Nicholas Kripal always had a story at the ready, always a joke he was bursting to tell — but in Hester Stinnett's fondest memory of him, he didn't say a word at all.

"You could tell when he was excited to tell you a joke, because his eyes would twinkle — you could feel his energy," said Charity Thackston, a former graduate student. He would tell cheesy dad jokes and imitate Ed Sullivan — "We've got a really, really big show for you tonight." Once, he called her over to his desk, bursting to show her something. It turned out to be a salad-dressing ad that he could not stop laughing at.

Rochelle Toner, a former Tyler dean, remembered Kripal's solstice parties, twice a year, with single-malt Scotch and vats of homemade soup at his house just around the corner from the Crane Arts Building, a former plumbing factory that Kripal used his retirement savings to buy. Tired of getting kicked out of rented studios when a new owner bought the building, Kripal and a few partners bought the factory in 2004, long before Girard Avenue became a hipster hotspot, and rented it to artists in the area at affordable rates.

"I can't think of another person who had exactly the qualities Nick had," Toner said. "And they all had really to do with appreciating the texture of life, in all ways — with art, friendship, cooking, gardening, teaching, serving the community. It sounds like it's made up. But that was Nick."