It is with great sadness that we inform you of the passing of Benjamin Ricker (85), beloved husband for 48 years of Martha Luz Saravia de Ricker. Loving father of Marilyn Kases (Dean Jr.), Juanita Ricker-Pitts (Amy), and Jane Marie. Doting grandfather of Dean Benjamin, Adriana Sophia, and Benjamin Michael, brother of Bill (Charlene), Marilyn (Bob), and Robert (Veronica). Godfather, uncle, cousin, and friend to many. Preceded in death by his beloved parents, Benjamin and Clara Ricker, and his daughter Jane Marie.
Benjamin was born in St. Louis on August 16th, 1938. After the untimely passing of his father, he found himself with many responsibilities as the oldest child in a single-parent family living in the Clinton-Peabody housing project in South St. Louis. He worked as a golf caddy and in the club house of the St. Louis Country Club and at age 13 began schooling to become a Catholic Priest at St. Louis Preparatory Seminary High School. He completed his Master in Divinity and was ordained in 1964 at Kenrick Seminary. He was described by classmates as “The smartest man in the seminary.”
Ben was a true humanitarian who devoted his life to service. He oversaw the congregations at St. Boniface, Sacred Heart, and there he enjoyed coaching basketball to the youth. He then joined the Catholic Mission to Bolivia in 1968, helping poor and indigenous people. It was there that he met Martha Luz, the social worker of the parish, love of his life and future wife. Together they worked to train community leaders who were able to teach 1200 individuals to read and write. He decided to come back to St. Louis and asked for his Dispensation from the Vatican. Joined by their love and common interest in helping others they were married officially, on March 21st, 1975, in St Louis and later had a ceremony performed by the local community in Villa Victoria Bolivia and a religious ceremony in Ecuador.
Returning to the US in 1974, he worked as a counselor at the Juvenile Court System helping retrain and rehabilitate troubled youths all while he studied history and business at Saint Louis University and management from SIUE, receiving his Master in Business Administration in 1978. During this time the Hispanic Ministry was started, and Ben was one of their first volunteers. Ben and Martha even hosted two Cuban refugees in their home for a year.
Ben with Martha then moved to South America and continued helping the community where he served as country director of Foster Parents Plan International, leading projects in Bolivia, Colombia, and Ecuador helping to build schools, community centers, roads, bridges, water purification facilities, irrigations systems, agricultural projects, artist workshops, and other environmental and health and hygiene projects. In Colombia, the NGO had prepared to close its door before Ben’s arrival, but under his management, remained, continuing the employment of the entire staff and bettering the lives of and over 7,500 low-income families of Bogota, Cali, Tumaco and Buenaventura. His efforts served 350 communities in Ecuador, and he was particularly proud of his training initiatives which supported the betterment of women and children. He employed hundreds of people and oversaw multi-million-dollar budgets. He also consulted on other projects for communities in Costa Rica and other countries. He received plaudits for his judicious, and economical but fair management of resources, had a workshop building for local artists named after him in Ecuador, and received many accolades from corporate and local dignitaries. Few people have heard of his accomplishments as ‘The Director’ because Ben himself was humble, content with knowing his contributions to his fellow man.
Back in the states, Ben settled in St. Peters and worked at St. Charles County Corrections and Catholic Charities, helping Spanish-speakers in particular. Alongside his wife he volunteered at Sts. Joachim and Ann Care Service helping with the food bank, adopt the family, and Easter programs.
He was a man of great intellect, reading Latin and becoming fluent in Spanish and Aymara (an indigenous language) and even learning some Quechua upon his move to Bolivia. He loved culture and art, the symphony, visiting museums and historical sites. He was able to travel to Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and much of South America as a younger man. Later, with his children and grandchildren, he returned to Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, and visited Mexico, England, Greece, Italy, Costa Rica, Belize, Barbados, and the Virgin Islands. In his last year he was able to relax in Curacao, tour Canada, feast in New Orleans, and soak in the sun of Spain—the latter just weeks before he passed.
‘Grandpa’ loved his grandchildren, had a rare and special patience with children in general. He was easy going with friends, despite his own strong opinions, had a sense of humor and humility, and he loved to cook, and eat, all types of food and drink. He grew extensive gardens and shared his produce with friends and even to this day Ben and Martha’s Bolivian micro-farm supplies vegetables to Fundación Casa Alalay an orphanage in La Paz. He loved everything to do with soccer, especially Barcelona FC and Lionel Messi, La Pulga! But his greatest support went to his daughters’ soccer, volleyball, cross-country, swim meets, dance, and cultural clubs, and his grandchildren’s soccer teams, theater productions, and dance performances.
Benjamin Ricker was a blessing to all that knew him. He was loved by many and will be missed by all. Rest in Peace, loving Husband, Daddy, Grandpa, Brother and Friend. And may your memory be eternal.
The family would like to thank Dr. Nancy Bartlett and staff, Missouri Baptist Emergency Room, Intensive Care Unit and Medical Oncology floor for their compassionate and personalized care.
Interment immediately following at Baue, 3950 W Clay Street St. Charles, MO 63301.
Memorial contributions in his memory can be made to Leukemia and Lymphoma Society LLS.org.
Expressions of sympathy may be sent to:
Mrs. Martha Ricker
118 Grand Teton Dr.
St. Peters, MO 63376
Marilyn Ricker Kases
3109 Barrett Station Rd.
St. Louis MO 63122
405 Penfield St.
Odin IL 62870