Remembering Aunt Ricky


Trying to write something about Aunt Ricky, I feel so inapt.  Through tears and laughter, I have tried to compile some thoughts about some of my memories.  I cannot think of anyone who has has impacted my life more than Aunt Ricky.  The way she remembered birthdays and anniversaries, the way she spoke kindly to everyone, her smile, her cheerful voice, her love of all things fine and beautiful…HAPPY NEW YEAR phone call at midnight of the new year.  Oh Darling, I love you!  She left an impression on everyone she met and will forever live on in our hearts.

Every year with the anticipation of Christmas, we also looked forward to Aunt Ricky’s annual visit.

You would find her in her sister Marilyn’s kitchen cutting up a fruit salad for Mark, knowing it was his favorite.  There would be a stack of correspondence ready to send out to those she loved, and of course the annual roses from Harry.

We visited the Botanical Garden, the Swan House and The High Museum, along with other historical places around Atlanta.  She always wore her signature leopard coat, hat and had several bags with her wherever we traveled.   We made our annual trip to Everybody’s Pizza.  There were big tables and they sat strangers at your table. Aunt Rick would immediately make new friends. 

Atlanta Botanical Garden

We ate in the Tea Room at the Swan House, stopping in the gift shop to pick up something special to remember her trip.  That day she bought “Beatrix Potter’s Art, full of stories and illustrations from the artist”.  Aunt Ricky always loved rabbits, and she loved having books to read to the children.

We walked through the High Museum together, children in tow.  They all acted like they didn’t want to go to the museum, but everyone enjoyed seeing the art through Aunt Ricky’s eyes.  My love of art came from spending time with her. We saw a Monet Exhibition at the High one year.  It is so different seeing art in person and not in a book.   

On our family outings, we were either in Jeff’s VW bus or my van.  Aunt Ricky preferred to sit in the back with the kids, entertaining them with stories, reading books, and giving them something sweet from her purse.  She loved being with the children.  On Christmas Day we all opened presents at Marilyn’s house.  She had the perfect gift for everyone, brought all the way from NJ in one of her heavy bags, along with the delicious cinnamon rolls made in Haddonfield. 

When we visited Aunt Ricky, she took us to so many interesting places:  Wanamaker’s to touch the eagle’s feathers, the Reading Terminal to eat, and to see the Tiffany Mosaic wall in the Curtis Publishing Building in Philadelphia.  She showed us how we could whisper into the corner of the station at the Oyster house and the person on the other side could hear you.  We saw where pennies were made.  Every year she made sure Daniel had the newly issued state quarter. We all received envelopes full of newspaper clippings that related to our special interests, along with a note saying she loved us. 

When visiting her, we would walk down the street in Haddonfield to the pizza house; she would introduce her nephew to everyone, “this is my nephew Mark from Atlanta”.  No matter where we went in Haddonfield, everyone knew Aunt Ricky, and her boys, Mark and Jeff from Atlanta. 

She loved the singing plant, “HELLO”, echoing throughout the house.  It was typical Aunt Ricky.  She made a point to know about your interests and also about your family and friends.  Anyone that knows me, knows about Aunt Ricky.  When you visited Aunt Ricky, she always had a “don’t cry” prize to give you as you were leaving.  On my first visit, she gave me a green Wedgwood Jasper ware Trinket box.  One year we took Mrs. Klein to visit Aunt Ricky.  She said her home was like a museum, and it was.  Aunt Ricky had beautiful crewel work and art on the walls.  She had needlepoint chairs that she and her mother had done.  I asked her how she was able to do so much hand work, she said it was in all those long hours praying for her family during the war, and when she cared for her family when they were sick. Every stitch holds a prayer for someone she loved.  Everything in her house held a special memory to Aunt Ricky, whether it was time spent with people she loved or places she had traveled. She worked hard, and every year went on a big trip.  She took Weezy, her baby sister Marilyn with her on many trips.  She rode a donkey down the Grand Canyon, skied the slopes in Colorado, all the while with her little black camera with the flash bulbs.  She was the one who documented the family events. 

Aunt Ricky kept wonderful records of her father’s experience in WWI and her ancestors.  History and family were very important to her.  She was very active in the DAR and had accumulated wonderful pictures and stories of her relatives.  I wouldn’t say Aunt Ricky was stubborn, perhaps a better word would be persistent.  If she wanted something, she would write letters, and she WOULD get an answer.  She wanted an autograph copy of “Rickenbacker, An Autobiography”.  She didn’t get a response from Prentice-Hall so she wrote to Edward Rickenbacker and made her request.  He responded, “My dear Miss Horton…I am terribly sorry to hear that Prentice-Hall had failed to this degree.”  Needless to say, Aunt Ricky got her autographed copy of his book.

She must have been old when I met her, but she never seemed old to me.  One time during a summer visit she wanted to ride on Mark’s tractor.  She wore a big overcoat, even in the summer, and always a hat.  She fell off, got up and brushed it off, and had Georgia red clay all over her coat.  I think that coat always bore the stain of Georgia’s red clay and became another memory for Aunt Ricky.

Aunt Ricky had a wonderful way of diverting the conversation.  She would not be drawn into any topic that was negative.  “OH REALLY” and the conversation would be abruptly changed.  I have found that technique quite useful. Another Aunt Rickyism was “What was the best thing that happened to you today? It was a conversation we all had after every outing with Aunt Ricky, and still have today with family and friends.

Having a Blue Moon at the Pub
Philadelphia Flower Show with Mark and Jeff
Always an adventure with Aunt Ricky

Some other phrases and things I remember about Aunt Ricky: 

In all things be thankful

More time to pray

Ricky’s Blue Moon

Pink bathroom

She always smelled of roses

Soft Hands

Walking to the Pub

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Philippians 4:8

This is the way Aunt Ricky lived her life.  In her own words Aunt Ricky would leave you with this:

LIVE     LOVE     LAUGH    



One reply on “Remembering Aunt Ricky”

Linda, this is beautiful. Thank you for sharing these stories. I am laughing through my tears. It is touching to learn that the same things I thought were so special for *me* were done with as much love for so many others in her life: touching the Eagle’s feathers, seeing where pennies were made, getting a state quarter, and newspaper clippings. Where did she find the time?

Your word choice of “persistent” is apt. I never knew anyone with such determination who could always get what she wanted by asking. I was constantly amazed by what opportunities she could unlock by a humble request to the right person. There was no manipulation — it was like anyone could see how pure of heart she was, and they immediately felt honored to help her do whatever was asked.

Her superpower of positivity cannot be overstated. It is a real gift we all received, and that is one I hope to practice and pass on to others. Even my best effort emulating her positive attitude could only produce a fraction of that which she had in such limitless abundance.

I think I will clip that Philippians quote to hang in my house and train my brain to “think on these things.” It is needed now, as ever. If that (and praying while stitching) got her through wartime, then it seems like a practical means of achieving happiness in even the darkest times.

Thanks again for the lovely memories and pictures. I am so grateful to you for sharing them.

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