Dennis W. Rickman
Sisk-Butler Funeral & Cremation Services
730 Gastonia Hwy
Bessemer City, NC
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 (
Published by The News & Observer on Feb. 24, 2010.
To plant trees in memory, please visit the Sympathy Store.
To offer your sympathy during this difficult time, you can now have memorial trees planted in a National Forest in memory of your loved one.
Funeral services provided by:
Sisk-Butler Funeral & Cremation Services
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I am very sorry to hear of Dennis's passing. I got to know Dennis as a fellow improvisor at The Groundlings in Los Angeles. Dennis was a professional onstage and a gentleman offstage. Lost contact with each other over the years. He is gone but not forgotten.
Gene Meeker
March 4, 2010
Dennis was one year ahead of me in high school, but he was always a very pleasant and friendly person. As I write this, I lost my Mother, who was 81 years old only 18 hours ago. My heart aches for the Rickman family as well as mine. Woody Poplin Class of 1970 ASHS.
woody poplin
February 28, 2010
Cathy and Abbie,
We were so saddened to hear of Dennis' passing. We are grateful to have had the opportunity to get to know your family through the neighborhood and carpooling. May God comfort you during this difficult time.
The Sterling's
February 26, 2010
As a classmate of Dennis at Albemarle Senior High School, I remember him as a kind and gentle soul. I will always think of him fondly and admire and respect his many achievements. My sympathies go out to his family.
Mary Lou Sharkey
February 26, 2010
The very first class I attended at UNC was Freshman English. Dennis sat next to me in that class. He made a positive impression on me. I sat next to him for the rest of the semester. We never had any other classes, but I've never forgotten him. My sympathy goes out to the Rickman family.
Brant Hart
February 24, 2010
I am so sorry to hear about the death of your son Dennis. I will keep you and your family in my prayers. I will also let the members of Grace know tomorrow.
Terri Best
Terri Best
February 23, 2010

So sorry to hear of Dennis' death. He had a long, hard struggle and was such a good man. Know that you are in my heart and prayers.

Lucy Mull
February 22, 2010
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