I just got home from Texas, where on Monday we memorialized my dad, Ronald S. Kickler, or Ron to most. Because we had such a tight time frame, we didn't have a ton of attendance at his service, so I wanted to share my eulogy:
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, my dad Ron Kickler hung the moon. So it’s always seemed to me, his little girl.
He had the biggest heart, and the biggest imagination. If you knew my dad, you might have known how much he loved science fiction and fantasy, but especially the universes of “Star Wars” and “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy. He sometimes lost himself in those worlds of fantasy, but he also loved science and connected those fantasy worlds to reality and the immense galaxy of possibility surrounding us.
Dad loved talking “Star Wars,” but he taught me to look up at the skies, see the constellations around us and learn how through the eons, people have found guidance and opportunity in the stars. I remember as a little kid, going to Granddaddy’s farm in Frelsburg and spending a surprisingly mild night looking up in wonder. We spent a lot of time talking about space travel – and all the fascinating things that those actual rocket scientists were figuring out.
When we lost Maureen a couple of years ago, everything felt so raw and so difficult. But we found a safe space, if you’ll pardon the term, tracking the New Horizons exploratory vessel as it actually reached Pluto, and marveling at the newfound beauty of this no-longer-a-planet that was beyond human vision for so long. Just last week, a Japanese spacecraft that had failed got reprogrammed to get new angles on Neptune, and I couldn’t wait to talk to him about it and send him some links and pictures. But it was too late.
Dad loved rock music – and he loved rocks. He never met a rock he didn’t like, and he found beauty in the everyday – polishing agates to bring their inner beauty to the outside, collecting mineral specimens, always on the lookout for arrowheads. He usually had at least one rock in his pockets.
For all his fascination with science, Dad was weirdly thwarted by technology. He’d occasionally call me at my desk for guidance. Once, when work was still using older systems, he got a home computer that had a mouse and couldn’t make it do what it wanted.
“OK, just double-click on the icon.”
“It didn’t work.”
“You have to click faster, like click-click.”
“Still didn’t work.”
“OK, just click it and then hit Enter.”
He eventually figured that out, and a couple of years ago, we finally got him to learn to text. But he could not figure out how to ignore the autocorrect suggestions, and he hated it.
“Well, shut happens, I guess,” went a typical note.
Dad, shut really does happen. Because here we are.
But we are here to celebrate him and to remember all the things that made him him. So let’s go back to that heart of his.
Dad always wanted the best for everyone, especially his family. He and Maureen loved each other so, so much, and their union brought Matthew into our lives too, turning me into a big sister, for which I will always be grateful.
After my mom and dad got divorced, I never lived full-time with Dad, but I hope he knows that I treasured every single second we had together. We spent a lot of time in the car when he picked me up for weekend visits or from the airport after I moved to Oregon. We had some of our best talks in the car. We cranked up the tunes, learned about each other’s music tastes and hopefully expanded each other’s horizons a little. We talked about movies and books and life and comedy.
Dad had a killer sense of humor and eye for the absurd. On our drives, he’d make up goofy words out of what he saw on license plates, or figure out how to say words backward. For your information, in my house, “elbow” will always be “woble" [wobbly … I’ll give you a minute]. And he may have been a pharmacist and a science buff, but he always paid attention to grammar. When I was interviewing for my first journalism job, an editor asked where I thought my love for words and wordplay came from. I had zero hesitation: “My dad.”
He has fundamentally shaped me and my personality, even over long distance (and long-distance phone bills I would occasionally get in trouble for). I see his personality coming through in my sons Isaac and Aaron, in their intellect, their curiosity, their mischievous grins, and did I ever tell you about the time I asked Isaac why his backpack was so heavy? “What do you have in there, a bag of rocks?”
He did indeed have a bag of rocks. The Kickler is strong with this one.
Dad’s big, open heart left him susceptible to heartbreak, and in the face of staggering losses in the past few years, especially his sweet Maureen, but also his parents and his brother, he had trouble finding the light through the clouds.
I wish he’d known how many of us were rooting for him. To get out of the house, to get out of his head, to make that doctor’s appointment, to eat a good meal, to bring his goofy smile and his big hugs back out into the open.
I have to believe he sees it now, that he feels our love.
I have lost my tether; I feel unmoored, drifting. But while he’s gone, he’s not gone. He believed in that “star stuff” idea of Carl Sagan’s, so while I am drifting now, I’ll keep looking to the skies for his guidance.
Sweet dreams, Dad. I love you, as Isaac once wrote, to New Horizons and back times infinity.
Ronald Selton Kickler, a retired pharmacist with a long history serving customers at HEB, Randalls, Apple Tree and Safeway stores, died January 16, 2018, at age 65 at his home in Friendswood, Texas. Ron was born August 7, 1952, in Pasadena, Texas, to Selton Noble Kickler and Helen Cates Kickler. After graduating from Pasadena High School in 1970, he earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Houston in 1974 and graduated from the University’s School of Pharmacy in 1976.
Ron was always kind to his pharmacy customers, giving them a few extra minutes to talk when he could. His listening was much appreciated, which was never more clear than during the holidays every year, when he’d bring home stacks of cards and plates full of baked goods and boxes of candy.
Ron married Ann Walters in 1974, and in 1977 they welcomed a daughter, Sarah. They later divorced. He married Maureen Jones in 1985, becoming father to Matthew. Ron and Maureen married again, for good measure, in 1996, and lived in Pearland and Friendswood over the course of their laughter-filled relationship. Ron was passionate about “Star Wars” and J.R.R. Tolkien, rereading the Lord of the Rings trilogy annually, and he taught his kids it was cool to be a nerd (before it was actually cool to be a nerd).
Ron was preceded in death by his wife Maureen in 2015; his parents; and his brother, John Kickler.
Survivors include his daughter Sarah Kickler Kelber of Salem, Oregon; son Matthew Jones of Friendswood, Texas; son-in-law Judah Kelber and grandsons Isaac and Aaron Kelber, all of Salem, Oregon.
A memorial service is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 22, 2018, at Jeter Memorial Funeral Home, 311 N. Friendswood Drive, Friendswood, Texas, (281) 992-7200, with Rev. Gale Towns officiating. Please do not even consider wearing a tie.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Ron’s memory to the Red Cross at www.redcross.org, where he was a lifelong, multi-gallon blood donor.