Kay Lynn Wicker, age 65, of Minneapolis, formerly of Cokato, died Sunday, Nov. 12, 2017, and shortly thereafter, as those of us who loved her suspect, was met by a jazz brass band at the Pearly Gates to transition with her from solemn songs of grief to a joyous, musical celebration of life.
She attended many such sendoffs during a quarter-century in her beloved adopted city of New Orleans, where the ever-present music of traditional jazz and ragtime spoke to her heart.
A celebration of Kay’s life will take place Monday, Nov. 27 at 10 a.m. at the Cremation Society of Minnesota, 4343 Nicollet Ave. S. in Minneapolis, with light refreshments afterward. Memorials are preferred to the University of Minnesota Masonic Cancer Center.
Kay was born in Cokato in 1952, and graduated from Cokato High School in 1970.
As a student and employee of the University of Minnesota during the early ‘70s, she became enamored with traditional jazz and ragtime. Kay took ragtime piano lessons from celebrated pianist/clarinetist Butch Thompson, prompting her to visit New Orleans twice before moving there in 1977.
Kay’s work, music, and social life became intertwined in the Crescent City. Besides being employed by several law firms after earning a bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies from Tulane in 1990, she worked in the jazz archives library at Tulane, and later closely with the jazz studies program at the University of New Orleans.
She also became the business manager of renowned New Orleans trumpet player Teddy Riley, who also became the great love of her life, and their association led them to concert performances and adventures throughout the United States and Europe.
Two later events in New Orleans had a devastating impact on Kay: Riley’s death in 1992, and Hurricane Katrina in 2005. She evacuated just before Katrina hit, and eventually and reluctantly moved back to Minnesota.
Once back in Cokato, Kay took on the loving role of caretaker for her aging parents in their home, as well as finding work with the Minneapolis Public and Hennepin County library systems.
After completing her caretaking duties, Kay moved back to Minneapolis, but she was only able to truly enjoy her new freedom for a short time. She battled against an inoperable and incurable form of cancer for over three years, with exceptional treatment from her care team at the University of Minnesota Masonic Cancer Center, before the inevitable happened.
Besides Kay’s passion for music, she was an avid photographer, and jewelry and card maker. She loved the carols, decorations, baking, movies, and traditions of Christmas more than anyone this side of Santa. Her family and friends loved much about her, especially her kind and compassionate heart.
Kay is survived by her mother, Vivian, of Monticello; sister Ann McDonald of Mashpee, MA; brother Brian (Robin) of St. Michael; niece Kristin (Tom) Maynard of Auburndale, FL; and nephew Matt McDonald of Hyannis, MA.
She was preceded in death by her father, Ralph; and soulmate Teddy Riley.