American Patriotic 10


Billy "Bill" Ritchie

July 12, 1939 ~ May 8, 2018 (age 78)

All who knew Bill Ritchie would agree that he was an extraordinary man to know and love. He wasn’t afraid to do things his own way with a heart that was as big as they come. Bill was deeply devoted to his family, and he was thrilled to become a grandfather and great-grandfather later in life. A great storyteller, he was the heartbeat of wherever he went. Life will never be the same without Bill here, but he leaves behind a brilliantly colored mosaic of memories that his loved ones will forever hold near and dear to their hearts.

Life during the 1930s was anything but easy as the entire decade was cloaked in the hardship of the Great Depression. Jobs were scarce, the unemployment rate soared, and there were few Americans who didn’t feel the stress and strain of the times. Despite the circumstances around them, James and Elizabeth Ritchie were pleased to announce the birth of the baby boy they named Billy on July 12, 1939, in Knott County, Kentucky. Raised in the Appalachian Mountains in Knott County, Kentucky, Bill was the seventh of ten children as he was joined in his family by his siblings, Olive, Iola, Philas, Vincen, Virgil, Luther, Verdin, Larry, Fern, and Mildred. To support their family, his father was a mailman and farmer while his mother had more than enough to keep her busy with her home and family. In many ways Bill experienced an upbringing that was typical for the youth of his generation as he was growing up in rural Kentucky with a large family.

New and exciting changes were in store for Bill when he met the young woman who would forever hold the key to his heart. Her name was Lillian, and it didn’t take the couple long to fall deeply in love. With a desire to spend the rest of their lives together Bill and Lillian were married. Together they welcomed three children, Tammy L., Laura R., and Jason E., into their hearts and home. Bill and his wife moved to Auburn, Indiana, in 1963 for work opportunities. They stayed there for a few years, but when Bill got homesick they moved back to Kentucky. A bit later it became clear that there were more opportunities in Indiana, so they packed up the family and moved back to Indiana to provide a better life for his family.

A man of integrity, Bill was known for his strong work ethic. He served in the United States Air Force and was stationed in Florida during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Bill was a structural mechanic on the U2 spy plane, traveling to many locations while in the service. At times he was sent on missions, and his wife didn’t know where he was while on these missions. To this day, Bill still wouldn’t talk about some of the top secret missions he was on. As a civilian, he worked as a machinist at International Harvester and in maintenance at Guardian Industries.

Throughout his life Bill was a bustle of activity. He loved taking his family back to his home in Kentucky so they could see where he spent his childhood. They also took family trips to Florida and Myrtle Beach as a family, and later he and his wife traveled to Pigeon Forge and Branson, Missouri. He was a member of Auburn Presbyterian Church and an avid fan of University of Kentucky basketball as well as a fan of the Cincinnati Reds. While in high school in Kentucky, Bill was a competitive folk and square dancer who traveled to many different competitions in the United States. He was known for his Southern country cooking and had many dinners waiting on the table when the family got home. Bill has been described as a jack of all trades who liked working in the yard and on various projects around the house. With a bit of a stubborn streak, he once insisted on taking down a large pine tree in the yard even though his wife had told him the job was too big for him. Determined, Bill’s wife was surprised to find the tree gone when she got home from work one day after he and Jason took care of it on their own.

Later in life there was nothing Bill loved more than being surrounded by his loved ones. He found such great joy in becoming a grandfather, and he seized every opportunity to spoil his grandchildren. Bill spent as much time with them as he could, and they enjoyed riding in his red truck to get Ice cream. Even better, he actually let them eat in the truck! Christmas time was his favorite time of the year as it was a time for his family to be together.

With a life that spanned times of great change in the world around him, Bill Ritchie was a blessing in the lives of all who were near. He could be a bit ornery at times, but he also loved joking around with others all in the name of fun. Bill was soft hearted with a deep love for his family that was so easy to see. Deeply loved, he will be forever missed.

Billy “Bill” Ritchie, of Auburn, died Tuesday May 8, 2018 at Presence Sacred Heart Home in Avilla with family at his side. Bill’s family includes his wife, Lillian Ritchie of Auburn; daughters, Tammy L. Corey of Quincy, IL and Laura R. Gerald of Lebanon, OH; son, Jason E. Ritchie of Auburn; grandchildren, Diedre Van Straten, Anneke Grable-Gibson, Kyndall Gerald, Skyler Gerald, and Claire Gerald; great grandchild, Aiden Gerald; brothers, Luther Ritchie, Verdin Ritchie and Larry Ritchie; sisters, Fern Smith and Mildred Ritchie. Bill was preceded in death by sisters, Olive Estep, Iola Winslow and Philas Van Schoyck; brothers, Vincen Ritchie and Virgil Ritchie. A memorial service will be held 2 p.m. Friday with visitation from 12-2 p.m. at Auburn Presbyterian Church 112 West 12th Street, Auburn. Rev. David Lawrence and Rev. Bill Hayworth will be officiating. Memorials may be made to American Heart Association or Lewy Body Dementia Association. Burial will be held in Jason Ritchie Cemetery in Knott County, Kentucky. To sign the online guest book, visit

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