7/28/2016 3:00:00 PM 106 year old Myrtle Ritchie, county's oldest resident passes away
2015: 106 years old
2009: 100 years old
Although I had heard Myrtle Ritchie's voice many times, I did not have the chance to meet her until October of 2009. I had gotten a phone call from Betty Bovard Griswold, who told me that her Aunt Myrtle was living at Swiss Villa and would be turning 100 years old on October 25th. She thought it would made a nice photo and story.
Now, I had been a part of many discussions with Myrtle during my time here at the newspaper. She and Don Wallis had a special friendship, as she would call from her home in Evansville and tell us some piece of news; or what she liked - or didn't like - in a recent issue of the paper. Over the years, the phone calls would many times just be to chat or share some memories, especially after her husband Estal passed away in 1988.
When Don Wallis moved back to Yellow Springs, Ohio in 1994, and handed me the keys to the newspaper office, he also handed me the responsibility of making sure that Myrtle was taken care of.
That continued off and on until she moved back to Switzerland County and to Swiss Villa in 2006, and now that she was back around family, there weren't nearly as many phone calls, and life moved on.
So when Betty suggested I go and take Myrtle's picture in honor of her 100th birthday, I was happy to do it, because it also got to mean that I met the face behind the voice.
My first impression? She sure didn't act 100. My second one? I hoped I was that spry and on top of things when I am 70, let alone 100.
So we took some photos and chatted a bit. She sat next to her 100th birthday cake and shared some stories, then it was time for me to go.
"I'll see you next year!" She smiled.
"Yes you will," I smiled back; but truthfully in my heart, I didn't expect to be standing there chatting with Myrtle a year later - she was 100 years old, after all.
But I did.
I saw her on her 101st birthday.
And her 102nd.
And her 103rd.
And her 104th.
And her 105th.
And, in October of last year, I found myself pulling into the parking lot of Swiss Villa for my seventh annual birthday celebration with Myrtle.
She was 106, but she was still sharp as a tack. Her hearing loss meant that I had to get almost cheek to cheek with her and speak pretty loudly for her to hear me, but she reminded me that although she was 106, she was still playing cornhole with the other residents, and she was keeping an eye on some plants in her room, although she was no longer able to work in the small garden that her family had created for her just outside her window.
As she had for at least seven years prior, I wasn't allowed to come for the photo until she had gotten her hair done by the beautician; and - as always - she was in rare form. She told me what was right and what was wrong with the world; and she shared her own brand of the gospel with me and anyone else in ear shot. ("This world needs to get back to God," she'd say. "People need to get back to the Bible.")
As in years past, it got time for me to go, and I hugged her and said goodbye.
"Come back and see me," she said.
"I will, but if nothing else I'll see you next year," I smiled.
"I'm 106, you never know," she laughed.
Somehow, even weighing the odds, I always figured I'd be standing in that room sometime around October 25th, 2016.
And the year after that.
And the year after that.
Myrtle passed away last week. She moved on into eternity quietly, with her family by her side.
I was away at church camp with some kids, so I didn't know of her passing until it was too late.
I wish I would have been here. I wish I could have said goodbye.
But sometimes life doesn't work that way. It didn't for Myrtle and me - and that makes me sad.
Next year, Myrtle. I'll see you soon.
For a complete obituary for Myrtle Mae McCormick Ritchie, please see page 2 of today's edition.