Rice’s Honey & The Bee Happy ~ Bee Kind Foundation

Article by Bethany Wiley, MPH, RYT

Photography by Shel Francis Creative

Originally published in Greeley Lifestyle

With any family-owned company, it’s common that many, if not all, family members end up helping. This was the case for Rice’s Honey, founded in 1924 by LeRoy Rice, with a commitment to packaging and providing 100% pure honey. To meet customers’ needs, many members of the Rice family would assist. “Everyone from my mother, Ronna Rice, and both my brothers, Mike and Scott Rice, helped pack honey and worked in the bee yards,” says Julie Lordemann, great-granddaughter of the founder LeRoy and daughter of Jim. Julie also fondly recalls aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews coming to help when needed.

Once LeRoy stepped down, ownership was purchased by his two sons, William and Harold Rice. The third generation of the family company was William’s son, James “Jim” Rice. Jim had spent his entire life within the friendly confines of Rice’s Honey. He would eventually buy into ownership with his father, William, and uncle Harold. As Jim continued to learn what made small family businesses successful, the next logical step was for him to gradually buy into full ownership. Jim became the sole owner in 1974. Julie’s husband, Mike Lordemann, spent more than 30 years working alongside Jim, while Julie worked with Mike and Jim for 20 years. “I look back at those days and realize that we were a very small family company—we operated on a very lean staff…and we were aligned very well,” Julie says.

Both of Julie’s brothers chose different careers before eventually returning to help when Jim was diagnosed with aggressive cancer, which became a 10-year battle before his passing in August 2021. “As my father focused on his health, it was apparent that for Rice's Honey to maintain our high standards, my brothers were going to need to come onboard,” Julie says. “During that time, growth was exponential and additional help and expertise were needed.”

The family sold Rice’s Honey in 2017. Upon Jim’s passing in August of 2021, the family wanted to ensure that Jim’s legacy of caring and giving wouldn’t be forgotten. Thus the impetus to kickstart the family’s venture. Losing Jim served as a springboard to starting The Bee Happy ~ Bee Kind Foundation, a nonprofit focused on giving back by helping families find joy, hope and strength during their difficult journey with cancer. The foundation’s goal is to help families build memories with their loved ones and do something they’ve dreamed of doing together. The Bee Happy ~ Bee Kind Foundation does the planning and provides the funding for the families they are helping.

“Jim spent every day of his 80 years demonstrating that the best way to Bee Happy was to always Bee Kind,” Julie says. “My father lived his life very modestly and was extremely giving, we are simply passing on his legacy.”

Julie’s husband, Mike, said the foundation is a labor of love. It is also a family affair with everyone involved from the Rice family, including Julie and Mike’s daughter, Ashley Hiller. “Ashley is the driving force behind the foundation,” Mike says. “Grandpa was her first close family member to pass away. She really took it hard and wanted to honor Jim in a way that was fitting. Jim taught us that relationships mean everything, and we hope that our foundation honors this deeply held value by supporting other families in our community who are touched by cancer.”

Bee Happy Bee Kind Foundation

Started in honor of James Rice, beloved husband, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather who battled aggressive cancer for almost ten years.

Jim spent every day of his 80 years demonstrating that the best way to Bee Happy, was to always Bee Kind

We know firsthand the challenges of caring for someone fighting cancer. We started the Foundation to help families find joy during difficult journeys.

At Bee Happy. Bee Kind. Foundation, the goal is to spread kindness by helping families in Northern Colorado affected by cancer. By providing funding to allow families to find some joy during the difficult journey and do something fun together, the Bee Happy. Bee Kind. The foundation will create a memorable experience for nominated families. 

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