Christy and Bill Riker
Skillfully maneuvering around her kitchen while bedecked in a snappy apron is how most people who knew Christy Riker remember her. She spent a lifetime preparing meals for her husband, Bill, their children, and many friends. Christy died in January 2012 after a long battle with cancer, leaving behind devastated loved ones and a pantry and freezer full of her culinary creations.
Christy began her cooking career early in life when at the age of 10 she assumed the responsibility of cooking for her family and, at 15 years old, won a Betty Crocker Baking Contest as the creator of an award-winning dessert. By the time she met Bill she was a seasoned cook, and during their early years together in Pennsylvania, she operated a catering service from their home.
Food preparation was not her only passion, though, for she enjoyed the company of children as much as she savored her time in the kitchen. She especially delighted in working with children who were just beginning their progression into the world of knowledge, and she taught pre-school for 25 years. With the Riker’s children grown and establishing their own lives, it was only natural that Christy and Bill should seek other young minds to guide and nurture. They decided to respond to this desire by becoming mentors through the Futures for Children’s Friendship/Mentorship Program.
Christy and Bill had, by this time, relocated to New Mexico after discovering an appreciation for the diverse culture and majestic landscape of the southwest during a business trip. While attending the Santa Fe Indian Market, Christy became acquainted with Futures for Children (FFC) when the FFC booth caught her attention. She stopped to study the posters and pamphlets describing the need for supporters in furthering educational possibilities for Native American students. That evening she and Bill decided to enroll in the Friendship/Mentorship Program, making the commitment to enrich the life of a Native American child.
Over the years, the Rikers mentored three students. The first mentorship began in 1999 when they received information from Futures for Children about Earlene, an 11-year-old Navajo girl in Chinle, AZ. Earlene was searching for a mentor to serve as an introduction to other cultures and to provide educational guidance. Their friendship with Earlene developed into something far beyond letter writing and phone calls. The Rikers took Earlene and her sister on a two-week trip to the eastern U.S. where they visited major cities and historical sites. Additionally, Christy and Bill made yearly trips to Chinle to visit their student’s family.
When Earlene graduated from high school and began her college studies, the Rikers decided to mentor the family’s youngest daughter, Coralene. After many years of guidance and friendship with Christy and Bill, Coralene also left to attend college and the Rikers began their third, and current, mentorship with a Cochiti Pueblo student named, Antoinette. Unfortunately, Christy will not have the opportunity to observe Antoinette as she advances in her education and career, but Bill is committed to continuing the friendship that they started as a couple.
Christy’s legacy lives on in many ways. With her passing, she left behind a lifetime of cooking experience and many books devoted to the art of cooking. Bill packed up several boxes of her books and donated them to Futures for Children for distribution among the next generation of aspiring chefs. The books were delivered to Youth Leadership students at Red Mesa Youth Council and, hopefully, these students will be inspired to carry on the tradition of creating culinary delights.
Our thanks to Bill Riker for sharing stories and photographs of Christy’s life.