For more than 25 years, Wayne Ricks, his two daughters and his wife, Doris, have relied on athletics and education to draw the family closer.
Ricks was a Kansas University football teammate of standout Nolan Cromwell in the 1970s.
He's spent countless hours watching his daughter Kizzie, 25, play the viola or win state championships as a hurdler for Lawrence High School, or traveling to all of his younger daughter's games. Cherrale, 20, plays basketball for Park University in Parkville, Mo.
"He's very supportive. He's always been there for both of us," says Kizzie, the one her dad calls the "family brainiac."
Kizzie, a Tennessee State University graduate, teaches and coaches at French Middle School in Topeka.
"He will do about anything for us if we need it," Cherrale said.
Who is Wayne Ricks, and how did you end up in Lawrence? How would you describe yourself to others?
My wife and I, we were high school sweethearts. We started courting on Valentine's Day. When I left Hutchinson Community College to come to KU in 1975, I told her I didn't know if I was coming back (to Virginia), so she decided she wanted to come out here with me. We loaded up our 1972 Chevy Nova, which I still have in the garage, and we came out here.
I'd say that I am very caring, dedicated, strong-willed. Willing to give my last for those that want to excel.
What is your earliest memory of being a father?
July 6, 1980 - when Kizzie was born. I was there. She was born, and after it was all said and done, and her mother was in labor for 21 hours, I remember calling my mom and telling her about it. It was so touching that I nearly broke down and cried. The next one would be when Cherrale was born. They were very similar, yet so different.
What is your strongest family memory?
I would say it was Kizzie's junior track year. We were at Wichita, and it was the finals because I videotaped everything, and I believe it was both the 100 meters and 300 meter hurdles. Kizzie was trailing in both races. She came from behind and won.
What advice would you give to young or soon-to-be fathers?
The biggest impact of any kid is just what I said: Visibility, being there. As I grew up, my father was not there. I don't think my father saw me participate in anything. I played football, basketball and ran track. My mother was there, but it's not the same. I was going to be there for my kids. And I think that has been the biggest impact on their lives.
Family: Wife, Doris; daughters, Kizzie, 25, middle school teacher and coach; and Cherrale, 20, college basketball player. Job: Molding department manager at Meridian Automotive Systems in Kansas City, Kan.; worked at Berry Plastics, now Packerware Inc., in Lawrence from 1983 to 2005. Born: Nashville, N.C.; grew up in Newport News, Va. Education: Bachelor of Science degree in secondary education, Kansas University, 1982.
You and Doris have been married 26 years. What advice would you give young couples?
Patience. We've been married for 26 years, and it has not been easy. We have had our challenges, but the biggest thing I think has helped us is communication. I realized that she is there. She's my partner, and she can help me. She is also my friend. I have to allow her to see what really made me tick. Because of that, that really made us stronger.
What do you believe is Lawrence's most critical issue right now?
Diversity - I think that Lawrence still has a ways to go in addressing that issue, and I think what we as people need to be able to do is to look at an individual, realize that they have a different background, that their culture is a little bit different and accept them for that.
How would you address that?
Having more seminars or forums to let people know what's available. Because sometimes you just don't know what's out there. If someone doesn't let you know that those doors are open, then you really won't go into that.