Bert Nelson Rickner

Bert Nelson Rickner

Bert Nelson Rickner passed away Saturday, Dec. 24, 2022, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. He was born Aug. 23, 1941, in the Concho area north of El Reno, Oklahoma, to James Gilbert Rickner and Vonda Atkinson Rickner. Vonda married Clyde Thomason in 1954. Grandparents included Sally and Nelson Atkinson and William Bert and Rilla Townsend Rickner, who preceded Bert in death.

Bert was born the second of four sons. The oldest, Ralph, and youngest, Gary and his wife Nanette, are here with us today. Bert was preceded in death by his brother Glen in 2019.

Bert is survived by his wife, Bettie; son, Dr. Kyle Rickner and wife Julie; son, Chad Rickner and wife Megan; daughter, Trisha Hutcherson and husband Eric; granddaughter, Dr. Makenna Schultz and husband Austin; grandson, Mitchell and wife Kayla; granddaughters, Maya and Amani Rickner; grandsons, Matthew Rickner, TJ Rickner, Grady Rickner, Adam Hutcherson and Tyren Rickner; sister-in-law, Susan Rickner; and many cousins, nieces, nephews and friends.

Bert’s life was consumed by basketball from a young age. He grew to a strapping 6’7” high school, college and military basketball player. He graduated from El Reno High School in 1960, where he played for legendary coach Jenks Simmons. He left his mark as a high school player, with honors of Oklahoma All State and McDonald’s All American. Following high school, he spent four years in the United States Air Force, which he grew to love, respect and honor. Later in life, he returned to military duty as an Air Force Reservist at Tinker AFB, where he worked in the Chaplain’s and Personnel Offices. He retired after 21 years with the rank of Master Sergeant.

His active-duty career included training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas; Holloman Air Force Base in Alamogordo, New Mexico; Tachikawa Air Force Base in Japan; and Hickam Air Force Base in Honolulu, Hawaii. Bert became a hot commodity in military basketball competition. He had a huge impact on the basketball team of every military base he played on. He ultimately represented the Air Force by playing for the All Air Force team in locations all over the world. His last place of military service in Hawaii saw his main job as living in the gym, taking care of it and practicing daily for the all-military competition, which his team won.

After his military service, Bert was an outstanding All-Conference and All American, playing for the Southwestern College Bulldogs in Weatherford, Oklahoma. He graduated in 1968.

His first coaching job was in Perry, Oklahoma, followed by stints at Kingfisher, Dover and Cement high schools before going into school administration. He served as superintendent at Cement; principal at Kingfisher Middle School; and as activities director for Weatherford Public Schools. Retirement from education came in 1997 after serving as principal at Hefner Middle School, Putnam City West High School and Putnam City North High School. Bert’s educational career also included seven years in Department of Defense schools in Okinawa, Japan, and Germany.

His second job in Kingfisher was as middle school principal. Sons Kyle and Chad attended middle and high school in Kingfisher as basketball standouts. It was also where Bert met his future wife, Bettie. She was a school library consultant for the state Department of Education and was in his school on a library facilities visit. Of course, when he saw her go to her car, he pursued her to “find out why she was in his school.” They married the following year in 1989 and were married for 33 years until his death.

Bert was an avid fan and supporter of OU football, basketball, women’s softball and the Oklahoma City Thunder. Even during the Thunder’s down years, Bert went two entire seasons without missing a game! OU football was also serious business, and all of the family knew the rules of not changing the channel or getting in front of the TV during a game. And if Bert had not finished watching a game, everyone knew NOT to call and share a score update! As Bert very seriously prayed at halftime of the 1999 OU-Texas game, God Bless the OU Sooners!

Bert was best known for a ready smile, a joyous heart and his ability to make everyone he came into contact with feel special and loved. Bert was a great man of faith, he loved the Lord Jesus Christ, loved His word and graciously shared it with anyone who would listen. He was concerned with everyone’s salvation and desired for them a home in heaven. He believed strongly in church attendance and participation and was known to ask even strangers if they had a church home and would invite them to attend with him. (Excerpts of the above from an email written to Bert by Dawn German.)

He strongly supported multiple charitable organizations and efforts in prayers and financially and would be pleased if you did the same in his memory.

Services will be held at 2 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 28, at First Baptist Church of Yukon, with interment following at the Yukon Cemetery.

Online condolence may be signed at Arrangements are under the direction of Yanda & Son Funeral Home and Cremation Services, Yukon, Oklahoma.