By Kayla Carter
At 74 years old on Oct. 11, Gebe Ritchie’s life ended in the same place it began.
“He was born here when it was called Watauga Valley,” she said. “There were no box numbers or route numbers.”
As a lifelong Carter County resident, Lynice Ritchie said her husband grew up on the property where their home is built.
“His homeplace is right in front of us,” she said. “He never left home.”
She said Gebe received his nickname from his family when he was born.
“His mom and dad nicknamed him Little Geber,” Lynice said. “His brother George couldn’t say Little Geber, so George started calling him Gebe and it stuck. You can mention ‘Ernest Ritchie’ and most people don’t know who you are talking about, but you say ‘Gebe Ritchie’ and they go, ‘Oh yeah, oh yeah.’”
Regardless of whether they knew his given name, most people also knew of Gebe Ritchie’s service-oriented ways. Friends and family said that during his life, he served God, in the U.S. Army and on the Carter County School Board and County Commission.
During county meetings, Lynice Ritchie said her husband would consistently remind commissioners and school board officials of what he thought was the most important mission — to provide a better future for generations to come.