Alissa Riper Picker
Nov. 6, 1962-Aug. 18, 2017
East Palo Alto, California
Alissa Riper Picker peacefully passed away at home on Aug. 18, 2017. She is now in heaven after living a life marked by empathy, grace, joy, and courage. Alissa died after a two year journey with brain cancer, specifically grade 4 glioblastoma. She is greatly missed, but we rejoice that Jesus has welcomed her with open arms and she has assuredly heard the words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant!”
Alissa was born in Redwood City to parents Barbara Kaseberg Riper and Howard Riper. Alissa lived in the Palo Alto area her entire life: eighteen years in Palo Alto, four years at Stanford, and thirty-three years in East Palo Alto (EPA). She attended Green Gables (now Duveneck) and Castilleja before heading to Stanford where she received her BA in Comparative Literature (French and Italian). Highlights of her time on “The Farm” included InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and study abroad in Florence. Later on she earned an MA in Counseling Psychology from Notre Dame de Namur University while working as a legal secretary during the day. At the law firms, Alissa was well-liked and respected for her smarts, warm disposition, boundless energy, and rapid-fire typing speed.
Also at Stanford, she and several friends were inspired to respond to God’s call for social justice and racial reconciliation. This led Alissa and six of her classmates to move to EPA upon graduating in 1984. They sought to understand the needs of their neighborhood and see how they might be able to serve. This led them to the beautiful children of EPA and their families, including endless opportunities to play games, make crafts, tutor, mentor, share meals, study the Bible, provide transportation for medical appointments, visit homes, go on field trips, head to the beach, and attend Christian camp in the mountains. In three short years, this grass roots effort morphed into the non-profit organization, Bayshore Christian Ministries, which continues to serve the youth of EPA. It was in EPA where Alissa met Norm Picker, a New Jersey native and recent Santa Clara University graduate, who shared the same commitment to Jesus and passion for the community. Norm and Alissa married in 1987 and made EPA their home where they raised their children, Skye and John. Over the years, Norm, Alissa, Skye and John spent time in their hometown and also in the surrounding cities, gaining friends from “both sides of the freeway”. As a result, they often saw God using them as a bridge between communities, helping to foster understanding and break down preconceptions, fears, and prejudices.
In 2005, Alissa accepted a call to serve as a Bible Study Fellowship Teaching Leader for a class of two hundred fifty women in Redwood City. She faithfully served in this role for ten years and loved teaching God’s word, mentoring, and encouraging women to receive God’s love and share it with others. Alissa was gearing up for her eleventh year when diagnosed with brain cancer. Due to God’s grace and BSF’s structure, the class continued to thrive as the mantle was passed to another capable and godly leader who continues in that role today.
Alissa was a licensed Marriage & Family Therapist with her own practice for nearly twenty years. She considered it a privilege and joy to support her family by helping people in this way. Alissa counseled people from all walks of life. When appropriate, she enjoyed offering prayer and Biblical truth in addition to the science of psychology. She believed that effective counseling was most possible when people tapped into the love and power of God. Furthermore, Alissa often used her training to serve others beyond her office.
Incredibly, Alissa also found time to devote herself to being a wife and mom. She faithfully encouraged Norm through various job changes, a major career change early in their marriage, and the construction of a new home. Rain or shine, Alissa could always be seen on the sidelines of her children’s sporting events, and she was greatly appreciated for masterfully organizing the carpools for away games. She also headed the Keys School Welcome Committee, welcoming new families with so much warmth and authenticity that they all quickly felt at home. Her family loved her great meals and especially appreciated her listening ear even after long evenings of counseling. Alissa served as a Sunday school teacher at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church (now Menlo Church) while in college. As a young Mom she was blessed to be part of the Mothers Together group at Menlo Church as well as a playgroup organized through the Parents’ Club of Palo Alto and Menlo Park. She has been a member of Abundant Life Christian Fellowship for twenty-two years where she enjoyed participating in a Growth Group, the Mom’s Time Out group, and the Communion Team. Prior to joining Abundant Life, Norm and Alissa were members of the Community Church of EPA for about five years. Alissa was also an avid fan of Stanford women’s and men’s soccer and could usually be found at their games. Quite simply, Alissa loved God and loved people. Of course she was not perfect at this, but she always strove to fulfill these two greatest commandments and along the way touched many people. Her friends treasured her wisdom and truthfulness, along with her witty sense of humor. Alissa had a knack for making people feel comfortable; somehow they knew that when she asked, “How are you?”, she meant it and was ready to listen. While participating in Young Life as a teenager, Alissa heard and believed that God loved her and wanted to have a relationship with her. She opened her heart to God and never looked back. Over the years, she increasingly understood that following Jesus brings maximum joy and fulfillment.
Alissa leaves behind her husband of thirty years, Norman Picker Jr., her daughter Skye Talavera and son-in-law Jose, her son John Picker, her mother Barbara Riper, and her two brothers Kevin (Kerry) Riper and John (Kathy) Riper.