William (Bill) McClure Ritts
Sept 23, 1920 – January 1, 2014
Bill Ritts passed away peacefully on the evening of January 1st at the age of 93. Born in Altoona, Pennsylvania, our dad saw a lot in his lifetime. His own dad returned from WWI only to be killed by a streetcar a few years later, his little brother died of pneumonia, his mother lost their savings in the stock market crash of 1929, then the depression, military training, WWII, a BA from Waynesburg College, a MA from Pennsylvania State College, additional studies at Penn State and the University of Colorado, 35+ years of teaching public school, a new country, three marriages and six children. He definitely took the road less travelled.
Dad moved to Canada in the 1960’s after his 2nd divorce and, after a few years in Prince George, discovered Parksville and the most beautiful beach he had ever seen. He reinvented himself… grew a beard, bought a hippie van, a house in Errington and settled in. When selling his self-published poetry at the local farmers’ market didn’t pan out, Dad returned to teaching. He loved kids and always had interesting ways to keep them engaged. Acting out in Bill Ritts’ class would see you running laps around the field. He said he was glad that his students mostly liked him because a few of them ended up caring for him at Trillium Lodge in his final years.
He spoke plainly, had a great sense of humour and little patience for superficiality. He loved to read poetry, Thoreau and Emerson and Louis L’Amour. He loved people and their stories and cherished friendships. He loved Halloween, autumn leaves, pumpkin pie, a turkey sandwich and a good cup of coffee. He loved mountains, hikes and working in his garden. He chased women right to the end. He was quiet but deeply spiritual. He was super good looking. He loved sports of all kinds and embraced Canadian hockey. He had faith in the Canucks. He was a proud grandfather and loved his children, Marcie, John, Lorraine, Helen, Dawn and Carolyn, more than anything. For some of us, he was a single dad which wasn’t a common thing in the 60s. We may have gone to Brownies with our badges attached by safety pins but he loved us enough for two parents. He gave us the gift of road trips, the courage to talk to strangers and the appreciation of early morning breakfasts at a roadside diner. Bill was a character. He made a positive impact on so many lives and he will be truly missed. It was an honour to call him Dad.
We’d like to thank those people who were so caring to Bill in his last years – the staff at Trillium Lodge, Dr. Desai, Wendy, Alf, and Jim, Jie and Frank at the Mad Bee Café. You know you were loved.
Bill will be hosting one final cup of coffee at the Mad Bee Café in
Parksville (155 Morison Ave) on Wednesday, January 29th
from 11 am to 12:30 pm. All are welcome.