Updates for Rick Stubbins
Poppy, it has been one year since God called you to be with him. We still miss you so very much. We love you with all of our hearts and souls and not a day goes by that we don't think about you!
Dear, dear friends,
First, Rick and I would like to thank each and every one of you for going on this journey with us. The words of encouragement, expressions of love, prayers, and generosity have lifted our spirits. At the end of a long day, we look forward to reading notes in the guest book. They make us feel connected to our friends and home.
Second, I ask that you be patient with me as I learn to navigate this web site. This is a new concept for me. Also, I hope that you will understand if I canít always write as often as I would like; although I may find Tiffany sneaking in with her own notes.
Last, please forgive any grammatical errors. I will be writing more as a journal. I donít think I will have time for rough drafts, editing, and final copies. So, if any of my students are traveling down this Internet highway with us, please donít bring any of my entries to class with corrections.
Beloved Husband and Poppy
May 22, 1948 Ė November 2, 2008
Greatly missed and dearly loved
Forever in our hearts
November 10, 2008 Ė Monday
As most of you know by now, Rick lost his battle with CLL (chronic lymphatic leukemia) last Sunday evening. He never gave up. He fought to stay with us until the very end. He was determined that the experimental treatments would eventually work. We waited for that miracle until the very end. For reasons we do not know, God needed him more in Heaven.
My family and I were amazed and shocked at the number of friends, students, and former students who attended his viewing and service this past Saturday. I knew it was the teachersí convention weekend. Since Rick spent his entire career teaching, I assumed many of his friends would not be able to attend. I was so very wrong. We were completely unprepared for the outpouring of love he received. It was such a wonderful testament to the person he was and the way in which he lived his life.
Teaching may have been his career, but it was also his passion. He loved the kids. He wanted them not just to learn but also to have fun while in his class. He wanted History to come alive for his students. He wanted them to feel that in his room was a safe haven. He was always worried about the ones he felt he couldnít reach. He wanted to make a difference in each childís life.
I am so very proud of him. So many former students and their parents were there on Saturday. Some I recognized immediately. Others I knew when I heard the name. He wanted to make a difference and he did. I know he was looking down from Heaven with a smile on his face and feeling that his life had a purpose. He had fulfilled that purpose.
Rickís health had begun to decline rather quickly last May. I will never know how he endured the treatments all through June, July, and August. However, he never complained.
The kids were always here. He could no longer even get up to play with them even for a short time. But, they were so good. We would watch them one at a time always stop and stand next to Poppy in his recliner. They would talk to him, give him hugs, and kisses, and share stories with him. They were always the silver lining in his dark cloud.
The last five years have been difficult. Most of them were spent at doctor appointments or hospital stays. Although we hoped for a positive outcome, we secretly knew the worst that we could face. We took hundreds and hundreds of pictures. We always made sure Poppy was in them. We took hours and hours of video. The grandchildren are young. Tiffany and Franís daughter Ellie Parker turned six in June. Jason and AJís son Nicholas Andrew will be six this Friday. Their daughter Alyssa Jean is three and a half. They will never forget their Poppy. We will be watching lots and lots of videos. Ellie sleeps with his picture under her pillow. She wants a trampoline so she can jump to Heaven and be with Poppy. Nicky thinks itís really great because Poppy has a Wii game with a screen the size of a wall. The three of them are very close. We have kept them together here at the house. Poppyís presence is still felt. They run through the house screaming and playing. Everything is as it should be. Nothing has changed. They still feel the love that has always permeated our home. That will never change.
Our Assistant Pastor from St. Paulís Presbyterian Church in Laurel Springs, NJ, officiated the service. My ex-husband Bill Walton and his wife Maureen sang. Rick had told me some time ago what he wanted, just in case something ever happened. He knew which hymns he wanted. He knew where he wanted his service. I made sure it was all there for him.
