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Ronald George Ritz

October 12, 1925 October 31, 2018
Ronald George Ritz
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Obituary for Ronald George Ritz

Ronald George Ritz, 93, was born October 12, 1925 in his family home in Grand Rapids (Wyoming Park), Michigan. His parents were George William and Dena (Dean) Riddering Ritz. He was preceded in birth by Lois, Lottie, Raymond, and Louis (Mickey). Lois, the oldest sister, had passed away prior to Ron’s birth. His childhood was filled with adventure and fun; by the time he was 18, he had traveled by car to all 48 contiguous states. He spent most of his days with his friends exploring and sometimes causing mischief. He graduated from Wyoming Park High School in 1943.

On 16 December 1943 his enlistment in the Army was official and he reported to basic training at Fort Sheridan, Illinois. He was eventually assigned to the 1010th Engineering Treadway Bridge Company (the Mighty Ten Tenth). On 2 February 1945, they boarded the Ille de France for their assignment in Europe. Their first big job was to bring up a treadway to the bridge at St Goar (Hitler’s former rendezvous site). His company continued to build bridges in Germany, Austria, and Czechoslovakia in support of troop movements until May 1945. He was transported back to the states on The Coaltown Victory.

Upon return to the states, Ron enrolled at Michigan State University. On a beautiful day on the shore of Lake Michigan, Ron was strolling the beach with his “portable” radio (about 8”x 12” x 18” – apparently a precursor to the boom box). A lovely young lady by the name of Mary Margaret Stillwell captured his attention. On August 28, 1948 they were married and set up house in a small trailer on the edge of Michigan State University. On 3 June 1951, Ron received his Bachelor of Arts degree in English and began working at the American Seating Company. Ron and Mary were blessed with their first child, David Stillwell on 29 November 1950, followed by a daughter, Darcy Louise on 8 August 1952. On 1 February 1953, they bought their first house in Grand Rapids for $9500. In 1954, friends convinced them that Denver was the place to live. Always looking for adventure, they packed up the kids and headed west.

In Denver, Ron first worked for Stanley Aviation, followed by a long career at Glenn L. Martin (which in later years became Martin Marietta and then Lockheed Martin). In 1957, a daughter, Margaret (Mollie) Anne was added to the family. At “Martin”, Ron started as a planner but quickly moved into the test department. He was a Test Conductor on Test Stand D, which was the outdoor facility in the foothills where they tested the original development of the Titan Rocket. In 1960 Ron was re-assigned to support a special effort in Mountain Home, Idaho, related to Titan ICBM sites. Upon moving back to Denver in 1961, he helped test and set up the Natural Buoyancy Facility in an old YMCA, the purpose of which was to simulate weightlessness in space. In addition to working in the aerospace business, Ron and Mary started a side business called “The Wick and Chimney” which specialized in antique kerosene lamps and other antiques. This provided them the opportunity to spend many of their weekends at antique fairs.

In October 1970, Martin Marietta transferred the family to the Clear Lake area of Texas. Ron worked on Skylab (the first space station). He was in the medical experiments area, which was established to help the astronauts retain physical fitness and health while in space for long periods of time. Ron was assigned to this area due to his extensive medical knowledge (which he had absorbed by reading all of Mary’s nursing books). Due to his contributions, he was asked to go on one of the astronaut recovery missions, which was quite an honor.
While living in Texas, Ron and Mary continued to run their antique business. They also procured an Amphora MK II sailboat. Owning a boat, of any kind, was a lifelong dream of Ron’s. As a result, many of their out-of-town visitors had a chance to sail Clear Lake and Galveston Bay with them. Later, during a sightseeing trip around Texas they stopped in a small-town east of Austin, called Bastrop. In Bastrop they saw “Texas’ Oldest Drug Store” on Main Street. It was not open, but they found a phone number on a small sign in the window. Being innately curious, they inquired about the store with the original owners, C. Erhard and Son. The Erhard son became very enamored with Ron and Mary and sold the store to them even though he previously had declined all other offers. Part of the sales agreement was the drug store had to remain a meeting place for the town folk. This suited Ron and Mary to a “T”, as they loved to entertain people, as no one was ever a stranger to them for very long. They ran the store as a pharmaceutical museum and antique shop on weekends, until it burned down in 1980.

