He taught skiing at Mount Telemark in the winter, captained the Namekagon Queen in the summer and played his beloved trombone every chance he got for several Northwoods bands. Rich Elliker was a renaissance man who did what he had to do to survive the wilds of Northern Wisconsin. Born in Galion, Ohio on April 24, 1931 to Reverend Reuben R. Elliker and Bertha Graber Elliker, he spent his childhood in Galion, attended Heidelberg University and then went on to to Ohio University where he received an M.A. in Human Relations. After brief stints working with Social Security Administration and NASA, Rich went in search of a life less ordinary. He worked at a dude ranch in Gresham, WI. and when that job closed down for the winter, sent out resumes and soon heard from a man named Tony Wise. The year was 1968 and Tony wanted to talk to Rich about his trombone. Tony asked Rich to travel north to a ski resort he owned in Cable called Telemark. He wanted him to audition for the Ratnicks, a polka, Dixieland band that played weekends in the resort’s Rathskeller. Rich, who hadn’t really considered a career as a musician, sat in for one session and was hired. The rest, as they say, is history. No one ever said no to Tony Wise and because he liked Rich, one job led to another and another and another. When Rich couldn’t make a living playing music two days a week in the Rathskeller, Tony convinced the head of the ski school to give him a job as a ski instructor. Rich, who hadn’t been skiing all that long, was hardly qualified to teach others but soon figured it out and went on to become a certified instructor who taught at the hill for two decades. We’re not done. Next, Rich told Tony he couldn’t make enough money playing music in the summer so Tony gave him another job he wasn’t qualified for as Captain of the Namekagon Queen, a 35-foot, double-decker paddle-wheel scow which toured Lake Hayward with up to 50 passengers from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Rich hadn’t been on the job long when he plowed into a dock earning him the nickname Captain Crunch but went on to pilot the Queen for 20 more years without incident. We’re still not done. Tony heard Rich played a little tennis so he challenged him to a match. Rich whipped him. They played again with the same result so Tony made Rich a tennis instructor at the new Telemark courts. As quick as Tony was to make a decision, Rich was not. Everything had to be slow and methodical. There was this girl, Carol Kerlin, whom Rich had met in Chicago. They started a relationship that went on and on as Rich thought things through. After Carol made a few trips to Telemark and Rich’s friends and fellow instructors got to know her, they urged him, begged him to marry the girl but Rich didn’t want to rush things. Carol moved to Cable in 1975 and they married in 1976. To this day, no one is certain whether or not Rich finally made a decision or Carol made it for him. Besides Carol, Rich had other loves in his life. There was his classic Karman Ghia with no defroster or working wipers that made it the perfect winter car, Ohio State football, singing in the United Church of Christ choir and his cat Ollie who would chase wadded up pieces of Reynolds Wrap around the living room floor for hours on end much to Rich’s delight. Rich was funny and kind. He was an entertainer always trying to bring a smile. In his mid-50s, he took a part time job with the Wisconsin Office for the Blind and Visually Impaired. Rich liked helping others. He died on August 4 at Water’s Edge Care Center in Hayward. On August 29 at the UCC in Cable there will be a 2:00 visitation and a 3:00 service followed by a reception. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be given to either the UCC, Regional Hospice or the Cable/Namekagon Historical Museum. Rich is survived by wife Carol, brothers John Elliker and Bernard (Colleen) Elliker, brother-in-law Bruce (Barbara) Kerlin, sister-in-law Marilyn (Harry) Paolisso and many nieces and nephews. Go Buckeyes.
In lieu of flowers, a memorial may be directed to the Cable United Church of Christ or Cable Namakagon Historical Museum or Forest Lodge Library or Hayward Regional Hospice.
Online condolences for Rich’s family may be left at www.bratley-nelson.com.