Rick Starbuck

We gather this afternoon to mourn the loss and to celebrate and remember the life of Richard L. “Rick” Starbuck.

Today we look for comfort and the best place to look for that comfort is in the Word of God.

David wrote,

     For his unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth. He has removed our rebellious acts as far away from us as the east is from the west.  The LORD is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him. For he understands how weak we are; he knows we are only dust. Our days on earth are like grass; like wildflowers, we bloom and die. The wind blows, and we are gone as though we had never been here. But the love of the LORD remains forever with those who fear him.  His salvation extends to the children’s children of those who are faithful to his covenant, of those who obey his commandments! Psalm 103 (NLT)

Jesus said,

          Let not your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me.  In my fathers house are many mansions; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go and prepare a place for you?  And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.  You know the way to the place where I am going…Jesus said, I am the way, the truth and the life, no man comes to the Father except through me. (John 14)

The Apostle Paul wrote

          We do not lose heart.  though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  so we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary and what is unseen is eternal. (2 Cor. 5)

With these promises in our heart, let’s turn to the Lord in prayer.

Our Father, we turn to you this afternoon as the Lord of life.  We are numb from the shock of the activities of this last week.  One week ago we would have never dreamt we would be here today.  We turn to you for comfort and for strength.  Draw us close and help us as we seek to see beyond the heartache of the present.  We ask this in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

Rick Starbuck was born June 27,1954 in LaHarpe to Martin and Isabel (Petty) Starbuck.  Rick was raised on a farm near Blandinsville and attended the Blandinsville grade school and graduated from Northwestern High School in 1972.

In 1972 he married Debbie Fox. They had two sons, Eric and Adam.  In 1992 he married Lesa (Eich) Hall in Blandinsville.

Rick worked for NTN Bower for 20 years.  When Rick and Lesa moved to Fairbury Rick took a job as a laser machine operator at Nichols Homeshield in Chatsworth.  He also worked for a few years at Bridgestone-Firestone and then returned to Nichols Homeshield.

Rick died on Sunday, April 20, 2003  at 2:50 p.m. at the hospital in Normal from a pulmonary embolism following back surgery.

He is survived by his wife, Lesa,

His mother, Isabel Starbuck

His sons, Eric (Jamie) Starbuck,

Adam (Jennie) Starbuck

Eric Hall

Two Brothers, Tom (Connie) Starbuck of Macomb and Rod (Cindy Starbuck) of Blandinsville

One sister Karen (George) Hendricks of Louisville KY..

One Grand-daughter: Hannah Nicole Starbuck

And several nieces and nephews

He was preceded in death by his father, Martin Starbuck

I did not have the privilege to know Rick Starbuck.  It sounds like he was a man who enjoyed life.  I’m grateful for what I’ve learned about Rick this week.

When Rick was just six years old his sister Karen was born.  Rick was unimpressed and said he would much rather have a bicycle.  Later he decided it would be OK to keep Karen.

When Rick was just a baby he fell through a coffee table during a tornado.  He had a scar for a long time from the fall

As a young man he was taught to work hard as a corn sheller and putting up hay.

One memorable night Rod attended the initiation for a fraternity and wasn’t expected home.  When he got home he found the doors locked so he went to the window of the bedroom that he shared with Rick.  He banged on the window for Rick to let him in.  Rick wasn’t fully awake so while Rod was trying to open the window, Rick was trying to keep it closed to keep this intruder out of the house.  I think Rick finally woke up and let his brother into the house.

Rick had many interests.  He enjoyed hunting and fishing.  In fact, he had asked for some hunting videos for his recuperation time after his back surgery.

Rick was involved in Track in high school in the Shotput and Discus.  He set a school record in the Shotput.

He enjoyed playing pool and he would tell you that he was a better pool player than his brothers.  His brothers would tell you differently.  Frequently during their time in town on Friday and Saturday the boys would end up in a fight over who was the better pool player.

Rick was an excellent bowler.  He was known for his big hook. Before he had back problems he bowled four nights a week and had an average in the 190’s.  He had a 300 game and came very close a couple of other times. He traveled to many local, state and national tournaments. Many bowling alleys knew Rick Starbuck.  Rick enjoyed the father and son bowling tournaments each spring.

