MORRIS --When Bill Rickmeyer and his family arrived in Morris in August 1967, they were excited about the educational opportunities for their kids and the opportunity to finally settle down in one place.
Soon, they found a local church and took the opportunity to start getting involved in the community. Over the last 45 years, Rickmeyer has served on community boards, been active with local veterans organizations and volunteered to help those in need through Zion Lutheran Church.
In January, Rickmeyer was awarded the Morris Human Rights Commission's Thomas B. McRobert's Human Rights Award for these contributions to the community.
Rickmeyer, his wife, Phyllis, and their five children arrived in Morris in August 1967 to take over Coast to Coast Hardware (now Ace Hardware). After many years working in management at JCPenney, Rickmeyer said he was tired of the corporate pressure and wanted to get into the hardware business.
The move to Morris also allowed the Rickmeyers to settle down, having lived in St. Cloud, Little Falls, Crookston, Wahpeton and Fargo as Bill was transferred between JCPenney stores.
Soon after they arrived, the Rickmeyers joined Zion Lutheran Church and Bill got involved on the board for West Central Christian Homes and joined the Kiwanis. During his time on the West Central Christian Homes board, the group of Lutheran churches in the area collaborated to build a 28-unit residence in Morris.
“Having worked in management, I knew how to help organize and get things going,” said Rickmeyer.
Fittingly, Rickmeyer has served on several community and civic boards that made long-lasting impacts on the Morris area.
During his time on the board for the DAC, Rickmeyer helped the organization save money on a land acquisition from the University of Minnesota. A friend, Hilford Lee, had donated some farm land to the university about a year before the DAC started their land search.
“[The university] wanted a humongous price per acre,” said Rickmeyer. “When it came to negotiating with the university on the price of the land, I got Hilford to write a letter to the university suggesting that they take into consideration the donation of 17 acres that he made. … The cost of the land for the expansion was basically the legal fees.”
Rickmeyer was also chairman of the board for the Stevens County Industrial Park when the board purchased farmland out near Highway 59, the current location of the industrial park.
Through Zion Lutheran Church, Rickmeyer and Phyllis help with Orphan Grain Train, a program to collect local donations and distribute them to those in need around the world, and deliver meals with Meals on Wheels.
Rickmeyer is also a life member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion, and AmVets. He served for 24 years on Employer Support for the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) and for 20 years on the Selective Service Board and as a past VFW Commander.
Rickmeyer also helped to fundraise and maintain support for the Vets Vans. Volunteer drivers Monroe Estenson, Tom Tomlin, and Lynn Schulz use the vans to take veterans in the area to medical appointments outside the community.
Today, Rickmeyer serves on the district board for the VFW, where he works on his favorite project, the VFW National Home for Children. Located in Eaton Rapids, Mich., the non-profit organization offers military and veteran families a place to live during deployments or during other difficult times.
The 80 acres for the campus were donated by a farmer and support for the home is provided by local VFW chapters.
“This is a fantastic home,” said Rickmeyer.
Although he has served in many capacities in the community, Rickmeyer is complimentary of those who have stepped into his place. He noted that Barb and Tom Hesse of Morris, who currently serve as ESGR, are doing a “splendid job.”
Additionally, the Morris community as a whole has been supportive of the causes that Rickmeyer has worked for.
“When you go out and you need support, the community is very supportive of the veterans organizations,” said Rickmeyer. “Having lived in so many different communities,
Morris is probably one of the most friendly communities we've ever lived in.”
Rickmeyer also encouraged young veterans to step forward and get involved with local veterans organizations.
“We're losing our active members and we need the support of the younger veterans – they have to step forward,” he said.