Elmer "Tex" Ritter
Jan 14th 1926 - Mar 28th 2004
The dictionary defines Samaritan as a person who voluntarily offers help or sympathy in times of trouble. Elmer F. Tex Ritter was a Samaritan. From childhood to his passing, he was always helping others even those he didnt know. Whether it was a place to stay, a warm meal or some fresh veggies from his garden, Elmer gave freely and willingly, never asking for anything in return.
In 1926, life was good in the United States. Although a revolt in Nicaragua found military troops being sent to help preserve order, Americans were enjoying relative peace and prosperity. World War I was over and the Great Depression had not yet threatened the U.S. work force. However, the most special event in 1926 for Forest and Nettie (Beach) Ritter of Dowagiac, Michigan, was the birth of their son, Elmer Freeman, on January 14, 1926.
Growing up as one of four children, life was not always easy, and the Depression Era family often found themselves in the wake of hardships. One of the greatest challenges to Elmer and his siblings was the separation of their mother, after which they moved to Valley Road in Lawton to live with Forests father, Walter Lewis Ritter. Later Elmers mother married Harry Conklin and soon Elmer had an extended family with several half brothers and sisters. He attended Lawton Public Schools until the 9th grade, and then opted to look for employment in order to help the family financially during those lean years of the Great Depression.
One fateful day while enjoying the County Fair in Dowagiac, Elmer met a young lady named Betty Edwards. Although Betty was engaged to another man, she couldnt help but fall madly in love with Elmer. The young lovebirds dated for about a year and on January 19, 1947, they had a shot gun wedding at the home of their pastor in Dowagiac, Michigan. Elmer and Betty had a whole new life to plan out. Elmer started by building their first home on the outskirts of Dowagiac with his excellent carpentry skills. It was here that the young couple raised their four children together and happily resided for thirteen years. Later on, he and Betty moved to Paw Paw, Michigan, where Betty remains today. Elmer loved being a father and enjoyed spending time with his children. Every Sunday, he and the children would venture to the roller rink near Tea Pot Dome and spend the day zooming around on roller-skates, which Elmer was quite good at.
Elmers employment history varied. He first worked at Heddons Bait Factory in Dowagiac before moving on to the Round Oak Factory. He finally settled in at Bendix in South Bend working in the factory and later as a truck driver where he thoroughly enjoyed his job for over thirty years. He retired in 1984. Elmer was a former member of the United Methodist Church in Dowagiac as well as an active member of the Eagles Lodge. He also enjoyed being involved with the 4-H in Dowagiac where his children especially remember him for his amazing birdhouses.
His spare time was put to wonderful use. Elmer was a talented guitar player in his younger days and his love for music helped him to become a manager for a local teen band. He opened his home for them to practice and as their manager, got them gigs to exhibit their talents. Elmer also loved the great outdoors. He engaged in hunting as often as possible for anything from raccoon and pheasant to woodchuck and deer, and enjoyed cooking up his catch as well. His home boasted of a huge garden that he lovingly tended with his own hands. Much of the bounty from his garden was canned for use throughout the year, but he also generously shared his harvest with neighbors. Elmers compassionate nature reached beyond his immediate family as he would often times offer a stranger a place to stay and a hot meal or after his children had cut wood for their family wood stove, hed give it away to someone in need. His children also learned valuable lessons about kindness from Elmer. On one occasion, he gave of his time to help another family build their home, never asking for anything in return. When relaxing at home, Elmer enjoyed a good John Wayne movie or an old black and white Lone Ranger show.
Elmer F. Tex Ritter died on Sunday, March 28, 2004, at Metron Nursing Home of Bloomingdale. He was preceded in death by his son, Robert Ritter; brother, Harley Ritter; half-sister, Audrey Conklin; and a grandson, Ronnie Demereck. He is survived by his wife, Betty Ritter, of Paw Paw; children: Jane (Ronald) Demereck, Walter (Judith) Ritter and Loretta (Robert) Burns all of Paw Paw; brother, Robert (Marlene) Ritter of Paw Paw; sister, Eloise Edwards of Battle Creek; half-brother, Harry (Bonnie) Conklin of Florida; half-sisters: Phyllis (Durrell) Dolph of Battle Creek and Patricia Gerald of S. Carolina; grandchildren: Sherry Hinch, Amy Van Loo, Walter Ritter, Jr., Robert Ritter, Peggy Stermer and Wendy Ritter; and seven great grandchildren.
Friends will be received on Wednesday, March 31, from 12:002:00 p.m. at the BETZLER & THOMPSON LIFE STORY FUNERAL HOMES, M-40 South of I-94, Paw Paw, 657-3870. Graveside funeral services will be held at 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday at Cuddeback Cemetery, with Pastor Ron Brooks officiating. To read Elmers complete life story, share a memory, send flowers or make a memorial contribution to the charity of your choice, please visit Elmers personal web page at www.lifestorynet.com.
Elmer Ritter will be deeply missed, but his kindness, generosity and his passion for life endure as an example to all who knew him.