Some people may think it odd that Presbyterians would ask to have Ave Maria sung. We used to laugh about that. We always said that we would explain that people werenít kneeling; they would be the Protestants passing out! J Until Rick became very ill, I used to bake hundreds of Christmas cookies. My favorite Christmas CD was one by Vince Gil and Olivia Newton John. I would turn on the CD player. When she sang Ave Maria I would just keep hitting replay. Sometimes that song would play for four and five hours Ė non-stop! We would listen to her sweet voice while the sweet aroma of freshly baked cookies would meander through the entire house. We loved it! Thank you, Maureen, for bringing our Christmas memories back. When Rickís voice was still okay we sang in the choir (for years) at St. Paulís; "One Step He Leads" was one of our favorite anthems. Thank you Bill and Maureen for singing that for us. Thank all of you from St. Paulís who sang along with them to that anthem and "Shine, Jesus, Shine." I know Rick was happily singing with us. He had also requested "What a Friend We Have in Jesus" to be sung. I honored all of his requests.
Barry had asked if someone would write a tribute to Rick. He wanted everyone there to have a little glimpse into Rickís personal life. No one knew him better than I did. No one could tell his story the way he would have wanted it, except me. The kids both protested. I could write it, but I had to let someone else read it. No! Only I could write and read our story!!
"Barry asked to have a tribute giving everyone a small glimpse into Rickís life. My choice would have been to start in the middle when he and I began. However, I shall take my fatherís advice and begin in chronological order.
Rick grew up in the idyllic little town of Laurel Springs, New Jersey. He lived in a beautiful, big white house across from a large field. It was a big family Ė his Mom and Dad, brothers Ted and Rob, and sister Mary Jane. His Momís parents, whom he loved dearly, lived upstairs. In the yard was a huge flagpole with the flag hanging in memory of his older sister Kathy.
Summer weekends were spent at their home in Sands Point Harbor, New Jersey. He couldnít wait for those trips. His Dad loved the water and had a boat. Rick would always be following his Dad around. His greatest joy was going out on the boat. Rick, too, loved the water.
His Mom was always taking them fun places. Those were great trips. Years later, we returned to some of those places and watched our children Tiffany and Jason play.
Lucky for me, Laurel Springs went to Collingswood for high school. That was where we met. I was a Sophomore; he was a Junior. We shared a study hall in the cafeteria. We were not all that close together in proximity; however, we faced each other. I was knitting a maroon cable knit sweater for Clothing class. There was no talking, but he would smile at me and I would smile back. He always insisted I was flirting because I raised my one eyebrow. I was fifteen and he was sixteen. It was September 1964. This was when our lives began.
We became best of friends. We tried dating, but itís odd dating your best friend. He spent almost every Sunday night at our home watching TV. He sat through countless slide shows. We never missed Wednesday nights in the summer at the Under 21 Club at the high school. We both loved dancing. He always walked me home. We both attended Glassboro together. Our friendship was a bond that no one could break. Years later he would always tease me that his worse curse was that my family loved him. He said no guy has a chance when the girlís mother loves him.
He and I both eventually married and lost track of each other for 12 years. Fate, by the name of Joe Beierschmitt, brought us back together. Joe is our neighbor Ė Rickís back then. On our anniversary I always told Rick we should send Joe a thank-you card!
Iím not sure why any man in his right mind would want to marry a girl with two pre-teens. Iím afraid it was love at first sight. He taught junior high; Tiffany and Jason were his specialty. On May 18, 1984, Rick and I married and became a family.
Rick was a kind, gentle, loving, compassionate husband, father, Poppy, son, brother, and friend. His family was his life. He lived for the kids and me. If anything went wrong or broke, it was always, "Poppy can fix it." And, he always did.
When our children Tiffany and Jason had three new half-brothers and one half-sister, we all embraced them as our own. We had four grandchildren Max, Tyler, Connor, and Molly before our two even married. There are no "halves" in our family. We are all just one.
Rick and I raised our children together with my ex-husband Bill, his wife Maureen and Tiffany and Jasonís brothers and sister as one big family. We spent all of our holidays together. We vacationed together. Our children only knew self-less, unconditional love. Divorce never divided our family.
Tiffany and Jason both married in 1999. We gained a new son Fran Smith, Jr. and a new daughter Alaina Vasta. Our family continued to grow. I watched Tiffany escorted down the aisle with both of her Dadís - one on either arm.