After Ron’s first retirement from Martin Marietta, they moved to the outskirts of Bastrop, Texas. In 1984 Ron decided to give up retirement (obviously not due to boredom) and went back to work for Martin Marietta in Denver. He continued to work until he retired for a second time in 1988, after which they moved back to their home in Bastrop. At this point they opened “Ritz Framing” on Main Street in Bastrop. Here they continued to sell antiques and added picture framing to their talents, which Ron learned to do by reading (Mary was a natural at matching mats and frames). Over the years, Ron, ever interested in learning new skills, also dabbled in chair caning, oil lamp and early electrical lamp refurbishment, creating stained glass windows, weaving on a giant loom, and turning his own pottery. He could play the piano (by ear) and was known to come home from a movie and immediately play the overture on the piano. He could also play the harmonica, ukulele, and bongo drums. Ron also became a master bread-baker and a soda-jerk, making the best chocolate shakes (vitamin pills) ever. He was a true Renaissance Man, who could do whatever he set his mind to.

In 1994 Ron and Mary bought a cottage on Big Portage Lake in Minnesota. From this time until 2006 they spent their winters in Texas and their summers in Minnesota. The kids, grandkids, and great grandkids have wonderful memories of Ron (lovingly referred to as “Gumby”), and Mary (obviously “Pokey”) and the cottage. On 24 September 2007, Mary passed away. Ron continued to live in Bastrop where, in time, he met Mary Ruth Cruise. Ron and Mary Ruth became inseparable. They had many wonderful trips together, including car trips to the Outer Banks, Upper Michigan and Canada. In 2015, Ron moved back to Littleton to be closer to his daughters, Darcy and Mollie. His earlier diagnosis of Alzheimer’s was becoming more acute. He continued to live in Littleton until his passing on October 31, 2018. Even though he lost the art of vocal communication he continued to make people smile and laugh when he would wink, whistle, sing or just smile with the sparkle in his eye. Ron “Gumby” will be truly missed by his children; David his wife, Carolyn, Darcy her husband, Russell Barrows, and Margaret “Mollie” her husbands, Ronald Lantzy, and Paul Christensen (deceased).

Grandchildren from Mollie (Ritz, Lantzy) Christensen and husbands Ron and Paul
Christopher Christensen, wife Debbie
Great-grandchildren: Landon (wife Katie), Sarah
Stacey (Christensen) Nelson, husband Shawn
Great-grandchildren: Lane, Tanner, and Ty
Kristopher Lantzy, wife Jessica
Great-grandchildren: Logan and Mary
Kameron (Lantzy) Ritz, husband Daniel
Great-grandchildren: Kassidi
Grand children from Darcy (Ritz) Barrows and husband Russ
Kelly (Barrows) Hills, husband Jared
Great grandchildren: Hunter, Max, and Paisley
Samantha Barrows, Fiance Stephen (Ritchie) Laird
Nicholas Barrows
Austin (AJ) Barrows

Memorial contributions can be made in Ron's memory to the Heart of the Pines Volunteer Fire Department, P.O. Box 98, Smithville, Texas 78957, stipulated for the “Truck 881 Fund”


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Upcoming Events

Graveside

Monday

14

Jan

10:00 AM 1/14/2019 10:00:00 AM - 10:30 AM 1/14/2019 10:30:00 AM
Fort Logan National Cemetery

3698 South Sheridan Boulevard
Denver, Colorado 80235

Please meet at Staging area A by 9:50 AM for procession to Shelter A at 10:00 AM.

Fort Logan National Cemetery
3698 South Sheridan Boulevard Denver 80235 Colorado
United States

Cemetery Details

Location

Fort Logan National Cemetery Final Resting Place

3698 South Sheridan Boulevard
Denver, Colorado 80235

3698 South Sheridan Boulevard Denver 80235 Colorado
United States
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