Dennis White Rickman, an Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology and Neurobiology at Duke University, died Sunday, February 21, 2010 at home in Durham
surrounded by family and friends.
Dennis was a man of remarkable talents. He was a skilled actor who performed with The Groundlings in Hollywood while pursuing his doctorate. He was an deft
magician adept at card tricks and feats of misdirection. He was a polished writer of poignant stories about growing up in Albemarle, collected as ``Southern Exposure.’’
Some of his tales were recorded by professional actors, journalists and musicians who were among his many friends. Dennis was a loving father to Abbie Nicole Rickman, 14, and best friend and husband, of Catherine Bowes Rickman. He is also survived by his mother, Abbie
(Alva Jane) Lindsay Rickman Shumate, and his brother, Robert Bryan Shumate.
He will be deeply missed by his family and many friends across the globe.
Dennis was admired as a gentle, compassionate man who cherished his family and maintained close friendships with people he met in his travels. He was a
consummate gentleman who made a point of watching out for the welfare of others.
Dennis was an accomplished scientist who studied the retina. In his long quest to find cures for degenerative eye diseases he created ScifEyes, a non-profit dedicated
to research in stem cell biology to restore eyesight. Comedian and actor Will Forte, a fellow alumnus of the Groundlings troupe, is the group’s national spokesman.
Dennis’ long battle with leukemia was won with the donation of bone marrow from Stephanie Deutsche, a stranger from Germany who signed up at age 19 for an
international bone marrow registry. Stephanie became Abbie’s surrogate sister soon after the successful transplant in 1996. Their story was told on National Public Radio on “The Story with Dick Gordon” in 2005.
Dennis was born in Charlotte in 1951 and grew up in Bessemer City and Albemarle. He graduated in 1978 from the University of North Carolina at Chapel
Hill with a degree in Psychology. In 1991, he earned a doctorate in Anatomy and Cell biology from the University of Southern California.
Visitation will be held Thursday Feb. 25, 2010 from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. at Sisk-Butler Funeral Home in Bessemer City with a service following in the chapel. Burial to follow at Bessemer City Memorial Cemetery, NC.
A memorial service will be held at 4:00 p.m. Friday Feb. 26, 2010 at the Eno River Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 4907 Garrett Road, Durham, to celebrate the life of an extraordinary man.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (http://www.leukemia-lymphoma.org/hm_lls