Florence Ritchie, who died Thursday at the age of 96, was one of the oldest residents on Stoney Creek. Just think what she had experienced and seen in her lifetime — radio, television, the Internet, not to mention the telephone, electricity and electrical appliances. She had lived through the Depression era, World War II, the space age, and computers!
She was a wife, mother, grandmother, homemaker, seamstress, and friend to many.
Obituaries cannot tell the whole story of a person’s life, just the highlights. Human life is always more than what meets the eye. Several years ago this writer visited Florence Ritchie with a friend, who had been a neighbor of hers for many years. In this one short visit, I was introduced to a woman who handled life with care. Immediately, she introduced us to a roomful of dolls, many of which she had made to look new with a little touch from Florence. She had touched them up by adding a little color to their lips and redoing their hair. Some had received a new, stuffed body. All had been dressed in a new outfit, which Florence had made, carefully choosing the fabric, buttons, bows and ribbons to make their dresses a special piece of handiwork. Florence loved ruffles and bows. That day she wore a long sleeve ruffled white blouse.
Most of Florence’s creations were made from her own patterns. And, apparently she was one of those people who if it was possible could “make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.”
Doll clothes were not the only things she fashioned and made. Florence made many of her own clothes as well as beautiful hand-stitched quilts. In another room, Florence had a rack of aprons, and before we left that day, she had us to choose one — a gift and now, a momento from her.
Florence was a lady, who never slouched in her dress. She always looked like a lady, dressed like a lady, and presented herself like a lady with a bit of charm and class.
She was a perfect hostess, welcoming us into her home, and into her kitchen, where she served us homemade cake.
According to her obituary, Florence was one of 15 children — she leaves behind seven brothers and sisters. Can you imagine the stories that Florence could tell about growing up in a house of 10 girls and five boys!
Florence was married to Willie Ritchie, who was quite a colorful personality, and who served for a brief time as a jailer under Sheriff J.M. Moreland. Together, Florence and Willie raised three children — two sons and a daughter.
She was a woman of faith, a charter member of Unaka Baptist Church.
Each human story is an epic — a journey through life. Florence Ritchie lived her life well. Friends and family will say that Florence Ritchie was tough, but she was fair. She was firm, but kind. By the world’s standards, she never had riches, but she gave of what she had to make life good for her family and those around her.
However simple Florence Ritchie’s life might have seemed to others, it was unique and fascinating to many.
— Rozella Hardin