Green Valley :: Lee Ricketts
Of all the people I met at Green Valley, Lee rises to the status of legend. He was a classic — tall, tanned and slim with a silver crewcut, soft-spoken, and competent at everything. He stood in stark contrast to the hippies, draft dodgers, drifters, and losers who swelled the ranks of GVS staff when I was there is 1971-72. A World War II veteran, Alaskan frontiersman, and commercial fisherman, he actually had skills to teach.
And what a role model. Always patient, in his disciplined way. Unerringly kind. The ideal prosthetic parent for many traumatized, vulnerable, and lost children.
He saw something in me that made him want to take me on as his partner in opening Abbey Farm with 10 kids. I was disciplined enough for the job, but I turned out to be kind of a klutz skill-wise.
Lee appears throughout my Green Valley stories, but here is some more background. I learned some of this during the first few minutes I knew him. When I arrived in Florida to work at GVS, it was Lee who picked me up at the bus stop in front of the BP station. Turned out we were both from the same home town.
Born: 4 Dec 1917
Lee M. Ricketts grew up in St Louis, Missouri. At the time of the 1930 census, he was living on Idaho St with his long-widowed mother Essie, his older brother Louis, and his aunt Hannah. His mother was a packer in a box factory. She was from Missouri and his father had been from Kentucky. At the time of the 1920 census, the mother and two sons were living in Iron County, MO. I imagine that's where Lee was born.
He enlisted in the Air Force on 24 March 1942, from St Louis. According to the record, he was 6'3", 167 lbs, single with no dependents, and a high school graduate.
In 1949 Lee moved to the Kachemak Bay area on the Kenai Peninsula of Alaska, where he made a living as a commercial fisherman in the crab industry. There he adopted Coral, a girl with roots in the local indigenous people. Someone told me there had been a wife but she was long irrelevant by the time I met Lee. I was also told that it was the challenge of raising a feisty daughter that led him to volunteer for service at Green Valley. That was probably late Sixties — I don't have a date.
For some number of summer seasons, he took GVS students up to Alaska to work at crabbing. In May 1971, with me and 10 kids, he opened Abbey Farm in an abandoned farm house uphill from GVS's Buck Brook Farm.
I don't know how long Lee endured at Green Valley after I left in late '71.
Sometime after, he moved to 3 acres on the island of Hawaii.
Died: 14 Sep 2000. According to the Social Security Administration, his last residence was Homer, Kenai Peninsula, Alaska (99603). He got back to his beloved Alaska.
You can hear a recording of Lee's old voice on a video hosted by the Pratt Museum in Homer Alaska. "When I Die" is on the video "Crabbing and Seining." It gave me the chills to hear it. (Thanks to "citygear" for sending me the link!)
The photo of Lee was copped from the Green Valley alumni group photo album. It was taken in Deland FL. Credit: Cathy F.
The vital statistics, military enlistment and census data came from the archives at Ancestry.com.