County loses icon in Joe Ricketts

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The Switzerland County community lost one of its true icons this past Monday when Joe Ricketts passed away after a battle with cancer.

Widely known around the community; Joe Ricketts was born and raised in Switzerland County, and spent his life giving back to his community. After serving his country during World War II, Joe Ricketts returned home and eventually enrolled in watchmakers school in Cincinnati.

In 1952 he opened Ricketts Jewelry in Vevay after spending some time working at Sieglitz Jewelry in Vevay; and a year later he married Mary Ann Ford, beginning a 56-year love affair.

In 1957 Joe decided to learn about insurance, becoming a licensed agent for State Farm Insurance and remaining their until retiring and turning over that business to daughter, Jeni Scudder, in 1989.

In 1959 Joe and Mary Ann Ricketts moved their jewelry store to the corner of Ferry and Pike streets, where it still stands today.

But Joe Ricketts the businessman is a small part of the contributions that Joe Ricketts the citizen provided to Vevay and Switzerland County.

He was named the chairman of the Vevay Sesquicentennial celebration in 1963 – an event that would evolve into the Swiss Wine Festival, and event that to this day brings thousands of visitors to this community.

He was a charter member of the Switzerland County Chamber of Commerce, and in 1990 he received the chamber’s highest honor, the Paul Ogle Community Service Award.

He also worked to bring jobs and prosperity to the county, working on everything from lobbying for the construction of the bridge over the Markland Dam to helping persuade Randall Textron Industries to open a factory in Vevay.

He was the president of the board of directors of the First National Bank for many years; and also for years served as a board member of the Switzer Square Senior Citizens housing apartments on Seminary Street. Upon his retirement, a plaque was placed in the yard at Switzer Square in his honor.

In terms of service to his community, the list is a long one: Vevay Kiwanis Club; Vevay Jaycees; Vevay American Legion Post #185 and Vevay VFW Post #5396.

He was also action in the Florence Masonic Lodge, and also the Scottish Rite in Indianapolis. It was through his relationships with those organizations that many of the Scottish Rite groups began to bring floats, motorcycles, and go-carts to Vevay to be a part of the Swiss Wine Festival parade.

Joe Ricketts is survived by wife, Mary Ann; daughter Jeni Scudder and husband, Kevin; son Randy Ricketts and wife Pam; grandchildren Regan, Devin, Trenton, Breanna, Joe Ryan, Dustin, and Carlee; and great-grandchildren McKayli, McKenli, McKira, and Addison.

He was preceded in death by his son, Michael, in 2005.

Along with other relatives; Joe Ricketts is also survived by a community filled with people whose lives are better and more enriched because Joe Ricketts gave of himself as a community servant so that this county could prosper.

His visitation is tonight (Thursday) at Haskell and Morrison Funeral Home; with burial tomorrow (Friday) in Vevay Cemetery.

– Pat Lanman

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For a complete obituary of Joe Ricketts, see page two of today’s edition.