Richard Clarence Zabel walked through Heaven’s Gate to be with God on March 14, 2020, at the age of 60 of complications of respiratory issues.
“Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:39).
“There are two ways to view life,” Jesus is saying, “as something to protect or something to pursue. The wisest people are not the ones with the most years in their lives, but the most life in their years.”
The above is an excerpt of a devotional email Rick received. Rick made the most out of the years of his life. At 17 he became a quadriplegic from a diving accident. He spent about 30 seconds feeling sorry for himself, until our mother set him straight (she could be scary), and told him he was going to live and do the very best he could with what he was given. Rick was told that the normal life span for a Quad of his level only lived 10–15 years.
So Rick lived! He took training to be a computer programmer and worked for Hennepin County in Minnesota for 19 years. He went to many sporting events, loved the Packers and saw them play at Green Bay, Wis. He enjoyed concerts, theater and even went to Hawaii on vacation. He made the most of the life he was given. He moved back to Wisconsin when he was unable to work anymore. He enjoyed his family, and tolerated his family and friends putting him in all kinds of crazy situations. We celebrated his 50th birthday with a luau, had many dinner parties at his home and he continued enjoying concerts and sporting events.
But Rick’s greatest testimony in life was his relationship with our Heavenly Father. He shared God’s love wherever he went. He brought many to God’s word and was always willing to discuss the blessings he received from God. He even assisted with Bible school several years. I have heard it said many times, “I couldn’t live that way.” My answer to that is, “I guess that’s why God chose Rick. God knew he could live the most life with the handicap he was given. Rick said over and over that his accident was a blessing, that it saved him from himself and the path he was choosing at 17.
He was truly the strongest man I have ever known. Even physically, to live in a body that he had very little control over, he had to have strength. Rick had his moments of fear, sadness, self-pity, etc. But few people saw him that way. He always tried to have a positive attitude and tried to encourage others to do the same. He far out lived the life he was given. He packed a lot of living into his short life and was an amazing child of God.
To my brother Rick, one last time, “TSK, TSK Looks like rain!!” I will miss you little brother.
Rick is preceded in death by his mother, Arva Jean Zabel; father, Clarence Elmer Zabel; two brothers, David Alan Zabel and Carl Wesley Zabel.
Rick is survived by a brother, John Zabel of Prairie Du Chien, Wis.; three sisters, Carrie (Dev) Popple, of Cameron, Wis., Arva Jane (Scott) Murphy, of KauKauna, Wis., and Ruthann (Jim) Mergan, of Bloomington, Wis.; a niece, Natalie Burgess; and five nephews, Joshua (Kim, Samantha, Tyler) Zabel, of Cadott, Wis., and Justin (Tanya, Ethan, Piper) Zabel of The Dalles, Ore., Carl and Logan Zabel and Benjamin Murphy. He also had three great-nephews, Trenton (Anna) and Taran Haile and Landon Burgess, and a great-great-nephew, Bentley Haile; as well as many step nieces and nephews.
Rick was born in Stoughton, Wis., on July 19, 1959. He lived near Cadott for the last several years.
A memorial service for family and friends will be held later this month in the Cameron area.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial donations be made to the wounded warrior project, https://www.woundedwarriorproject.org/
Chippewa Valley Cremation Services—Celebration of Life Center is assisting the family with arrangements. Online condolences can be left at www.chippewavalleycremation.com.