3Johns  At first, I didn’t want to write my father’s obituary. While I know he loved me and I loved him, our relationship was about as far from a “Brady Bunch” kind of vibe as you can get. Anyone who regularly reads this blog has likely picked up on that already. In the end, I’m glad that my mother insisted that I be the one to write my father’s obituary because it inadvertently allowed me to give my father the one thing I could never give him as a child: the validation he so desperately sought. Without realizing that it would, this simple act of capturing the essence of his life has afforded me a sense of closure that will surely help sustain me through the viewing and visitation this weekend. So, without any further ado, here is what I wrote in honor of my father:

The recent passing of John Ribner leaves his family grieving their tremendous loss, and the community bidding farewell to a loyal friend, supporter and mentor.

John Richard Ribner, age 76, died Monday, May 4, 2015, at his residence. Left to cherish his memory are his wife, Dolly; son: J.P. and wife Rosemary; four grandchildren: Jorie Jukes, Jacob Esmay, Draco Esmay and Johnny Ribner; and three siblings: Theresa Ribner, Annabelle Ribner and Michael Ribner. John was preceded in death by his parents John and Mary (Gasca) Ribner, sisters Mary (Ribner) Kocaj, Margaret (Ribner) Hallead and Veronica Ribner.

John was born September 20, 1938, in New York City. As a young man growing up in the Yorkville section of Manhatten, he nurtured his love for sports, primarily stickball and baseball. His love for the game of basketball – a defining characteristic of his life – was inspired by watching Bob Cousy play for the Boston Celtics. This seminal moment inspired young John to tell his father that he wanted to play basketball, to which the senior Ribner replied, “If you’re going to do it, then be the best you can be.” John easily lived up to his father’s words.

From the courts in Harlem to Carl Shurz Park and beyond, the Big Apple served as the crucible where John forged his phenomenal skills. After playing for St. Anne’s Academy in New York City, he took his game to North Branch High School in North Branch Michigan, where he continued to set records during his awe-inspiring performances on the court. These skills earned him an athletic scholarship to Central Michigan University, where he continued his dedication to the game as one of CMU’s most-celebrated players.

While at college, John fell in love with an aspiring young teacher from Flint, Michigan named Dolly E. Mears. Shortly after graduating, the two married on August 6, 1966 at All Saints Catholic Church in Flint. They accepted teaching positions in the burgeoning Flint Community Schools system, where John taught at Fairview Elemenatry School, Holmes Junior High School, Whittier Junior High School and the Kennedy Center. An English teacher who was a voracious reader himself, he introduced many students to the joys of classic literature, inspiring many to become lovers of the written word, themselves.

During his noted career, John was awarded “Educator of the Year” by the Flint Board of Education in 1992, and was named “Educator of the Year” in 1993 by the Sales and Marketing Executives of Flint. He also was honored by Flint Youth Project’s 15th Annual Roast and Toast on September 23, 2009. His accomplishments were read to the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Dale Kildee. While these awards were prestigious, they pale in comparison to his greatest accomplishment as a teacher: the number of lives he touched, and the legacy of inspiration he’s left behind with the many students who’ve remained near and dear to his heart.

While John’s competitive basketball-playing days ceased after college, he nurtured a love for the sport in others. The court in his driveway on Jennings Road was the premiere destination for many young men who came as much to absorb his knowledge and experience as they did to shoot a game. In this capacity John truly shined, as the advice and help he offered transcended the game to offer some much-needed life advice to many. Needless to say, he’s remembered fondly by everyone who’s ever taken a shot on the old “titanium ten-footer.”

No recollection of John’s life would be complete without mention of his community service. He was a passionate believer in the concept of paying a “civic rent,” which he defined as giving back to the community. From raising an enormous amount of money for Baby Tabitha (a severly ill child in Pittsburgh) to providing Thanksgiving turkeys to hundreds of needy familes, John always led by example. In his latter years, he remained involved in the Westwood Heights school district, both as a board of education member and a comunity advocate.

John Ribner was truly an amazing person, and no amount of words can capture all the good he’s done or the number of people he inspired. What is undeniable is that his unique personality and infectious optimism always made an indelible impression upon everyone he met. This was evidenced by the outpouring of thoughts, rememberences and prayers his wife, sons and siblings have received within the days following his passing. The family wishes to extend their gratitude for everyone’s support during this most difficult time.

John’s family will be present to receive friends on Friday, May 8, 2015, from 3pm to 8 pm at Swartz Funeral Home in Flint. The funeral service will take place at 11am, Saturday, May 9, 2015, at St. John Vianney Catholic Church in Flint. Friends may share a memory with the family at the funeral home or online at http://www.swartzfuneralhomeinc.com.

  1. Mia Southafricanwhitegirl Valenti says:

    very nice.

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