In loving memory: Shocco Springs’ George Ricker

George Ricker, director of Shocco Springs Baptist Conference Center in Talladega from 1970 to 1989, died July 2. He was 94.

Originally from Fackler, Alabama, Ricker lived out his days in Talladega after retiring from Shocco.

He was a graduate of Samford University in Birmingham; Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas; and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Along with serving in various roles in Alabama Baptist life for 37 years, he also served as pastor of three churches in Alabama and Texas before ultimately landing at Shocco.

‘Immeasurable’ influence

Ricker, who was Shocco’s first full-time director, led in the development of two master plans that set the course for future development of the Shocco Springs ministry. He oversaw major renovations in several buildings and four major construction projects which provide modern accommodations and meeting space that are still the premier buildings on campus. Current Shocco staff describe the impact of his vast legacy as “immeasurable.”

He afforded many young people the opportunity to work as summer staff at Shocco, and as a result of their positive experience and God’s calling, many of these young people accepted the call to full-time ministry. Ricker was known for saying, “Shocco is good for students who come here and work, but the students are also good for Shocco.”  

Many pastors, associational missionaries, state missionaries, campus ministers and others have shared testimonies about how Shocco and Ricker positively influenced their lives and ministry paths.

Example to follow

Russell Klinner, Shocco’s current executive director, said he has heard similar stories as he as traveled the state since being named to the position in 2017.

“I have had the opportunity to … hear many stories of lives that have been impacted eternally by the ministry of Shocco Springs,” he said. “Dr. Ricker’s life intertwines in some way with each and every one of these. Countless salvations, marriages, calls to ministry and life experiences are the direct result of his passion for spreading the gospel to the world through his influence at Shocco Springs.

“He ultimately embodied a life of Christian influence for us to follow as he walked as a disciple of Christ at every turn,” Klinner said.

Mentor and friend

Shocco’s Wendy Westerhouse, a close family friend to the Rickers, added, “He was an encourager and mentor to me. … What a blessing in my life to have known and loved him.”

Buster Taylor, who followed Ricker as director of Shocco until his retirement in 2017, is another of the many people Ricker mentored.

“When I came to a place of mastering an area of work, he was always ready to provide the next challenge,” Taylor said, noting Ricker’s high regard for doing things with excellence. “The culmination of these challenges helped prepare me for my biggest challenge, following in his footsteps as director of Shocco Springs.

Not only was he a mentor to me personally but also to my family. He loved our family, especially our children, Joy and David. He spent time with them, was their encourager and cheerleader. They looked to him as a grandfather and he nurtured them like grandchildren,” Taylor said.

“He also had a forward-minded vision for what Shocco Springs could be. He did not allow his vision to be limited to what had been done in the past but always looking for what could be done in the future.

“This helped move Shocco Springs from just a seasonal assembly to a conference center offering event opportunities year around,” Taylor said. “His vision helped set the stage for what Shocco has now grown into, one of Baptist’s finest conference facilities.”

Retirement years

After his retirement in 1989, Ricker became quite proficient as a trip planner visiting many foreign and domestic destinations. He served interim pastorates in Alabama, Hawaii, Alaska and Germany, and a short-term missions assignment in Japan with the then-Foreign Mission Board. 

And back home in Talladega, Ricker became the unofficial chaplain at Jack’s restaurant each morning praying with people over their concerns while also continuing to serve the Lord through various roles at First Baptist Church, Talladega, where he was a member.

In recent years, his final ministry was to his visitors and caregivers. He listened, laughed, prayed with them about life’s challenges and shared Christ through his actions and words. He was always quick to say, “To God be the glory.”

Among his many honors and tributes in Alabama Baptist life, Ricker also was honored by the Talladega city council and mayor in 2009 for his accomplishments at Shocco and to acknowledge his positive influence on the citizens of the City of Talladega.

He was preceded in death by his wife of 66 years, Iva Nelle. He is survived by two sons and their wives: Stephen and Debbie Ricker and David and Susan Ricker. 

Services set for July 11

Ricker’s celebration of life service will be July 11th at 11 a.m. at First Baptist, Talladega, with visitation beginning at 10 a.m. The graveside service will be at 3:30 p.m. at Mount Carmel Baptist Cemetery, Bridgeport.

In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be sent to Shocco Springs Baptist Conference Center, 1314 Shocco Springs Road, Talladega, AL 35160.