Richard Stone died June 2020 at age 72 in Boise, Idaho, from end-stage renal disease (ESRD). He and I — his wife, Diann — were fortunate to have shared more than 50 years of adventurous life.
When his kidneys were failing due to kidney disease in his 40s, he chose peritoneal dialysis and registered to be on the waiting list for a kidney transplant. Thankfully, he received a transplant at age 49. That kidney gave him and us 21 years of active living.
The past three years were a challenge. The transplanted kidney was failing and Rick needed dialysis treatments again, which were much more difficult this time. Dialysis is a treatment, not a cure, and there was no hope of another transplant in the near future.
Rick’s family includes his beloved wife, Diann (Kulcinski) Stone; sister Pam and her husband, Farooq Lakhani; brother John and his wife, Joan (Moy); brother-in-law David Kulcinski and his wife, Tin Ngo. He had four sisters-in-law: Donna (Kulcinski) Leahy and her husband, Mike; Maren (Kulcinski) Grow and her husband, John; Judy (Hettrick) Stone; Lillian (Luzar) Stone; and many nieces and nephews. Rick’s brothers Robert “Bob” Stone and D.E. “Gene” Stone predeceased him. Our family and friends will remember Rick’s broad smile, easy laughter and fun-loving, outgoing personality.
Rick grew up in Racine, Wisconsin, where Lake Michigan and the smaller lakes around the state influenced Rick’s passion for sailing. He started with small boats as a child and began crewing for sailboat races during his college years, which we did together. Eventually, we sailed our own boats out of Seward, Alaska, and explored Prince William Sound during summer vacations.
Two of our most memorable sailing vacations were self-skippered charter boats in the South Pacific waters around Tonga and in the Adriatic Sea between Split and Dubrovnik. The places and the people we met while cruising provided many stories shared with friends.
Rick’s love for sailing extended to others through classes he taught with the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary in Anchorage. When he established Puffin Yacht Sales, we held on-the-water lessons and a regatta for new owners of the boats we sold.
Rick took pride in his strong work ethic. As a youngster he shined shoes in front of a neighborhood soda fountain and later sold ice cream treats from a bicycle. Rick was a zookeeper at the Racine Zoo for two college summers, appearing in a photo in the local newspaper posing with a tapir, a new species for the zoo. Many have heard his story about a chimpanzee chomping on his hand when he mistakenly gave a food treat first to the submissive chimpanzee, which angered the dominant one – a mistake he never repeated.
He was a gandy dancer with the railroad one summer, pulling old railroad ties and stacking them alongside the tracks. It was hot, dirty, tiring work that few people today would know.
Working at numerous jobs throughout his younger years served him well in his profession as a vocational rehabilitation specialist. He received an associate’s degree and a bachelor’s degree in industrial and mechanical technology. Then, in his senior year at Stout State University in Wisconsin, he discovered the vocational rehabilitation program. It was a perfect blend of his industrial technology background and his desire to help people.
Rick earned a master’s degree in vocational rehabilitation that led him to career opportunities in Montana and Alaska. He eventually created his own firm, Vocational Evaluation and Rehabilitation Consultants (VERC), in 1982 and managed it for nearly 30 years until retiring.
Rick had great enthusiasm for new interests and activities. He played trumpet in two competitive drum and bugle corps, the Racine Scouts and Boys of ’76. He also taught himself to play guitar and concertina.
In high school he tried ski jumping, and we both enjoyed downhill and backcountry skiing in Montana and Alaska. When we moved to Helena, Montana, in 1972 we learned to pan gold and took our pans with us when we followed mountain roads that led to ghost towns or lakes and streams. When we moved to Alaska the following year our gold panning continued, especially when we camped near Denali National Park (we found flakes but not the hoped-for nuggets).
While living in Alaska, Rick became excited about a series of SCUBA diving lessons offered on a two-for-one special, so we learned a new skill. Rick was tough enough to do his check dive in Whittier, Alaska, on Valentine’s Day, ending the experience with a frosted beard and mustache. (I waited until spring break in San Diego.) Rick often dove with his friend John in coves where we anchored our sailboat, bringing up fragments of dishes and telling the rest of us about the fascinating undersea creatures they would find in the cold, murky waters.
Rick began riding motorcycles in college when he needed an inexpensive form of transportation. He embraced golfing with enthusiasm, taking lessons and improving each year and inspiring young people to take up the sport. He became a fan of pressure cooking, Dutch oven cooking, and meat smoking, experimenting with the wild game he brought home after hunting or fishing.
