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Sara Stein and her three sons will make their way to Greeneville, Tenn., this weekend, to bury Craig Ricker next to his mother in his hometown.
Saturday, July 6, 2013
They met at a truck stop in Dublin. She worked the diesel counter; he was a trucker who finally mustered the nerve to approach her.
It took multiple trips and some persuasion, but Craig Ricker eventually won Sara Stein’s affection over a cup of black coffee.
They had eight years.
Ricker, a 42-year-old Buchanan man, died early Thursday in a flood-related incident. Authorities in Botetourt County said he perished while attempting to clear a culvert near his home in the 3200 block of Mount Joy Road.
Stein and her three sons will make their way to Greeneville, Tenn., this weekend, to bury Ricker next to his mother in his hometown.
“He was very humorous, always joking, one of the kindest men I’ve ever known,” Stein said Friday. “Craig had a huge heart, a huge heart for children and animals and his family.”
An employee of Midwest Transport, Ricker trucked U.S. mail around the region. When he wasn’t working, he enjoyed hunting, fishing and paddling in his canoe. Stein said her husband also volunteered with Barn Cat Buddies, an animal placement organization she heads that works to find homes for cats.
“He would help with all the heavy lifting that needed to be done,” she said. “And it didn’t matter what time of the morning or night it was.”
That’s how Diane Novak met Ricker. Both volunteers with Barn Cat Buddies, they recently danced together at the annual Fur Ball, Novak said.
“We danced and he repeatedly stepped on my toes with his big bear feet, and tried to do some groovy dance moves, almost throwing me over,” she said.
“But when it came to Sara and the boys, even though he was goofy at other times, he was a lion,” she said. “With Craig, what you saw was what you got. It was very refreshing.”
Novak said she learned of her friend’s death on Thursday, after a day of heavy rainfall raised the level of creeks and other waterways across the region.
“It would overflow into the driveway and threaten to come down into the house,” Novak said. “He was always trying to stop that from happening.”
Novak said Ricker’s rake snapped while he was trying to clear the culvert, which caused him to lose his footing.
Novak’s voice wavered. She said she’s been trying to comprehend the loss.
“I have not been able to stop crying,” she said. “I can’t make sense of it. Sometimes you rail at the higher power, you know? Why? Why? Why?”
Aside from Stein, Ricker leaves behind his three stepsons: Sam, 18, Jesse, 15, and Charlie, 10. Stein said the funeral is scheduled for Sunday, and that a memorial service would be held in the Roanoke Valley upon her return. Anyone looking to make a donation to the family may donate gift cards or cat kibble at Angels of Assisi in Roanoke. Novak said donations should be addressed to Sara Stein and be mailed to P.O. Box 777, Hardy, VA 24101.
“It’s such an unexplainable tragedy,” Novak said. “It makes me realize how very fragile life is, and how important it is to say I love you when I leave the house.”
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