Lopez Island resident Rick Van Eeckhout, 60, passed away peacefully at home surrounded by family on Dec. 23, 2010.
His wife of 24 years, Barbara, and sons Joseph and Nicolas survive him. Additionally, he is survived by brother, Raymond (Linda) of Lake Forest, Ill., and nephew JR. Locally, he is survived by his sister-in-law, Kathy (Kenny) Oberreit, and beloved nieces Marliese, Savannah, Rose and Hope.
Rick grew up in Lake Forest, Ill. Seeking the natural world in a suburban environment, he swam in Lake Michigan, fished in the Des Plaines River and camped in Wisconsin. When he was 20 years old, he attempted (with several friends) to build a raft to float from the Chicago River to the Mississippi.
He served as a reservist in the Air National Guard and attended Devry Institute in Chicago. When he finished technical school, he loaded his Mustang, complete with his canoe on top, and drove west. This solo trip formed his future in many ways — and he finally found his home in the Rocky Mountains. He moved to Colorado in the 1970s and began a career in the ski business, working at A Basin Ski Area in Summit County. The friendships he made there he maintained all his life.
Jackson Hole became his home in 1981, and he worked for the Jackson Hole Ski Resort for 20 years as electrical supervisor for the ski resort. Rick focused his work on electrical systems and controls and he was highly regarded in the ski industry. Self-taught in many ways, Rick became an indispensable member of any team with incredible problem-solving, troubleshooting and technical skills. He was sought out as a consultant by other ski areas and international ski industry manufacturers.
He met his wife, Barbara, in Wilson, Wyo., and they were married in 1986. Their sons were born and they raised them in their early years in the mountains: floating the Snake River, camping in the Tetons and fishing in Yellowstone. He shared his love of the mountains and the wildness of the land, leaving them with an acute awareness of the beauty in nature.
In 1997, the family moved to Lopez Island and became “flatlanders.” Renovating the family home became a passion and full-time job for Rick, and during the last 10 years Rick was employed as the communication technician at Orcas Power and Light Cooperative. He was instrumental in developing the islandwide fiber optics program.
Rick was a lover of life: a dancer, prankster, self-taught historian, loving father and adoring husband. He was diagnosed in June 2007 with mucosal melanoma, and spent the last three years working, traveling and enjoying his family — he maintained his gentle soul and spirit in the midst of a life cut short. He loved the islands, the mountains, Yellowstone, skiing and fishing in the wild rivers of the West. Rick will be remembered by all who loved him in each sunset, birdcall and fish rising in the river.
A memorial service is planned for Jan. 15, 2011 at 11 a.m. at Center Church on Lopez Island. Cards may be sent to 226 Sperry Road, Lopez Island, WA. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Lopez Island Library or San Juan Eagles, c/o Vicki Thalacker, 41 Griffin View Lane, Friday Harbor, WA 98250.
— Family of Rick Van Eeckhout