a detachable rail system that allows a wide variety of equipment to be attached to a weapon. Richard’s rail system is now standard equipment on firearms.

On the heels of his rail system came a second invention –- a weapon-mounted target illumination system. In 1987, the U. S. Air Force sent representatives to Texas to talk with Richard. As a result of that interview, the Pentagon’s Air Staff for Security Police invited him to their headquarters to demonstrate his “Aimlight” invention on the M16.

That meeting turned out to be the cornerstone of military night fighting capabilities. From listening to feedback in that meeting, Richard realized that white light was not what was needed on the battlefield. He returned to Texas and revised his system to include infrared light, now standard for battlefield fighting in all branches of the military.

Richard’s two inventions were widely used by the U.S. military, federal and state law enforcement, and the U.S. intelligence community. Though he never received formal recognition for his rail and lighting systems, the many lives he saved stand as a testament to his contribution.

After moving back to Mason, Richard made another contribution, this time to the culinary and camping industry. He and partners, Craig and Carol Conlee, developed a compact cast iron cooking system which was quickly bought by Lodge, the largest producer of cast iron cooking products in the U.S. The “Cook-It-All” has become one of Lodge’s best sellers.

In 2005, Richard met Pamela Kimrey of San Marcos. It was love at first sight. On January 18, 2020, they were married. In Richard’s own words, “I am the luckiest person in the world. You are everything I ever asked for and a thousand things I didn’t know I needed. You complete my life.”

As a couple, they shared a unique bond. Richard and Pam envisioned a life with family and friends in Mason. Watching the sun rise with Pam’s hand in his was life just the way Richard wanted it.

He is survived by his wife Pamela Gill Kimrey, her daughter Kayla and husband Austin Haas of California, sister Cara Polk and partner Ken Hart of Austin, cousin David Polk and wife Adrienne of Athens, cousin Ned Polk and wife Karie of Midland and their children, Taylor and Heather.

Richard’s memorial service will be held Friday, May 27 at 11:00 AM at the First United Methodist Church of Mason. Memorials may be made in his name to the Mason County Cancer Benefit or any other charity of your choice.

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