Thursday, April 5, 2018

RIP: Uncle Ricky

Today is both a happy day and a sad day.  It's our 10 year anniversary (see previous post:  That's the happy part)  And the sad part is that I just got word that Stephanie's Uncle Rick passed away today.

The first time I met Ricky he challenged me to a game of Scrabble.

A lot was on the line.  I was dating his niece, and he'd heard I was good at Scrabble. and he wanted to see for himself.  He prided himself on being a good Scrabble player, and he needed to see if I cut the mustard.  I gamely agreed to play him, but I warned him in advance that I was going to bring the heat.  As an avid sports fan, (and a Cubs fanatic) I think he liked that metaphor and I scored some points with him.  That, and the fact that I liked TAB cola.

This is not our board, but it might have been.
As promised, I showed no quarter, and I scored more points with him when I won the game in a come from behind victory not unlike his beloved Cubs had a few years ago.  I don't remember the details, but I think I was down by 45 points, and I scored 53 to win on a bingo.  We played a few more times, and I think it was always pretty close, but I managed to win a few more times.   We talked about it almost everytime we saw each other, but somehow we stopped playing.

ABOVE:Uncle Ricky reading us his poem at our wedding
BELOW: Group hug with Uncle Ricky at our wedding.

We saw each other at lots of family events, including our wedding, where he gave us one of his patented poems (super corny, extra long, and filled with terrible rhymes and heartfelt sentiments.)  We also took in a couple of sports activities, including a soccer game and a couple of Saluki games.  He was a huge Saluki fan (he and his wife travelled all over the country watching the Salukis play)  

When he visited us in New York, I was at a loss of where to take him- he's not much of an art museum guy.  Fortunately, I discovered the NY Sports Museum of America (which closed 6 months later) where we had a fantastic time looking through the room of Heisman winners, seeing one of Shaq's shoes, while Ricky regaled me with tales of bowling leagues and trophies  (He was a bonafide sports nut!)

I thought of Ricky when I was recently at Northbrook for a speedskating match. They had a wall of fame to the lost art of ice barrel jumping. I wanted to find out if he knew about it (apparently it was a big sport once upon a time, especially big in Northbrook, and it has now since become a former sport.)  But it used to have its own television specials. It was just the kind of quirky sport that Ricky would have liked, and known all about. I'm sad I never asked him about it.

Here's some of the photos of barrel jumping from the Northbrook Speedskating Hall of Fame that made me think of Rick.


Ricky was a true mensch.  Soft-spoken, and humble,  he was a great listener, who always asked good questions, and wanted to know what other people thought.  He loved chatting, and Tab cola, and whenever we met up we'd always drink a Tab and talk.  He was also a big fan of the restaurant Fuddruckers, which he once treated us to a lunch when we happened to be not so far from him. He was a gentle guy, and always a gentleman.  He was a good soul.

Ricky always had a kind and encouraging word for nearly everybody, (except for maybe Donald Trump, who he detested.) The last time I saw Ricky was last Friday night at the Family Seder at his house.  There were 26 people there, and Ricky was in his element, greeting people, laughing, and telling a self-effacing joke.  He led the Seder off with a rather long but impassioned comparison of Trump's America to North Korea, and while it was a little weird to start off the Seder there, everyone at the table knew that it was all heartfelt.  The seder continued, and the food was great, the company was great, and everything was just hunkydory.

As we said goodbye, he clapped me on the shoulder and said maybe we'd play Scrabble again.  I agreed gamely.

Unfortunately, on Sunday, Ricky had a sudden and massive heart attack while napping, and he was not able to recover.  I will update this post with the funeral information.

Hopefully, there is a heaven, and Ricky is up there right now, getting  Ernie Banks's autograph and bemoaning the choices of the Saluki's coach, drinking TAB and playing Scrabble. And maybe even learning more about Barrel Jumping.

Godspeed, Uncle Ricky!


The obituary from the Chicago Sun-Times:

Schwab, Richard D. Of St. John, IN, died on April 5. He was 71. Rick spent 49 years in the insurance industry, nearly 40 of them as an agent at Rick Schwab State Farm Insurance in Glenwood, IL, the town where he and treasured wife Diane raised their two sons, Danny and Jay. Rick was born in Chicago and spent most of his youth living on the south side of the city, unaware that the love of his life and wife of 41 years was growing up just a few blocks away. Many days of his childhood were spent playing neighborhood ballgames and skipping class in favor of rooting on his Cubbies at Wrigley Field. Rick was a sports fanatic with a penchant for backing the underdog. He was especially enraptured with the Cubs - even authoring a book, "Stuck on the Cubs," a humorous take on the life of a Cubs fan. His passion ran equally deep for his beloved Salukis, the sports teams of his alma mater, Southern Illinois University. He also was a horse racing enthusiast and lover of bowling. Rick was known for his extreme generosity, be it with loved ones or even strangers on the street. His perfect day would include a piping hot pizza, an ice cold can of Tab and reliving stories of beloved athletes such as Ernie Banks and Walt Frazier, surrounded by family and friends. What else made Rick beam? A hot blackjack streak in Las Vegas, a homecoming parade in Carbondale, a musical that kept him awake until at least intermission, and virtually anything uttered by his three grandchildren. He had little use for iPhones or social media, believing that preferable forms of communication included a well-crafted letter, a nightly newscast and a good, old-fashioned newspaper. Rick is survived by Diane; by his two sons, Danny (Emmy) and Jay (Alexa); siblings Steven (Nancy) and Melinda (the late Alan Goldberg); his grandchildren, Sarah, Gabriel and Audrey; his mother, Gertrude Metzger; a beloved circle of extended family and friends, and his "granddogs," Sadie and Walter. He was preceded in death by his father, Hank Schwab, and his in-laws, Harry and Magrit Sugar. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Southern Illinois University Foundation or JDRF. Services will be held at 10:30 a.m. on Monday, April 9 at B'nai Yehuda Beth Shalom, 1424 W. 183rd St., in Homewood, Ill. Burial will follow at Jewish Oakridge Cemetery in Hillside, IL. For funeral information, 847-256-5700.
Published in Chicago Sun-Times on Apr. 6, 2018

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