Ron Ricketts didn’t stop surprising his family.
“We just learned,” said daughter Miriam Queensen, “that back in 1956, he played the baritone horn on a Miles Davis record.”
Ricketts, who was the second trombonist for the Minnesota Orchestra for 37 years, also entertained his daughter with the story of how he got started playing the trombone.
“He said when he was 10,” Queensen recalled, “a music teacher came up to him and asked, ‘Hey, kid, want to play the trombone?’ He answered, ‘Sure what is it?’ ”
Queensen said her father admitted that he initially had some issues with the instrument.
“He said he had a little difficulty assembling it. He said always put the slide in backwards.”
Ricketts quickly mastered the trombone and also became skilled on the bass trombone and the baritone horn.
Ricketts, of Minneapolis, died from heart failure June 28 at a hospice in Edina. He was 87.
Former Minnesota Orchestra member Dave Kamminga said Ricketts had talent. “He owned the trombone. He was the perfect combination of a fine musician and a gentleman.”
Ricketts was born to Raymond Ricketts and Annie Meismer on Dec. 31, 1932, in Detroit. During his high school years, he attended a summer program at the Interlochen Arts Academy. He attended the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia for one year before earning his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Manhattan School of Music.
Before joining the Minnesota Orchestra in 1959, he played in the Asbury Park Band, the Dallas Symphony and the North Carolina Symphony.
“He could have played with anybody,” said Kamminga. “The Asbury Park Band included the best musicians in the New York City area.”
Ricketts also taught at the University of Minnesota School of Music.
“I took lessons with him when I was an undergrad. He was a wonderful player and a very warm and caring teacher,” said U associate professor Dean Sorenson.
Ricketts retired from the Minnesota Orchestra in 1996.
“He had to retire early,” said his daughter. “He had suffered hearing loss and he had tinnitus.”
Kamminga said it came on suddenly. “He was still playing well, but the hearing loss made it difficult for him,” he said.
In retirement, Ricketts stayed physically active as a bird watcher and nature lover, walking and bicycling.
“He went on long walks around the [Minneapolis] lakes,” his daughter said. “At the age of 78 he went on a bicycle tour of Zion Park” in Utah.
He also was an avid reader.
“He had a lifelong curiosity,” said Queensen, “and a lifelong interest in reading.”
That was one common interest that drew Kamminga and Ricketts together.
“He was one of the first people I met when I joined the orchestra,” Kamminga said. “We became friends. We had both grown up in Michigan, so we had that in common, and we shared an interest in reading. Up to the end, he was sending me articles to read.”
In addition to his daughter, who lives in Minneapolis, Ricketts is survived by sons Raymond of Philadelphia and Philip of Minneapolis; daughters Sue-Anne Solem of Chapel Hill, N.C., and Linda Thompson of Santa Cruz, Calif.; six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren; and brother Roger of St. Paul.
His wife, Shirley, died in 2006 at the age of 80. They were married for 51 years.
A virtual service will be held at a later date.