Long-time YMCA employee Ricki Gordon lost her battle with breast cancer on Dec. 26.
Debbie Scraper hardly put her phone down over Christmas weekend.
She was expecting bad news - her friend and colleague from the Roper YMCA, RickiLyn Gordon, was dying.
“She had a zest for life,” said Scraper, who works as the business assistant at Roper YMCA. “She was very bubbly. She talked to anyone. She was a huge Patriots fan and knew everything about sports. She welcomed anyone into her home at any time. That’s just the kind of person she was.”
After a weekend of waiting, the news came through on Facebook.
“Heaven received another angel,” one of Gordon’s family members posted on on Dec. 26, and that’s when Scraper knew Gordon had finally lost her fight with breast cancer.
“I knew she was dying, but it still hit hard,” Scraper said.
It was also a huge loss for the Roper YMCA. Gordon worked the front desk and was known for her attentive customer service.
“People loved her,” said Robert McCormick, the facilities coordinator at the Roper YMCA, who had known Gordon for about six years. “She radiated care and love. I don’t think I ever saw her without a smile on her face.”
Gordon joined the Roper YMCA about six years ago when Scraper recommended her for the front desk position. She had befriended Gordon after meeting her at the Chili’s in Winter Garden and knew Gordon would be perfect for the open position.
“We were looking for someone to hire, and I knew she was the right one,” Scraper said.
Gordon was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014. After chemotherapy, the cancer appeared to be shrinking, but was rediscovered earlier this year when doctors found several tumors in her back.
“She had been saying that her back was bothering her a lot,” Scraper recalled. “Then she found out it was in her bones.”
After her initial diagnosis two years ago, she stopped working at the YMCA as she underwent treatment. Eventually she returned to her position at the front desk.
But when the tumors returned earlier this year, she said goodbye to her job.
Initially, Roper YMCA held Gordon’s position.
“We were hoping she’d come back,” Scraper said.
But Gordon told them to fill her vacancy.
In the months that followed, YMCA members constantly asked about Gordon.
“When you make an impact on people like Ricki did, it’s hard to forget her,” McCormick said.
To pay tribute to the woman who touched so many lives at the Roper YMCA, the staff placed a book at the front desk for members to sign and record their memories of Gordon. It will be given to her family at her celebration of life service on Jan. 13.
“You could always light up a room with your smile” one person wrote. “Be at peace with the Lord.”
“We will miss your warmth and beautiful smile (and your coffee),” another said.
The messages go on for pages.
“Your warmth and beautiful optimism will be missed.”
“I will always remember how kind you were to me.”
“You were special to so many.”
“I will always remember you.”
For the Roper YMCA employees who worked with her for years, it doesn’t seem the same without Gordon around.
“When she would open, you felt a wonderful welcoming energy,” McCormick said. “She always laughed and talked (with you). She had an inner glow that people were attracted to. She cared about everybody. She’s going to be greatly missed.”
Contact Brittany Gaines at [email protected].
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