A Life Lived: Ruth Ritchie wore many hats, and she did it gracefully

Published 12:37 pm Tuesday, January 3, 2023

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“Ruth Ritchie was a real lady — always. She was always well-dressed, always serene, very giving of her time. She was a beautiful person inside and out,” said Lilo Duncan, who had been friends with Ritchie for many years. The two had worked and served together in the Woman’s Club of Elizabethton and the Friends of the Library. “She was ready and willing to do whatever was asked of her. Ruth was a very giving person. I never heard her say an unkind word about any person and I never seen her upset. Ruth was a very gracious and kind person,” said Lilo.
Ritchie died Dec. 23 at the age of 93 at Ivy Hall Nursing Home where she had been a resident for the past year after falling and suffering a broken hip.
Ritchie came to Elizabethton from Bryson City, N.C., in the late 1940s when her sister moved here during the construction of the Watauga Dam. Ritchie enrolled as a student at Steed College and that is where she met her future husband, Sam, also a student at the school. The couple was married 69 years before he passed.
Ritchie is perhaps best known for her radio shows: Who’s New In Pink and Blue and What’s Cooking. She was general manager of WBEJ Radio for 40 years. Barton Edens, who worked with Ritchie for several years at the radio station, said she was more of a friend than a boss. “She ran the station well and was a good manager. She took care of business, but she also was good to the people who worked at the station. Ruth was not only a classy lady, but was very professional,” said Edens.
Barton recalled that when he was just a young employee at the station — 22 years of age — he was a fan of Olivia Newton John’s music and he learned that she was going to be in Charlotte, N.C., for a concert. “At the time I didn’t have a credit card, which I needed to get a ticket, and Ruth used her own credit card to purchase me a ticket. I will never forget her kindness,” Barton shared.
In addition to her work at the radio station and her club work, Ritchie served on the Elizabethton City Council, serving as Mayor Pro-Tem from 1977 to 1981. She also served on the Carter County Memorial Hospital Board of Control as well as on the Board of Directors of Northeast Community Services Agency, and the Board of Directors for the Elizabethton Public Library.
Ritchie was honored as the Outstanding Female Citizen of Carter County for 1979-80 and the Business and Professional Woman of the Year in 1981.
Ritchie was also an active member of the First United Methodist Church, and served wherever she was needed. Her son, Sam Jr., remembers her serving in the nursery for a time.
“She was very faithful to her church and was always busy doing something for someone. That was just her nature. She did what needed to be done,” said Sam Jr.
“She was a good mother to me and wife to my dad. Every evening she came home from work or whatever she was doing, and turned out a good supper — beef stew, chicken and dumplings, spaghetti, etc. She was a good cook and took good care of me and my dad,” Sam Jr. added.
“She and my dad were inseparable,” said Ritchie’s son.
Lilo Duncan recalled that when Sam was very sick and was hospitalized at the VA Hospital in Johnson City, “no matter what the weather was, Ruth went every day to the VA to see Sam. She had an enduring love.”
Sam Jr. said his mother enjoyed cross-stitching, and “she and my dad were big U-T fans, and went to many of their football games. She was a snappy dresser and enjoyed shopping and just a week or so before her death, she sent for her hairdresser to come to the nursing home and give her a perm,” her son shared.
Ritchie was an animal lover. Sam Jr. said she had two Pomeranian puppies and a cat. She also had a grandson, Nikolas, whom she adored.
Ruth Ritchie was a giver all her life, and she wore her many hats gracefully. She was beautiful, wise, unique, and priceless as a person. And, each hat she wore required something different from her, and she did each job with pride. Ruth Ritchie was an amazing woman, who left her mark on the community.

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