Column: Luna Ricker was quiet, courageous and everywhere

  • Paul Keane. Copyright (c) Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

For the Valley News
Friday, September 27, 2019

I first met Luna Ricker 32 years ago, in 1987, when I came to Hartford High School as an English teacher. She was behind the front desk at 8:10 helping the main office staff take morning attendance, a critically important job to determine if every mother’s kid arrived at school safely. By 9:30, every parent whose child wasn’t present was notified, every day for the next 30 years, with Luna’s help.

I say “help” because I never knew what Luna’s title was. I knew she had a staff position as teacher of physical education and physical therapy, but in everything Luna did at Hartford High, she was never called “Ms. Ricker.” She was just “Luna,” and everyone at Hartford High, indeed in the Hartford School District, knew who Luna was.

Luna H. Ricker, who died at age 71 on Sept. 21, was everywhere, at once, all the time. There’s a fancy word for that — “ubiquitous.” I know that word because it describes what Melville said about the great white whale Moby Dick: “He’s been spied a thousand miles apart in oceans at the same hour on the same day.”

Anyone who has worked at Hartford High knows the same was true of Luna: She was spied at all activities at the same hour on the same day. Basketball, she was there; Honor Society induction, she was there; drama production on the high school stage, she was there; Town Meeting in the auditorium, she was there; students boarding a bus for an off-campus game, she was there.

I use the mariner’s term “spied” because she was always in the background and would have to be spied, as by a lookout on a whaling ship, in order to be located.

Luna was the great un-snagger.

If there was an event going on at Hartford High, she would “keep an eye” on it to make sure everything ran smoothly. This wasn’t part of her job description, it was simply her self-appointed desire to be useful. Hartford High was not just her employer, it was her alma mater.

If an activity didn’t look like it was proceeding well, she would warn you (as she did me, as adviser of the Honor Society and the prom, many times) or just start un-snagging the event herself. If chairs needed moving, Luna moved them. If ice skates needed to be delivered to the hockey locker room, she delivered them. If pizza needed to be picked up for a group at the school’s front door, she was there to pay the bill and accept the pizza boxes herself.

For 30 years, Luna Ricker was to Hartford High School what the Green Mountains are to Vermont — central to the institution’s identity, but a beauty taken for granted. And that’s the way Luna wanted it. She was embarrassed the few times she received formal recognition for her service — once on the ice at a hockey event, and another at her retirement almost two years ago.

There’s another thing that needs saying: Luna was a quiet, courageous example of women’s liberation. She wore khaki pants and a shirt and sweater, often with windbreaker and sweatshirt and, most often, running shoes. That was her uniform for 30 years. Her amazingly thick hair, which grew gray and then white over the years, was parted on the side in a timelessly comfortable design. Add to that a pair of thick glasses with pointed rims and you get the picture: an absolute refusal to surrender to the pressure on women to bend to fashion. Luna dressed the same way in 2017, the year she retired, as she did in 1987.

I am proud to have been part of the school system she so ably kept un-snagged in a thousand unseen ways every day for 30 years. She made things easier for all of us,

There’ll never be another Luna.

Paul Keane lives in Hartford.