Richard (Ric) Paul Pilgrim, age 66, passed away suddenly on January 2, 2022 due to a vascular event. Ric was born in Richmond, Indiana on April 29, 1955, and studied music education at Wittenberg University, at Kent State University, and at Central Washington University, where he earned a Master of Music Education degree. At Kent State University, Ric met the love of his life, Rita Howard, with whom Ric celebrated 40 years of marriage in 2021.

Ric applied his equal passions for music and education throughout his life, leaving an indelible impression on all who had the privilege to know him. Following a tour in the Peace Corps teaching music in Kenya, Ric brought his spirit of curiosity and generosity to the Yakima Valley as a music teacher in the Granger School District. For over a decade, Ric served as a band teacher at Wapato High School as well as at Yakima Valley Community College, directing award-winning jazz bands and inspiring scores of students to see and hear the world in new ways.

Ric later served as principal at Satus Elementary School in Wapato, and was adored by his young students, who would run up to embrace his legs. Though they could barely see above his knees, Ric made sure to engage with his students eye-to-eye as respected individuals.

In his administrative roles as Executive Director of Teaching and Learning in the Wapato School District and as Assistant Superintendent at ESD 105, Ric continued to inspire with his dedication to facing challenging circumstances with hopeful determination and humble strength. Ric knew that no educational challenge is insurmountable when its solution is built on the twin pillars of unconditional compassion and relentless encouragement.

Ric truly had a heightened sense of sound, and listened with his full heart to everything and everyone. From appreciating the scratching of a Bob Ross paintbrush on canvas, to laying down a beat on a rusty brake shoe in Kenya, to mastering a menagerie of instruments in the Yakima Symphony Orchestra percussion section, to playing piano in his semi-professional jazz trio, Ric’s ability to share his sonic passion was both expert and seemingly effortless.

Ric’s dedication to being a profound listener honed his artful communication skills, as well as his abiding appreciation of multicultural perspectives and the unity of human nature. His ability to make every person feel heard, respected, cared for, and understood was unparalleled; it can be no surprise that he was loved by all.

Ric is survived by Rita Pilgrim of Yakima and their son, Ian (Theresa) Pilgrim, of Portland, Oregon, as well as his brothers, Dave (Sue) Pilgrim, of Maple Valley, Washington and Phil Pilgrim, of Port Townsend, Washington.

Ric’s family extends their sincere gratitude to the emergency room staff at Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital and to Kevin Chase.

Services will be private. Those who wish to share a favorite memory of Ric are encouraged to write to his family at In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation to the Yakima Symphony Orchestra or to your favorite charity in Ric’s honor. Please also consider honoring Ric’s spirit by taking the time to introduce yourself to new music and new ideas, or simply by taking a moment to listen deeply to the world around you.