Kenneth E. Ricke, 84, a long time resident of Texas City, peacefully succumbed Friday to a year long battle with leukemia, with Janet Nieska Ricke, his high school sweetheart and wife of 64 years, at his side.
He was preceded in death by his parents Charles Joseph “Carl” Ricke and Mildred Florence Beckway Ricke, paternal grandparents Charles Augustus Ricke and Margaret Teresa Williams, and maternal grandparents Albert J. Beckway and Lula Mae Gillham Beckway.
Kenneth’s story is best told in his own words:
I’m Ken Ricke, born on Galveston Island, the youngest of three children. I grew up playing sports of all kinds—swimming, fishing, boating, baseball, basketball and football. In 1945 our Ball High School football team was Co-District Champions. In 1950 I played men’s fast pitch softball in the City League of Galveston and won the trophy for best batting average. I guess I have passed on that love of sports to my boys as I coached them along. My favorite teams are the Texans, Cowboys, Rangers, and ALL TEXAS A&M games. Go Aggies! The most fun are the ball games where we watch our granddaughters play! As a teenager, sports led me to Trinity Episcopal Church though I had a very strong Baptist childhood. When I was playing for the Galveston Trinity Church League I met Janet—she was a freshman and I was a senior at Ball High School. Those were the days of dancing every weekend at Menard Park Youth Center. She chased me until I caught her and we were confirmed and married by The Rev. Edmund Gibson when she graduated from high school in 1949. Dancing continued through the years to be a favorite, including The Texas City Dance Club and the Texas City Square Dance Club until the knees gave out just recently.
We moved to La Marque and I began working for Monsanto Chemical Company in the computer department. When Hurricane Carla hit in 1961, Texas City was inundated but one other man, the paymaster, and myself were the first ones to return to the plant in order to get the payroll out. When Sterling Chemical took over the plant I stayed on as Senior Systems Analyst, developed business systems, and retired after 40 years total service. The computer skills I learned in those years have been invaluable, particularly working in the church office and in publishing a quarterly genealogy journal, researching and publishing a 200 page, Fifty Year Directory for the Mainland Medical Center Auxiliary, and also doing the membership hours and awards.
We still live in the house my father-in-law and I completed in 1961 just before Hurricane Carla hit. He taught me carpentry and building skills that allowed me to be a jack-of-all-trades through the years, and I have had fun passing that on to my children, and also being of help with church maintenance. From my grandfather I inherited a talent for singing and enjoyed not only over 50 years of church choir but also entertaining with the Barbershop Quartet Chorus of Texas City in shows at the high school and “singing for our supper” at the Pizza Restaurants….pure fun and joy, especially when we sang at the nursing home where my grandfather, Albert J. Beckway joined in!
After retirement from Sterling Chemicals, I did fulltime bookkeeping at St. Michael’s, taught to me by my good friend Harold Barnes, and I continued doing computer membership and archive records with Janet for St. Michael’s, along with my other duties as Lay Reader, Eucharistic Minister, Choir and Vestry (eight terms through the years including junior and senior wardens). The most rewarding church service I did was bringing Home Communion Service to the homebound, and also the Wednesday Chapel service whenever our priest was out of town. I will never forget the day after the 911 attack because our priest was out of town, and I conducted a community wide Noon Day Prayer Service at our church for over 200 people, which was extremely meaningful. I remember when we transferred from Galveston Trinity to La Marque St. Michael’s in 1954, we had only been in our house on Edward Street for a week when The Rev. Malcolm Riker was knocking on our door to welcome us and give us our first job at St. Michael’—YPSL, Young Peoples’ Service League, sponsors. It was a perfect job for us—we loved it. In everything we have done, we have been a team, helping each other, laughing as much as we can and trying to roll with the punches!”
Most recently Kenneth continued his dedicated volunteer activities through Mainland Medical Center, Hospice Care Team, and being a lay chaplain for The Community of Hope.
Janet and Kenneth raised five children, Karen Smith of Lake Jackson, Mike Ricke of Bryan, Tim Ricke of Bayou Vista, Scott Mellott of Houston, and Kathryn Mellott of Las Vegas, Nevada, all of whom survive him. They also helped raise their foster son Brett Carl Tand of Houston, Texas. Kenneth has nine grandchildren: Jennifer Kennon, Aimee Coletta, Nathan Smith, Dana Holder Hunt, Allison Ricke, Amanda Ricke, J.T. Craig, Bridget Craig, and Kim Spratley. His great grandchildren are Jordyn Kennon, Kalyn Bolton, Christina Bolton, Destiny Deaton, Hendrik Hunt, Conner Spratley and Mia Spratley.
Kenneth Ricke is also survived by his sister Doris Jean Heimann, niece Melissa Heimann and nephew Steven Heimann, all of Plano, and his brother Charles Joseph Ricke, of McKinney, niece Amy Fitzpatrick of Richardson, Texas, and nephew Joe Ricke of Virginia; Brother-in-law Eddie Johnstone and wife Jo Allen Johnstone, their children John Johnstone, Clifford Johnstone, Judy Johnstone Smith, and Alan Johnstone. Other surviving nieces and nephews include Mark Johnstone and Dean Johnstone, sons of George O. and Marguerite Johnstone, who are deceased; Jean Ann Glass and Nancy Lynn Proctor Conoly.
Janet and all of his children wish to express their gratitude for the blessing of having Kenneth in their lives as husband and father. He was a good man, very hard working and dedicated father and adoring husband. He gave us a life without worry or scarcity, and with Janet they created a family home of love and generosity. He taught us that God is Love, and therefore deserves our complete devotion by faith and by the actions we take in life. He will be sorely missed every day, and yet we are comforted and strengthened by the spirit of his love and devotion to God, who has taken him home.
We also wish to express our deep thanks and gratitude to the many people who gave blood for the benefit of Kenneth Ricke through M.D. Anderson Medical Center, among those are Anna Lauzon, Bob Shinn and especially Charles Hunt, grandson-in-law. They granted us the blessing of more time with our father and husband.
Memorial services will be held on Saturday, January 4, 2014, 1:00 p.m. at St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, on the corner of Lake Road and Magnolia Road in La Marque, Texas, followed by luncheon in the Parish Hall.
In lieu of flowers family and friends may donate blood to their local blood bank or M.D. Anderson Medical Center, or may make a memorial donation to The Leukemia Society or to St. Michael’s Episcopal Church.