They were all devoted to Pop. They all even moved to Collingswood to be close. Nothing could have made him happier than when his grandchildren Ellie Parker Smith and Nicholas Andrew and Alyssa Jean Walton were born. He was with them all the time.
Rick had had to accept the fact a long time ago that he would never be able to have children. He used to tell me that he never dreamed that his life would be blessed with so many children.
Rickís legacy will live on through the lives of his children, grandchildren, and extended grandchildren. He taught them so much through the way in which he lived his life. He taught by the way he lived his life, not by what he said.
The last twelve years have been difficult. The last five have been the beginning of the end. I am watching our children and grandchildren deal with unbearable grief. There is a void that will never be filled. Time will ease some of the pain, but he shall always be missed. Tiffanyís best friend is gone; Jason will reach for the phone to talk about sports, and the little ones will wonder who will answer all their questions. Poppy knew everything.
We have been blessed with the long, soft good-bye. We knew the importance of not wasting time on trivial things. We made the best of every moment. Nothing was left unsaid. He fought the most courageous battle I have ever seen. He was determined not to leave us.
He now soars with the angels. His body is healthy. His voice is healed and he sings with the choir. We lived to dance; it was our passion. He is no doubt practicing the two-step and the shuffle and waiting for the day when I shall join him. We shall dance on the clouds and I will laugh with delight as he lets me twirl. I will once again be forever in his arms. But, this time I wonít need to ever let go again.
Our beliefs are very strong. We all know that we will be together one day. Until that day, Sweetheart, Poppy, we shall miss you. You will always be inside our hearts. We love you."
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I will write to Louise Barikian to see if she has her eulogy on the computer. If she does, I will place it in the next update.
There are no words I can use to express the heartfelt gratitude my family and I feel for the generous out-pouring of love for Rick and us. Saturday was a vision far beyond anything we could have imagined. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts. I have received such wonderful, loving cards. Nothing could have been a better testament to the life he lived. He was, indeed a quiet, even-tempered, loving, compassionate, dedicated, caring individual. He shall be greatly missed. Forever in our hearts, forever a part of our lives, we shall always miss your presence in our lives.
I am not really sure how to write this, with all my other emails I knew what to say. My Dad passed away Sunday night (11/2) at 5pm. He was home, which is what he wanted. It was a very long week for him and he was in much pain. As much as I wanted him to stay, I could not bare to see him in pain. He has endured so much over the past few years.
He was with myself and Jason and my Mom. He knew we were with him. And he knows how much he is loved.
I'm sorry if I'm not writing this like I should. This whole time I thought I would be able to handle this and although I am handling everything, I didn't realize how really hard it would be.
I know that he is with God and I know that he is no longer in pain. Right now I just need to focus on my Mom. Although right now she just needs some rest, and phone calls may be too much for her (although you can email), in a few weeks from now, calls, short visits etc I know would be very good for her.
Thank you all so much for praying for us and Pop through all of this. I know that God did hear it. And I know that for some reason he just needed Pop now. I don't know why. I know that one day we will all be together again.
Thank you so much for the emails. I'm sorry I haven't written back, I am just not up to that right now. I have read all of them and sent them to my Mom. They are truly appreciated. Some of you have asked for my parent's email and mailing address. It is:
136 New Jersey Ave
Collingswood, NJ 08108
THIS IS THE OBITUARY THAT WILL RUN WED. & THURS. IN THE COURIER POST
Stubbins, Richard- Age 60 of Collingswood, NJ. After a long, valiant battle with chronic lymphatic leukemia, Rick joined the heavenly choir on Sunday, November 2nd. Beloved husband of Nancy (nee Watson), beloved father to Tiffany (Fran) Walton-Smith and Jason (Alaina) Walton of Collingswood, and beloved Poppy to Ellie Smith, and Nicholas and Alyssa Walton. He was also the adopted Poppy to Max, Tyler, Connor, and Molly (his goddaughter) Walton. In addition, he is survived by his mother, Elsie Stubbins, three siblings, and many extended family members.
