Joan Ritchie, 91, died peacefully in her sleep on Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2020.
Joan was a wonderful wife, mother and grandmother. She was a great cook, an accomplished seamstress, a diligent quilter and was doggedly devoted to the Sunday newspaper crossword puzzle. She was creative, smart, independent, caring, generous and curious.
Joan is survived by her children, Carolyn of Riddle, Ind., Bill (Patty) of Georgetown, Ind., Ross (Denise) of Corydon, Ind., and Julie White (Keith) of Marengo, Ind.; six grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.
She is preceded in death by her husband of 65 years, Gene, and her eldest daughter, Emily Rose.
Joan was born in Uniontown, Pa., on March 21, 1929, to William and Kathryn Keeney. As a coal miner’s family in the years of the Great Depression, they moved between small mining communities in southwestern Pennsylvania. In order to make a better life, her father valued education and her mother valued Christian faith, both of which served Joan well throughout life.
In 1949, she married Gene Ritchie and soon became a resident of Crawford County, Ind., settling on the Ritchie homestead. Here, she and Gene built a family, a farm and a life together. Joan became active in the small church near her home in Riddle. She taught Sunday school, played the piano, led the singing and organized Bible schools, Christmas programs and fundraisers. She and her children became a family vocal group that performed at church, school and community gatherings.
As her children grew, she found more time to become invested in the larger community through volunteer work. She was on the board of directors of Southern Hills Counseling Center, served on the Crawford County Public Welfare Board, the Crawford County Emergency Food and Shelter Board and was involved with Crawford County Habitat for Humanity. She served as a victim’s advocate, providing safe transportation and counseling for abused women and children, distributed food to the elderly and families in need and found numerous other ways to help those around her. Joan also served on the board of directors of the Marengo State Bank.
In 1972, Joan became a certified lay speaker under appointment for the United Methodist Church, a role she would cherish for over 40 years. She ministered in as many as eight small churches but eventually completed her service where she started, in Riddle. She was active in the United Methodist Women’s group, various church counsels and in a variety of church leadership roles through the years.
The pinnacle of her volunteer service was with the Lincoln Hills Development Corp., a not-for-profit community action agency formed in 1965 to provide needed services for residents of Southern Indiana. She served on the board of LHDC for over 30 years, many of those as board president. Under her leadership, LHDC brought low-income housing to the elderly in English, Milltown and Marengo. She also championed the expansion of the federal Head Start program. In 2008, the Head Start Center in English, Ind., was renamed in her honor. Many other projects were completed in Crawford, Perry and Spencer counties during her years with LHDC.
In 2000, her public service led to her receiving the prestigious Sagamore of the Wabash award from Indiana Gov. Frank O’Bannon. In 2007, Joan was recognized as Crawford County’s Woman Philanthropist of the Year by the Community Foundation of Crawford County and Community Foundation of Southern Indiana. Later that same year, she received a Senior Spotlight Award from Indiana Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman.
Due to the COVID-19 health risks, no funeral service is scheduled. Perhaps at an appropriate time in the future, a celebration of life can be held safely.
Instead of flowers, the family requests that any memorial donations be made to either the Lincoln Hills United Methodist Church Food Pantry, 1598 W. State Road 64, English, IN 47118 or the Riddle Cemetery Fund, c/o First Savings Bank, P.O. Box 428, English, IN 47118.
There will be a private burial at the Riddle Cemetery. Arrangements are being made by Denbo Funeral Home in English.
Online condolences may be made at www.denbo-dillmanfuneralhomes.com.