Kenneth Leslie Vickerstaff died on Sept. 25 in bed overlooking the beautiful lake bristling with new fall colors in our two-room cabin. He died one day after our 44th wedding anniversary of pancreatic cancer after being diagnosed in late May. Over the four-month period, he had the blessings to see and speak to most of his friends and family and was frequently visited by out-of-towners coming up to see what Ken loved about the Northwoods. Ken had the blessing to know how much he was loved and how he impacted individual lives personally and professionally.
Ken was born on July 26, 1955, in Clinton, Iowa, to William Bentley Vickerstaff and Grace Iten Vickerstaff. He began his infant life in the married dorms at Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa, where 18 years later, he would attend college and graduate in 1977. He spent his youth and high school years in Stevens Point, Wis. His schooling was filled with friends that would become lifelong. Ken was the kind of guy people loved, because he truly loved them back. He was a caring, supportive, lifelong friend. And everyone knew it.
We were married on Sept. 24, 1977, and began our lives in St. Cloud, Minn., working for General Mills. Getting the itch to move on, we settled in Boulder, Colo., for 30 years. Ken was a loving and proud father of two sons, Scott and Bill. He got such joy watching them from his home office, walk across the backyard golf course carrying their golf bags to play or go to work.
Ken worked in the natural and organic food business. He worked for and helped mold new, budding companies such as Celestial Seasoning, Good Earth Baby Food, Silk Soy Milk and many others. In his career, he had the privilege of bringing new food items to the general grocery market. He started in the industry when it was a very small smattering of companies in 1979; he left it when it was a several-billion-dollar industry. His work relationships were those he would call friends. Ken was a willing and great mentor to new people starting in the industry.
We got the itch again to relocate and moved to beautiful Pagosa Springs, Colo., just 15 miles west of the Continental Divide, living there for 13 years. We were enamored by the beauty of living in the mountains with a 2-mile stretch of the San Juan River. Ken became an avid fisherman, though he would say “he was a good friend, a ‘fair fisherman’, and a ‘noble mon’,” to be carved on a bench and placed on the river he loved so much.
Ken was a great story teller and, I should say, enhancer. Each story grew a bit bigger, like the fish he loved to catch, or the golf putts he almost made. His friends called him Vick or Hector, and he was chided frequently for his “hectorisms.” Probably the favorite was when someone asked him what the Colorado state flower was and he replied “the concubine,” of course, we all knew it was the columbine. Ken loved to make people laugh and entertain. He was an easy man to love because he cared so deeply for his family and friends.
In May of this year, we made our final trek to Northern Wisconsin to settle and remodel the two-room cabin on our family lake outside of Lake Tomahawk. We had big dreams of growing old here and spending time with family and local friends.
Ken is survived by me, his wife, Lynne; two sons, Scott and Bill; his mother, Chirpi; and his sister, Katie and husband Guy Roe; and sister-in-law Karen Whitehair and husband Jon. We are also blessed to have Liz, Bill’s significant other, and her son, Brock, in our lives, along with niece Molly Roe and nephew Andy Roe, wife Mary and children McKenzie and Ryan.
Ken lived and loved large. He will be missed.
No services are planned outside of a private spreading of ashes in the spring. Contributions are welcome and can be made to CRI (Cancer Research Institute) in memory of Ken Vickerstaff at www.cancerresearch.org. Donations can be directed to pancreatic research on the website.