Veteran educator, Frances Jean Ritz of Poland, passed away on Friday, November 29th surrounded by her family. She was 102 years old. Funeral services will be held on Tuesday December 3rd at 11:00am at Poland United Methodist Church in Poland, Ohio.
Frances was born January 10th, 1917, the eldest of 5 children of Anna and Ignatius Palchefsky of Youngstown.
She was the first young woman in the Youngstown, Mahoning county area, to be awarded the Girl Scouts’ highest honor, the Golden Eaglet award in 1935. That same year Frances graduated Valedictorian of her East High School class. She began volunteering at the Pearl Street Community Center and at Christ Mission Youth on Youngstown’s East side. The Girl Scouts would go out in pairs to the poorer neighborhoods to distribute clothing and food, as well as to teach life and health skills, including first aid.
Frances graduated in June 1939 with a BS in Education from YSU, when it was then known as Youngstown College. She began her early teaching career in different local schools, but was still very active volunteering her time. She was very proud of the fact that she coached a girl’s basketball team from Attica, which made it to State Finals. She was a war bride, who traveled to Oklahoma in 1944 to get married. The ceremony took place at the airbase chapel at Muskogee. Her newlywed husband, Steve Ritz, a World War II soldier on leave, was an aerial and war photographer serving with the 15th Air Force, under the command of General Nathan Twining, headquartered at Bari, Italy. She later joined the faculty of the School of Business at YSU, where she taught for four years.
She also gave great support to her family, as her three brothers and her husband served overseas until the conclusion of World War II.
Frances was very much a part of the “Greatest Generation” who came of age during the Great Depression and World War II. As countless other Americans experienced the privations and hardships of that time, Frances endured them as well, but never lost her optimism and desire to seek excellence within herself. She was determined to succeed and wanted to help others succeed equally.
Frances loved being a teacher. After 48 years of teaching, 32 years at Boardman High School in Boardman, Ohio, Frances retired in 1991 at age 74. She had been Department Chair of the Business Education Department and head of the Cooperative Office Education (COE) program. During her tenure she had secured 700 jobs for her students as interns in the fields of medicine, law, health, social services, insurance, banking, retail, broadcasting, telecommunications and industrial manufacturing, amongst others. The jobs she secured for her students were important training for future careers. Because of her success in publicizing and implementing this program, other high schools adopted her techniques.
Frances published articles in the Journal of Business Education, a professional magazine. One was aptly titled “Teach students how to obtain jobs.” In many ways she was ahead of her time, developing a television program entitled “teaching typing via television.” She totally revamped the business education department at Boardman High School where she installed vocational labs with electronic typewriters and electronic calculators on regular sized office desks, as well as purchasing IBM personal micro computers, all state of the art at that time.
The Ohio State Vocational Department awarded her a plaque for “excellence” in promoting employment possibilities for high school students, calling her a “proven winner” in Ohio.
The year before she retired she was honored as “Outstanding Business Teacher of the Year” in Mahoning and Trumbull Counties, and was presented with a bouquet of four dozen red roses to recognize her years of teaching. A decade later Frances was named the 2001 recipient of the YWCA Woman of the Year award in the Education/Business category. At that time she was given a commendation by the Ohio House of Representatives. It stated, “As a recipient of this prestigious award, you have been recognized for your selfless and dedicated efforts on behalf of the Youngstown area.”
More recently, on the occasion of her 100th birthday, Frances was recognized by the Ohio Senate, which congratulated her on her accomplishments, and stated that she set “an example of service and achievement worthy of emulation”. Then in 2018, the Beeghly College of Education held its annual Alumni Awards ceremony and presented Frances with the “Lifetime Educational Service Award”.
Frances was a member of many service organizations such as Delta Kappa Gamma. DKG, a professional society of women educators, contributes to the YSU fund, which helps support the teacher education scholarship program. Frances was the treasurer of Friends of the Poland library for 10 years, and Friends of the Boardman Library until she was 92, keeping all the books by hand. Frances was also a member of the American Business Women’s Association, the Ohio Business Teachers Association, and the Christian Women’s Association, amongst others.
In addition to her teaching associations, Frances became a member of the East Ohio Lapidary Club along with her husband, and took up the hobby of designing gemstone jewelry. Many pleasant summers were spent with her husband and daughter, Barbara, traveling through the western states collecting minerals, and later learning to polish them to exhibit at craft fairs.
Frances knew that teaching is a great responsibility, no matter what the field. She embraced that responsibility and spent half her life to help empower others. She had a very rich life.
Frances was preceded in death by her parents, her husband, Stephen Ritz, and her three brothers, Dr John Allen of Dayton, Ohio, Nicholas Pahl, of Kent, Ohio, and Michael Palchefsky of Laurel, MD. There was also another brother, Charlie, who died as an infant during the Influenza pandemic of 1918. Frances is survived by her daughter, Barbara Louchard, of Pacifica, California, and her two grandsons, Eric Louchard, of Miami Florida, and Bjorn Louchard, of Washington DC.
Friends may call prior to the services Tuesday from 10-10:45 AM at the church.
Arrangements are by the Cunningham-Becker Funeral Home in Poland.
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