Rick was a 1966 graduate of Collingswood High School. A dedicated teacher, he taught social studies at Somerdale Park School for 36 years. He was a life-long member of St. Paulís Presbyterian Church in Laurel Springs. Rick endured many years of treatment and research trials. It was his hope that one day CLL would no longer be a terminal disease. The experiments he was willing to tolerate may one day be part of finding that cure.
Family and friends are invited to visit at the Collingswood Presbyterian Church, Fern and Maple Avenues, Collingswood, NJ on Saturday, November 8th from 11:00 am to 12:00 pm. The funeral service will begin at 12:00 pm. Committal will take place at Colestown Cemetery, Cherry Hill, NJ immediately following the service. In lieu of flowers the family requests donations to the Leukemia Lymphoma Society, 528 Fellowship Road, Suite B, Mt. Laurel, NJ 08054.
This website was created as a benefit for my "Pop" Rick Stubbins. Over the past years, it has turned into so much more. It has been a place for my Mom and I to let you know how we were doing, a place where you sent notes, signed the guestbook and made us feel as if though we were not alone. I have moved the original page that was here To "How It Got Started," where you can read the story behind the website. We will continue to post Pop's progress on the Updates Page.
Thank you God for taking care of us. Thank you for all of the miracles you have blessed my family with. From taking care of my brother Tyler, to my Pop, your miracles never cease.
Once again, I just want to say thank you to God... for everything :) Every day you amaze me.
Happy 2 year anniversary!!
Well, it will be almost a year since we packed up for the summer and headed for Baltimore (tomorrow, June 26, as a matter of fact, Ellie's birthday...) I really can't believe it. And the 7th of July will mark a year since the actual transplant. Once again I cannot thank God enough for watching over us. I know we have been through a lot, but still each day I am lucky enough to have my family. And I know in my heart it is a true miracle. For anyone out there who may question if there is a God or not, please listen to me when I tell you there really is and he loves all of us so very very much. And I am so thankful to him each day.
Words will never express the heartfelt gratitude our entire family would like to express to all of you have traveled this unusual journey with us. It has been you emotional support, your letters, cards, and notes in the guest book. The outpouring of love has been beyond our comprehension. You kept our spirits soaring when things were down. You were my lifeline to home.
It is good to be back in Collingswood. It is taking us a little longer than we anticipated to unpack and settle in. Rick is still very tired. He sleeps four to six hours each day. His hair is growing on his face again. He had to shave for the first time since the transplant. He still has great difficulty with the hand tremors. In his words he is "happy to be alive." The little things you learn to ignore!
Rick still has a long journey ahead of him. He has appointments at Hopkins at one month, six months, one year and two years. In between those appointments he will be seeing our local oncologist. Although our nurse practitioner has been optimistic, they have made it very clear that we are not there yet. Once again, it is a Phase II trial with no statistics.
This is no longer a benefit. However, I would like to continue with the updates when Rick has his appointments. On Friday, we will most likely find out how often he will need to see the specialist. I am hoping that we will find help for his torn rotator cuff. They will be monitoring his counts regularly. The results from the bone marrow biopsy are very important. There are so many friends I know would like to keep up with his progress. This is the easiest way for me to reach everyone.
I am also hoping that we can soon post all the pictures we took. Our days in Baltimore were long and stressful. All the work fell on Tiffanyís shoulders. She was also the only one who could work with the web site. There were just not enough hours in the day for everything.
For those of you who would still like to continue on our journey, please let us know. Feel free to call, e-mail, or sign the guest book. I will be writing thank-you notes (real letters of thanks sent through the post office) to each and every one who "bought tickets" for the benefit. There was such a great peace of mind knowing that we would probably not have to re-mortgage our home. When Rick feels stronger, he will be sending e-mails to friends who signed the guest book. If his strength takes longer to return, I will send the e-mails. Please do not ever feel that Rick is not responding. He is still very weak, tired, and in a great deal of pain. I am thrilled to say that the number of thank-you notes and e-mails will keep us very, very busy!
© Tiffany Smith, 2008. All Rights Reserved..