Daniel Ricketts

Daniel Ricketts

EAST BERNE — Danielle Ricketts has a tattoo of half a heart on her left shoulder. She designed it herself; it has a rose and says, “Little Girl.”

The other half of the heart was tattooed on her father. Ms. Ricketts designed it with a buck because her father, Daniel “Rooster” Ricketts, loved to hunt. His heart said “Daddy’s.”

When the two of them leaned together, the message was clear: “Daddy’s Little Girl.” Ms. Ricketts had the tattoos done for her 19th birthday, four years ago.

“Every fun memory I’ve ever had, he was in it,” she said through tears this week. “He was my best friend.”

Mr. Ricketts died on Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013, on his East Berne farm following an accident on his all-terrain vehicle. He was 50.

The youngest child and only son of Lora Richardson Ricketts and the late Raymond Ricketts, “Rooster” got his nickname because he’d always liked chickens, his mother said. He grew up on his family’s 80-acre farm in East Berne where the Rickettses raised beef cattle and pigs, and kept cows for milk and butter.

The family, including Mr. Ricketts and his two older sisters, worked the farm together, raising their vegetables and doing home canning and freezing. “We were self-sufficient,” said their mother, Lora Ricketts.

Mr. Ricketts graduated from Berne-Knox-Westerlo in 1981 and attended Hudson Valley Community College to learn about construction. While still at college, his mother said, he took a job with United Parcel Service and then worked for UPS for 28 years. He liked his job and was known as an “icon” among his co-workers, Mrs. Ricketts said.

Mr. Ricketts’s sense of humor showed, even on the job. His sister, Kathleen Neal, said that, when he made his regular deliveries to Candy Kraft in Guilderland, he’d sing the Sammy Davis Jr. rendition of “The Candy Man Can.” His favorite movie was the original version of Willie Wonka & The Chocolate Factory, she said.

Mostly, though, he was a country music fan. He particularly liked “Dirt Road Anthem” and “Honky Tonk Donka Donk.”

His daughter said she recently got him interested in watching vampire shows with her and, last Halloween, he wore a vampire costume of her making. “I got him vampire teeth, and painted his face pale,” she said, smiling at the memory.

Mr. Ricketts kept a sense of humor about an injury to his right leg, which he had sustained riding the motorcycle he loved. He would tell people it was from a shark bite.

“‘Happy, happy, happy’ was one of his favorite phrases,” his mother said.

Another favorite saying, his daughter said, was, “I ain’t no flatlander.” She added, “He didn’t like to leave the farm.”

“When my husband got crippled with arthritis six years ago, Danny gave up his route and worked all night, loading in Latham,” said Mrs. Ricketts.  After Raymond Ricketts died in 2008, Daniel Ricketts took over farm chores for his mother, continuing to work nights for UPS until the day he died.

“I still burn wood; he keeps the chimney clean and mows my lawn,” said Mrs. Ricketts. “And he grows the most beautiful flowers.”

His favorite color was yellow and, after his death, yellow flowers “just blanketed the property,” said Kassi Rae, his niece.

“And a yellow rose bush bloomed where Danny’s body laid,” said Mrs. Ricketts.

Daniel Ricketts lived in a log house he built himself on five acres across Saw Mill Road from the family farm. “He was divorced; I’m widowed. He was my companion,” said Mrs. Ricketts.

He has a sign at his home that says, “Welcome to the Simple Life.”

“That was his favorite place to be,” said his mother. Although he took her and his daughter to seaside vacations, she said, he really believed, “There’s no place like home.”

The entire family looked to him for solace and fun. His relatives live in the Helderberg Hilltowns and would visit often. “Danny loved all the little kids,” said Mrs. Ricketts.  Referring to his great-niece, Nichole Clark, she went on, “Nichole loved to follow him around the farm as he took care of the cows and chickens and rabbits.”

He taught his nieces and nephews to hunt. “He was a surrogate father to Kassi, Brandon, Miles, and Samantha,” said his sister, Kathleen Neal.

Kassi Rae vividly remembers her uncle’s reaction when she shot her first deer. “He came up hootin’ and hollerin’, he was so proud,” she said. “He always called me Annie Oakley. He’d say, ‘Annie, get your gun’; he was so excited I could outshoot the guys.”

She also said, “He was like a father, like a brother, like a best friend. Whenever I went to his house, he’d have something funny to say. We’d go swimming or skiing, or four-wheeling…‘Uncle’ is not enough,” she said of a word to describe Mr. Ricketts.

“He was a country boy,” said his sister. “He loved to hunt and fish. He loved his farm, like Dad.” He was very close to his father and, when Daniel Ricketts died on Saturday, he was wearing a blue-and-white striped engineer’s cap from his father, which he always wore, and was riding his father’s ATV, she said.

Daniel Ricketts killed his first buck when he was 14. “He ran out of bullets and threw stones to bring it down,” said his mother. Last year, on Nov. 1, he shot an eight-point buck, his biggest, with his father’s shotgun. “It made him so proud,” said Mrs. Ricketts.

Mr. Ricketts belonged to the Thompson’s Lake Church and, although he didn’t attend every Sunday, he was religious, his mother said. “He was the one, when we sat down to eat, he’d say, ‘Mom, say grace.’”

He had particular tastes in food aside from the game he hunted and loved to eat. “Every since he was a very little boy,” his mother related, “he always drank chocolate milk, breakfast, lunch, and dinner, except he put white milk in his cereal, and we always added milk and butter to our fresh green beans.”

Growing up, Mr. Ricketts’s favorite foods were beans and franks, which made his sisters complain when he’d pick that meal for his birthday treat, said Mrs. Ricketts. But, in later years, he enjoyed steak and lobster as a special treat.

He’d have family barbecues at his house, where he stocked a pond with bass, pickerel, and trout. Mrs. Ricketts, the Thompson’s Lake correspondent for The Enterprise, often details family gatherings in her column.

“He was the life of the party,” said his daughter. She has a baby, named Zoey Raye, whom he adored.

“He called himself Grandpoopa,” said Danielle Ricketts. “We went to the Altamont Fair on August 17th. She was two months old that day. After I fed her, he said, ‘I’m good at burping her.’ And he was.

“She was his pride and joy, all he talked about,” she concluded of her father. “He was such a happy-go-lucky person.”

“He made everybody happy,” said Mrs. Ricketts. “He was always concerned about others.”

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Daniel Ricketts is survived by his daughter, Danielle C. Ricketts, and his granddaughter, Zoey Raye Babcock, as well as his mother, Lora Ricketts. He is also survived by two sisters, Marcia Pangburn and Kathleen Neal and her husband, Gary Carnevale; and four nieces and nephews, Brandon Clark, Kassi Rae Neal, Miles Pangburn and his wife, Melissa, and Kyra Swan; as well as great-nephew Samson Clark and great-niece Nichole Clark.

Family and friends are invited to calling hours on Friday, Sept. 6, at the Fredendall Funeral Home at 199 Main Street in Altamont from 5 to 8 p.m. A funeral service will be held on Saturday, Sept. 7, at 11 a.m. at the Thompson’s Lake Reformed Church in East Berne, with interment to follow at Thompson’s Lake Rural Cemetery. Online condolences may be made at www.fredendallfuneralhome.com.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Thompson’s Lake Reformed Church, 1210 Thacher Park Road, East Berne, NY 12059; Helderberg Ambulance, 978 Cole Hill Rd., Berne, NY 12023; or the East Berne Volunteer Fire Company, 25 Main St., East Berne, NY 12059.

— Melissa Hale-Spencer

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