Rick’s hunting buddies described him as an ethical hunter, enjoying the scouting and fair chase even if he didn’t bring home anything. The camaraderie of his hunting buddies was special to Rick. He hunted as a boy in Wisconsin and later pursued waterfowl, deer and caribou in Alaska and upland game birds, antelope, deer, and elk in Idaho. Rick fished for salmon and halibut and crabbed and shrimped in Alaska, always improving his skills and providing new culinary experiments. He also liked the challenge of archery hunting. We joined archery clubs to improve our skills and especially enjoyed 3-D archery competitions with club members.
Rick loved bonding with his dogs while training them. His first experience was with our Irish Setter, training for obedience and the show ring. Later, he trained another Setter and German Shepherd for avalanche search and rescue in Anchorage. He eventually trained Labrador Retrievers for hunting.
Rick’s friends appreciated the precision and attention to detail he paid to whatever he undertook. He was the go-to gadget guy for information. His latest hobby of building and flying remote-controlled electric airplanes certainly required attention to detail.
I think it was his love of precision that made him a skillful sailor and pilot, tweaking the sails to get a little more speed during a sailboat race, or adjusting the fuel mix and trimming surfaces of the airplane for a faster or more comfortable flight and smoother landing. He took aerobatic lessons and backcountry flying lessons to become a safer pilot.
Rick became an expert at landing at unfamiliar airstrips during our cross-country airplane trips from Alaska to the Lower 48 and across the United States. Backcountry landings on grass strips were always interesting. The first time he landed in the Idaho backcountry with me on board, I asked if there was anything he needed to tell me before we made our approach. He thought a minute and replied, ”Let’s put it this way: We’ll be getting intimate with the trees.” At least I knew what to expect as we made our final turn, which was indeed quite close to the trees. He never made a bad landing, and a few times he impressed his instructors or the official conducting a proficiency check. Once, after a skillful landing at the Talkeetna, Alaska, airstrip the manager of a well-known backcountry flight operation asked Rick if he wanted a job.
His attention to detail, combined with the drafting courses he took in high school, enabled us to design and build our own house in Anchorage. After observing many cabins and houses under construction, we came up with our preferences, and Rick visited building sites to sketch how the corners went together or how the roof attached to the trusses. He drew all the required plans for permits. Building the house ourselves was superbly rewarding and brought out the best in our friends, who contributed their skills. The house was featured in a newspaper article and has stood the test of time and earthquakes.
Rick and I were avid campers since our wedding trip in 1970. With wedding gifts of camping gear we drove to Canada, Vermont, New Hampshire and upstate New York for two weeks. The following year, my dad helped us convert a van into a camper with a platform bed. That journey began in Wisconsin, followed the Mississippi River to Louisiana, then along the Gulf Coast and on west to California. We visited family and friends along the way and saw amazing landscapes of several national parks. From California it was north to Washington, into Canada, and then back to the northern tier of the U.S. before returning to Wisconsin.
We began backpacking while living in Montana and continued during our first years in Alaska, making some of our own gear like a tent, down sleeping bags, parkas, and booties, all of which helped Rick during his winter camping with friends. Camping continued in a pickup camper during dog retriever trials in Alaska. We tent camped under the wing of our airplane, most notably at the EAA Oshkosh Fly-in.
After moving to Boise, Idaho, in 2000, we sold our second airplane and bought our first fifth-wheel trailer. Twelve years of wandering seasonally in a fifth-wheel took us to Mexico for two winters, into Canada, across parts of the northern U.S. to Gettysburg and Maryland, and along the West Coast from Washington to California, plus several years of wintering in Arizona.
Wanderlust and curiosity took us to several European countries. We traveled independently to England, Spain, Germany, Denmark, took a canal cruise with friends through the Netherlands, and a river cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest. We played water sports and had plenty of fun times during Club Med vacations to several locations in Mexico and one in Martinique. While living in Alaska, our favorite winter destination was the island of Kauai, a pilgrimage we made every year. We loved exploring new places, either together or on separate vacations.
Rick had a deep appreciation of the natural world and was comfortable in the outdoors. Early in our relationship, we discovered we had both gone to the same summer camp during childhood in Wisconsin. Camp Anokijig, established in 1926, provided us with opportunities to learn archery, ride horses, participate in art activities, swim, learn boating skills, and become friends with kids from many different backgrounds. Daily flag raising and lowering and campfire songs and tales were highlights at camp. The positive values that were stressed at Anokijig have stayed with us throughout our lives.
For that reason, I would suggest memorial contributions to Camp Anokijig or another program for youth that exemplifies integrity and leadership. You can go to anokijig.com to donate online or mail contributions to Camp Anokijig, W5639 Anokijig Lane, Plymouth, Wisconsin, 53073. If you donate online, please list Rick’s name in the notes section. If donating by mail, please include Rick’s name on the memo line of your check and list your return address.