Ivan William Ficken was born on the family farm, July 26, 1943, at Dorchester, NE. He was the third child born to William and Clara Ficken after his sisters, Delores and Alice.
“Two days after my third birthday, my father got out of bed, took a few steps and dropped dead. Apparently, a blood clot reached his brain, probably caused by an injury to his leg caused by one of the horses used to pull farm machinery. The totality of those adverse experiences caused my oldest sister (13 years older than I) to elope to Missouri at age 17.” Ivan and his mother and sister, Alice moved to Seward around 1948. She then got a job cooking at Concordia College in return for housing which was above the school dining hall. Then, Ivan said; “my mother used the $5000 life insurance that my father had to buy an old house in Seward, NE for $4500 and look for a job. Though she had originally wanted to be a teacher, her parents had refused to let her continue school beyond eighth grade, which they considered more than sufficient for someone destined to be a farmer’s wife. The only job which my mother could get was pressing clothes at a local dry-cleaning shop, which she held for roughly the next 20 years at a level of pay below the federal minimum wage. I resolved never to take advantage of other people in the manner of making money off other people’s labor, and to never shirk from having the moral courage to openly oppose an employer’s abuse of their employee.”
An older attorney who lived next door to Ivan “acted as somewhat substitute father for me, until his death when I was 10 or 11. The reason was that unlike most people who talked down to a kid, Harry talked to me as though I were an adult which impressed me at that age. No doubt that experience influenced my decision to go to law school later.” After high school, Ivan said he went on to get both a liberal arts bachelor’s degree in Econ, Psychology and Math, as well as a bachelors in Mechanical Engineering. “I also spent a semester on a masters in Metallurgical Engineering, but abandoned it to take a job with Texaco as a petroleum engineer. I earned a total of 4 1/2 college degrees.”
“Though I had a draft deferment with Texaco based on working in a critical industry, I voluntarily entered Navy OCS in the summer of 1968 and spent a year and a half on board the USS Catskill (MCS-1), as it changed home port from Long Beach to Sasebo, Japan where it participated in multiple mine exercises with other SEATO countries, as well as acting as a supply ship, oiler and repair ship for coastal mine sweepers doing “Market Time” (checking documentation of small Vietnamese fishing vessels along the Vietnamese coast). In mid-1970, the ship was destined to return to the US and be scrapped, the Navy’s footprint in the Vietnam War was lightening, which enabled me to get an early out of a conventional three-year obligation. I got my release from active duty in Japan,1970and spent the following two and half months traveling overland across southern Asia to the top of Europe and back to an US air base in Germany for a free flight back to the US.  Why? Because it was a once in a lifetime opportunity to get to know the rest of the world in depth, and those opportunities should never be squandered. All of these experiences contributed to a commitment to trying to help solve as least a few of the world’s problems, including the abject poverty of most of the countries I traveled through as well as viewing the legal profession as the only mean by which at least something could be accomplished in pursuit of that. I returned to Texaco in west Texas to get some funds working, while planning to return to the Univ. of Nebraska law school the following year. I was cut from enrollment the following year. The Univ. of Miami’s Ocean and Coastal law program seemed a logical extension of my new found love of the oceans (I didn’t even know how to swim upon attending Navy OCS in Newport, being the only person in our company who didn’t, and learning how presented the greatest threat to my even being able to graduate), which was the most enjoyable year of law school ever. I developed enough self confidence in my own research capabilities to realize that I was at least as capable as anyone else in terms of solving a legal problem.”
“Upon walking along a street abutting the rear end of a grocer’s (probably one of the ubiquitous Publix grocery stores around Miami or Coral Gables), I saw a couple guys roll up a metal door of a building, walk out and drop a cardboard box into their dumpster. They returned inside, rolling the metal door back down. Thinking their behavior to be curious I walked over to see what it was: a box of peaches, all in perfect, prime shape. The obvious reason they were being thrown out was simply that they were ripe, i.e., the best possible condition one could hope for. (Given people’s general shopping habits of once per week, grocers as well as customers prefer unripe produce that will keep at home for at least a whole week). I found that when you don’t have to care, in the traditional sense, about worrying whether your social prestige quotient is above everyone else’s via the usual criteria of most stylish clothes, new car, new house, etc., that drives the consumer’s hedonic treadmill, then life becomes far easier and less worrisome about what others think of you, because you’ve got the probable highest level of self confidence among your peers or whoever. In short, for the past 46 years, ever since being in Miami, I’ve lived almost exclusively off salvaged food, and am the healthier for it, in terms of usually being able to find a sufficient quantity of key ingredients of a Mediterranean diet for free, that is best for one’s health anyway, and all of it for free.”
Ivan also worked as an attorney in Madison, WI for the SBA’s disaster Loan Program between 1978-1981, “I never considered working as a private attorney unless I could afford to do so without charging fees.” After that job was terminated, he said: “I spent the following three years in Madison, Iowa City and Sioux Falls, initially trading futures markets until the losses forced me to abandon it. From there I moved to Texas in 1983 where for the next three years I continued SBA disaster work.”
“My life long objective has always been to try to develop sufficient wealth to be able to finance a strictly pro bono law practice where I’d take only cases which held the potential to correct some serious mis directions that the law might have taken in the past.”
Four life constraints:
Never make money off exploiting other people’s labor
Never lack the moral courage to report or walk away from an employer’s abusive practices toward employees
Never make money of exploiting other people’s ignorance
Never charge people money for information that they need or that could help them.
In 2000 Ivan adopted a son from a Romania orphanage with the name, Ciprian Ivanof. He was the pride of his life. Ivan dedicated his life to teaching and training his son. However, some complications with social service in Washington, DC necessitated a move to Eau Claire where he received some assistance from his sister, Alice and her husband Fred Sauder. Ivan helped Cip get an education at the University of Minnesota and then at the Washington College of Law where he graduated and passed the bar exam in DC.
Ivan’s medical problems were connected to Covid 19 which resulted in an amputation of his big toe on February 22 and that was followed by a blockage of the aorta which caused his death on March 22, 2022. Ivan lived a total of 78 years, 7 months, and 27 days.
He was preceded in death by his parents and sisters, Delores Haase and Alice Sauder. Those who mourn his death and yet rejoice in his heavenly inheritance include his son Ciprian, his brother-in-law, Fred Sauder, and his 9 nieces and nephews. .
Friends and family may offer condolences online at www.hulkefamilyfh.com.
Hulke Family Funeral Home & Cremation Services, 3209 Rudolph Road, Eau Claire, WI 54701 is assisting the family with the arrangements.
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