Rick loved oldies music and I’m told that his favorite song was “When a man loves a Woman”.

Rick was a family man.  He loved attending the games, concerts and other activities of his kids.  One story indicates his character.  A few years ago when he was recuperating from a fall that fractured three vertebrae, he drove all night with Lesa to attend a Sooner football game on Band Parents weekend for his step-son Eric.  When he arrived, he found he had to climb 92 steps to get to their seats!  It had to hurt but he climbed to his seat without a complaint and always with a smile and a joke of some kind.  He was a big Sooner fan and seemed to always be in his jeans and a Sooner shirt.

Rick was known for his homemade pizza.  I hear it was considered to by dynamite pizza.  But I’m also told it was sometimes known as diarrhea pizza!  I’m not too sure how that all fits together.

Rick was a man who cared about others.  He was a great dad and a great uncle to his niece and nephews.   Rick was the guy who would be out collecting money for a death, birthday, or other project.  He was eager to do whatever he could do to help someone else.  He loved spending time with his family.  He missed his dad a great deal.

Rick supported Lesa in her job as band director in the Prairie Central School District. He knew many of the kids and even called them “his kids”.  He was always the one who helped to put out the drum major podiums for marching band performances.  Many people in the community remarked that Rick was just as much a part of the music program as Lesa was.

Rick grew up in the church.  He was baptized as an infant and then later professed his faith and was baptized in the Baptist church.  He and Karen were baptized on the same day.  Unfortunately it was a day when the heater in the baptistery wasn’t working. In the cold water Rick remarked to Karen that he hoped this was not one of those days that Rev. Peterson went into one of his lengthy prayers!  Rick and Lesa were still looking for a church home when he died.

Rick Starbuck was a man that people enjoyed being around.  All who knew him will miss him greatly.


Let’s face it, there is nothing fun about a funeral.  As we gather today our hearts are heavy.  You are never ready to let go of the people you love.  In this case things are even harder.  Rick Starbuck seemed way to young to die.  Back surgery should not have been life threatening.  The shock of what has happened makes us numb.

It’s important that I share a couple of things today.  First, I want you to know that grief is normal.  It’s ok to cry.  It’s normal to be angry.  It’s appropriate to be numb and perhaps feel nothing.  When you love someone, it hurts to lose him or her.  When you love someone sometimes you care so much that you physically can’t comprehend the loss, so your system shuts down for a while.  You get numb.  This is God’s way of helping us cope.

When King David’s infant son was dying, he fasted, prayed, and pleaded with God to save the child’s life.  But the child died.  When his older son died he wept loudly.  Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus his friend.  Tears are appropriate.  Author Max Lucado writes,


Those tiny drops of humanity. Those round, wet balls of fluid that tumble from our eyes, creep down our cheeks, and splash on the floor of our hearts. They are always present at such times. They should be, that’s their job. They are miniature messengers; on call twenty-four hours a day to substitute for crippled words. They drip, drop, and pour from the corner of our souls, carrying with them the deepest emotions we possess. They tumble down our faces with announcements that range from the most blissful joy to darkest despair.

The principle is simple; when words are most empty, tears are most apt.

A tearstain on a letter says much more than the sum of all its words. A tear falling on a casket says what a spoken farewell never could. What summons a mother’s compassion and concern more quickly than a tear on a child’s cheek? What gives more support than a sympathetic tear on the face of a friend?

That task, my friend, was left for the tears.

Grief is normal and appropriate.  Do not be embarrassed by your grief . . . it testifies to your love.

There is a second thing I need to say to you: there is more to life than what we see.

Rick Starbuck died on Easter.  It is the day that reminds us that there is life beyond the grave.  Easter reminds us that there is one who has gone before us, one who loved us, conquered the grave, and opens the door of life to anyone who believes.

In some respect, it’s easy to dismiss the whole notion of life beyond the grave as something we need to say in order to get through the hard times.  But this is not an illusion.  The resurrection of Jesus was a fact.  The evidence is overwhelming.  The implications of the evidence bring hope in the time of sadness.

Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life, He who believes in me will live even though he dies and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.  Do you believe this?”

Jesus was talking to his dear friends, Mary and Martha on the death of their brother, Lazarus.  There are three things in His words you need to see.  First, notice the promise:  “He who believes in me will live even though he dies and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.”  Jesus says there is life beyond the grave.  At another time Jesus said, “In my Father’s house are many rooms, if it were not so I would have told you.  I go to prepare a place for you so that you may be where I am.”

The Bible’s teaching is consistent.  There is life beyond the grave.  This life is described as a time and place filled with unimagined joy and the elimination of all that is evil or painful.  We are told “God will wipe away every tear from their eye.”

For the Christian, death is not the end of the story; it is merely the end of the introduction to the story.  Death is a time of transition.  It leads to a time of reunion and celebration.

Practically, this means that though we grieve for Rick Starbuck, we are really grieving for ourselves.  We grieve for our loss, not his.  Rick has been granted the amazing life of eternity.  Rick has been set free from the bonds of this world.  Rick rejoices even as we weep.

Second, notice the condition of the promise, “He who believes in me.”  There are two common views about Heaven.  One view seems to say that everyone who dies goes to Heaven . . . . .except maybe the really really bad people.  The other view says that those people who live good lives go to Heaven.  The Bible says neither is true.

The Bible tells us that none of us have lived good enough lives to earn Heaven.  Heaven is for those who are holy and none of us meet that requirement.  Even the best of us sin . . . and that with some regularity.  Even if we only sinned (did what was wrong in God’s eyes) three times a day (which would be a staggeringly very good day for most of us), that would be 21 times a week . . . almost a thousand times a year!  Our sin-debt is greater than we could ever hope to pay.

The Bible tells us that Jesus died to pay for the sin we commit.  It tells us that our only hope is to receive the gift that Jesus offers us.  The Bible is clear, only those who sincerely and truly trust Jesus Christ will be granted Heaven.

I told you that I don’t know Rick Starbuck.  I know he was raised in the church.  I know he declared his faith when he was baptized in the Baptist church.  I know that Rick heard the truth and I’m trusting that Rick acted on that truth and trusted Jesus Christ as His Savior and sought to follow Him as his Lord.  Rick will be in Heaven today not because he was a decent man (and he was) but because He trusted a perfect Savior.  Our hope of Heaven (fortunately) is not anchored to our goodness but to God’s mercy and grace.

Finally, note the important question.  Jesus asked a key question to the sisters of Lazarus, “Do you believe this?”  He had basically told them what I have just told you.  Now the question is: will you believe the promise of God or won’t you?  Will you affirm the message of Easter or will you follow the way of despair?

Your loss is still going to hurt.  Rick is still gone. But the question is: will you grieve with hope or without it?  Will you trust God or turn away from God?  It’s an important question.  Face it squarely and answer it carefully.

From our perspective this has been a terrible week.  Life has changed for every one of you in this room.  I urge you to hold on to the One who is willing to hold on to you.  And as you do, celebrate Rick’s life.  Remember some of the things he taught you,

  • Some of the things we say we would trade for a bicycle, often become some of the greatest treasures of life
  • Sometimes we fight with the people that mean the most to us
  • You can be upset when others (like Lesa) are busy . . . or you can join them in their work and have something special to share
  • If you give of yourself to others; you plant seeds of your life in the world around you that will live long after you die.
  • Life is short, we ought to enjoy the journey.
  • And finally, Rick reminds us that it is always a good time to make sure you are right with God . . . you may not have the time you think you will have.

Will you pray with me?

Gracious Father, we thank you for the life of Rick Starbuck.  We thank you for his energy, his interests and his heart.  We pray now that you would receive him into your kingdom by your mercy and grace.  Introduce Him to the life that you promised.  Let him know that we miss him already.

Lord, I pray for this family.  Father, prop them up when they are weak.  Help them to remember when they think they have forgotten.  Comfort them when sadness and loss threatens to swallow them.  Help this family and these friends to know you.  Grant that they might hold fast to your promise so that might know hope in the time of sadness and life in the time of death.  Draw us to You so that some day we might be together again, in your house.  Amen.

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