A LIFE WELL LIVED
Rodney Harold Ricketts passed away on Sunday, October 13 after a lengthy battle with Parkinson’s Disease. Born on October 22, 1945 in St. Petersburg, FL, he was the son of the late Harold DeLeon Ricketts and Jean Sanders Ricketts. The family later moved to Tampa and Rodney graduated with Honors from H. B. Plant High School. Rodney continued his education at The Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, GA, where he received his Bachelor’s (’67) and Master’s Degrees (’69) in Aerospace Engineering. He was a member of the Gamma Alpha Chapter of Sigma Nu and lettered on the Varsity Swim Team.
Rodney married his college sweetheart, Caroline (Chee) Kludt in 1967. They then moved to Fort Worth, TX where Rodney began his professional career at General Dynamics. In 1973, Rodney joined Vought Hampton Technical Center in Hampton, VA. His 28-year career with NASA Langley Research Center commenced in 1977. The holder of several patents, author or co-author of many technical papers in the field of aeronautics and recipient of numerous awards, Rodney held several management positions. Upon reflection, however, Rodney most enjoyed the engineering process in his early career where he could test theoretical flutter design using actual models of his work in the Transonic Dynamics Tunnel.
Rodney believed in the importance of volunteering. When he first moved to Newport News, he taught swimming and drownproofing to children and adults at the Peninsula YMCA. He coached a Little League team and later coached his daughter Michelle’s softball team, as well as chaired the high school band fruit sales. When he served as a mentor for the Peninsula Engineering Design Competition, his Poquoson High School team won the Senior Division in the annual Egg Drop Contest. At least once a year, he knocked on doors selling brooms for the Poquoson Lions’ Club in which he served as President during the club’s 50th anniversary year. As a member of the Tabernacle United Methodist Church in Poquoson, VA, he chaperoned his daughter’s group ASP (Appalachian Service Project) trip and he sang in the UMC Men’s Choir.
An avid athlete, Rodney’s leisure activities were a daily part of his life: kayaking, snow skiing, water skiing, golfing, and running. A friend persuaded him to ride across Missouri, which Rodney agreed to do because he thought Missouri was flat. He especially loved cycling with his daughter and son-in-law, Travis. Rodney was most at home in high places, traveling for many summers to backpack with the Glacier Guys and Gnarly Dudes to the Four Corners of Colorado, the canyons (Grand, Zion and Bryce), and the Olympic Peninsula. His semi-annual hikes on the Appalachian Trail with his buddies were highlights. He gained a reputation as the teller of corny jokes whenever the group stopped to rest. As Rodney’s Parkinson’s progressed, he returned to his early love of golf, enjoying many quiet mornings on the links at Greene Hills Club.
Upon retirement in 2005, Rodney and Chee moved to Greene County. Although Parkinson’s Disease was somewhat limiting, he continued to be active, supervising the renovation of an old farmhouse outside of Stanardsville. He tried to be a good neighbor. Rodney was available to troubleshoot any problem, be it repairing a stubborn generator, building a handicap ramp for a friend or helping a neighboring farmer deliver a calf. (This resulted in his adopting the calf, named Midnight Cowboy, who was much loved for the years that he roamed the farm pasture.)
Most of all, he cherished his family. When living on the coast, he would routinely paddle Chee out in their rowboat and serenade her on his guitar. Although he liked to play practical jokes on her, Rodney was a good sport in helping Chee with art shows and he gamely tagged along on many museum excursions. Michelle was his darling daughter and he supported her in her activities, always proud of everything that she did. He never missed any of her violin or clarinet performances and always cheered loudest when she directed her high school band as its drum major. His faithful companion, his yellow Lab, Hubble, became his closest friend and was by his side throughout his illness.
In recent months, Rodney resided at The Village at Gordon House, where he received excellent, loving care from the family-oriented staff. Rodney’s Nurse, Molly Brumfield-Horner, and Chaplain, Denise Vogt, from The Hospice of the Piedmont supported and compassionately guided Rodney on his journey. He formed close bonds with his former caregiver, Carolyn Rodgers, and his physical therapist Susan Watkins. Finally, throughout the many years of his struggle with Parkinson’s, Rodney’s doctors of the UVA Medical Center worked tirelessly to prolong his quality of life.
Rodney is predeceased by his parents, Harold DeLeon and Jean Sanders Ricketts, formerly of Tampa, FL and is the beloved husband of Caroline (Chee) Kludt Ricketts, his wife of 52 years; proud and loving father of Michelle Evans and her husband Travis Evans of Gaithersburg, MD; brother to Jill Elaine Ricketts and Chester Earl Ricketts, both of Tampa, FL; and nephew to Marjorie Sanders Preston, his maternal aunt, of Clayton, GA
A Memorial Service will be held on Tuesday, October 22, 2019 at 11 am at the Stanardsville United Methodist Church on Court Square, Stanardsville, VA.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to The Hospice of the Piedmont (675 Peter Jefferson Parkway, Suite 300, Charlottesville, VA 22911), The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (Grand Central Station, PO Box 4777, New York, NY 10163-4777) or a charity of one’s choosing.
An online guestbook is available at www.ryanfuneral.com
Ryan Funeral Home of Ruckersville, VA is handling the arrangements.