Coming Together to Grieve and Heal

Greenbelt News Review - Election Day, November 7, 2023

On Sunday evening, after a delightful holiday weekend, I learned of the sudden death of a 41-year-old friend. I couldn’t believe it. Numbness blocked my tears. I sat in shock.

Ric Gordon was among the kindest, most generous people I have ever met. He lived in Greenbelt and had an insatiable desire to be of service. Among his many memorable quotes was: “The people’s work is never done.”

In 2017, Ric decided to run for City Council. Only one African-American had been elected to the seven-person City Council previously.  He ran and came in 12th of 13 candidates for seven seats.  Undaunted, he redoubled his community service, continued expanding his social media use, and ran again.

To his delight, in 2021, Ric was elected to the City Council.  Ric was now one of three African-Americans on the Greenbelt City Council, which had been all white from its founding in 1937 until 2009.

Ric met his sweetheart and wife, Carla, when she took to Facebook to air grievances about maintenance issues and was directed to contact him. He helped get those issues resolved, which was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. He was campaigning for the Council seat in 2021, and Carla helped with it. She volunteered in community activities.  Their relationship blossomed; Ric and Carla held a huge community party to announce their engagement and were married on February 11 of this year.  Ric then got the family he forever longed for. Together, they have 4 adult children and 6 grandchildren, with the 7th on the way (5 girls and 1 boy).

On Nov. 5 this year, Ric ran to keep his seat on the City Council. There were 11 candidates for the seven seats, five of whom were incumbents, including him.  He took no vote for granted.  Ric won; only two other candidates got more than his 1725 votes.

Ric was overjoyed. He had won his dream job. He was married to his beloved wife, whom he adored. Also elected was the first African-American woman to the Council. After years of primarily men, the Council was now majority women. Ric was excited about the prospect of working with this new Council to make change for the people. He tirelessly advocated for housing, food, recreation, and inclusion of everyone regardless of race, ethnicity, or sexual identity. He introduced and organized “Emerald City” Pride events that began in June 2022 and expanded to include a parade in 2023.

For Ric to die suddenly at age 41, as his personal and community life held so much promise, is unbelievable. While shaking fists at the heavens does not bring Ric back, anger does creep in when a young, loving, kind man is called home without notice.

Given that Ric knew nearly everyone in Greenbelt, the shock and sadness filled the air Sunday and Monday. We wondered when we might come together and how. On Monday, an announcement on   Facebook advised that there would be a community gathering to mourn the loss of Ric at Roosevelt Center, one of our traditional community gathering places, at 5:30. On a cold, windy early winter evening, Greenbelters came together to grieve, to say thanks to Ric and to offer support to his wife and family. Being a spontaneous event, there was not a program. The mayor offered his personal words of loss. A close friend of Ric’s led everyone in singing “This Little Light of Mine,” creating verses that remembered and honored Ric. Candles were distributed and lit. When his wife and family arrived, they were embraced by the community.

Spontaneous short declarations of what Ric meant to the community came popcorn style from the crowd. “He always greeted me warmly and made me feel important to him. I recognized he did that to everyone.” “I felt seen by Ric.” “I felt heard by Ric. He always had time for me.” “He spoke only kind words. I never heard him criticize anyone.” “He was everywhere.” “I couldn’t keep up with him and all the good he was doing.” “I miss him.” “I can’t believe he is gone.” “I want to live like he lived in his honor.” “I’ll miss my birthday posts from him.” “He was my only friend!”

To ensure everyone in the community had an opportunity to say goodbye to Ric and offer support to Carla and their family, a second community gathering was held Thursday evening in Franklin Park, his home neighborhood. On Friday, a local funeral home overflowed with friends, family, elected officials (near and far), and colleagues from various areas of his life. 

Unexpected losses like the death of Ric are a special kind of pain. Yet, here in Greenbelt, we continue to discover that the antidote to any sort of pain is community and coming together in love and kindness for one another. In his life and death, Ric Gordon reminded us that we need each other.


  1. Robin Hawley Gorsline

    Thank you Tom, for this lovely tribute. to Ric. In this moment, as Jonathan and I grieve his loss, we miss Greenbelt so very much. He surely represented the very best of our beloved community. And his life is indeed a guide for living a life of wholeness, kindness, justice, and peace. Our prayers extend to his beloved Carla and their family, and all Ric’s many friends and colleagues.

    • Tom Adams

      Thanks Robin, we miss your being in Greenbelt and your gentle kind way of living and leading. Blessings to you and Jonathan and thanks for joining us all in praying for Ric, Carla and their family and looking for ways to continue Ric’s spirit in our lives. Peace, Tom

  2. Shirin McArthur

    Oh, Tom, my prayers are with you and your community, and Ric’s soul and his family, in this time of incredible loss. May his memory be a blessing, and may the hole he has left in your community inspire others to step up and do their part, for his sake and their own.

    Peace and prayers,

    • Tom Adams

      Thanks Shirin for reaching out and for the prayer that ohters in Greenbelt and elsewhere will continue Ric’s legacy of deep commitment to loving and serving all.

  3. Bob Zdenek

    Tom- Beautifully written. Ric left a wonderful legacy and memory for all of you to support each other now and in the future. I send my deepest sympathy and hope that Ric’s light will guide Greenbelt to a better future. Best thoughts and prayers. Bob

    • Tom Adams

      Thnaks Bob, yes, those of us who have worked in different communiities, appreciate the wodnderful caring leaders like Ric. Thanks for the reminder, Tom

  4. Kip Gregory

    Tom, you’ve been visited by a lot of grief and loss this year: Doris, your brother John, now Ric, perhaps others. It is a lot to absorb, much of it so discomforting. What has helped me (and you, the steps, the program, have all contributed) is to come, however slowly, to recognize that underlying all of that pain is, paradoxically, love. We simply do not grieve the loss of things we don’t hold dear.

    My prayer for you is that you can move through the “intermediate stages” (as Teilhard de Chardin described them) to a place of loving acceptance and patient trust. All things pass, each of us among them. Sobering, but life in its essence. Your friend Ric was clearly a gift and to many. What more can we ask of God, others, and ourselves? To be an agent grace in the moment of life we are given. That is to fully live.


    • Tom Adams

      Thanks Kip for your kind and inspiring words. Yes grief does flow from love, thanks for reminding us and sharing your expereicne. And thanks for your friendship, Tom