Sunday, September 13, 2009

Step Aside, Michael & Ted

I blogged recently about how sad it is we laud corrupt men at their deaths just because they were popular or important. I'd like in my feeble way, to laud a truly great person, the greatest teacher, and one of the greatest people & Christians to ever cross my path - Miss Nancy Ritchey.

Miss Ritchey was a unique individual. She was sarcastic, yet told her students training to be teachers that a teacher shouldn't be sarcastic. She didn't like music, men, or children - or so she claimed. She often stated that when she went to a restaurant and they asked "smoking, or non-smoking", she would ask for the "non-children section", yet I would see her smiling at little kids in church, and know she bought toys for them.

She liked Garfield, the comic strip cat, and collected all sorts of Garfield memorabilia.

She had enough college and training - and smarts - that she could have taught in the biggest universities in our land, yet she spent most of her life teaching in a Christian school, and later in a Bible college - neither of which are known for being well-paid jobs.

I remember the first time I met her. Fall of 1988. I was a very shy, backward freshman at Allegheny Wesleyan College sitting in her New Testament Survey Class. The requirements for the class seemed way too much for this guy to handle, so I dropped the class and never took it until my Senior year. I tried to avoid her classes after that - she seemed so mean, and asked so much, yet she turned out to be the best teacher I ever had.

I remember one year I was taking a teaching methods class from her - the only class I got a "A" from her in. As part of a class assignment, I was decorating her room for a presentation. While trying to hang something, I rested a foot on the shelf of a bookcase. To my horror, the shelf broke. I was so scared I drafted a friend into going with me to tell her. I walked up the sidewalk to her house with true dread in my heart. Her reaction? She laughed and said she was getting new bookcases anyway, and to just prop it up temporarily.

She had a way of lowering her head, looking over her glasses, and making you feel like a bug under a microscope. I will never forget one time I was on the receiving end......

She was our class sponsor. I was late to a class meeting, and tried to sneak in. Unfortunately, the only empty seat was in front of her desk. I tried to slip into my seat as quietly as I could. Slipping off my jacket, I turned in my seat to hang the jacket on the back of it, and promptly fell out of my chair onto the floor. She had been talking, but stopped and gave me one of those over the glasses looks.......and I was mortified. I heard later she used the incident in Psychology class.... I never did find out what she said. :-)

She had a great sense of humor, and could tease. A few years ago, long after I had graduated from college, she was talking to me about what classes she was teaching that year. I mentioned that the one sounded familiar and wish I had taken it. She informed me it was a required class - even when I was in college, and I should have had to take it - she mentioned having my diploma taken from me, but was just joking..... I think - you never could tell with her.

I guess the greatest memory I have of her is from about six years ago. Something had happened in my life - pretty bad. I called her and told her what was going on, and asked her to pray for me. Her reply stunned me. She said "Mark, I pray for you every day." Wow. Eleven years after I had had her as a teacher in college, she still prayed for me every day? That still amazes me. To think of all of the people she taught in school and college down through the years....... that she prayed for me - every day?

She was the toughest teacher I ever had, but truly the best, and I learned toward the end of my time being taught by her that she wasn't the mean and brash person she made herself out to be. She was possibly the most godly person I have had the privilege and honor to know - and she cared - she cared a lot.

One last memory. A few years ago I had a health crisis. My parents were freaking out, thinking I might be contagious to the whole family - I called Miss Ritchey and she took time out to allay their fears - and mine.

Earth has lost a far greater person than Michael Jackson or Ted Kennedy. Only eternity will reveal how many lives this great woman of God touched and helped toward Heaven.

Miss Ritchey, you will be sadly missed by many, but I believe with all my heart that you have stepped through those pearly gates and heard the words you truly deserve to hear: "Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have fought the fight, you have kept the faith. Enter into your eternal reward."

My life - and many others - are truly better for having known you.

A few songs come to mind as I finish typing this. A song "Who's Gonna Take Their Place When They're Gone?" - and how true - "Thank-you For Giving to The Lord", by Ray Botlz, but perhaps the best song to leave in her honor is one that my friend Lori mentioned on her blog - "Faces" by Greater Vision.

I dreamed my life was done
I stood before God's Son
It was time to see what my reward would be
With love he reviewed my life
To count what was done for Christ
For that is what will last eternally

See I'd done my best to share
That Jesus really cares
And he would save if they just believe
Oh, but seldom did harvest come
And so few did I see won
Until the Lord said, "turn around and see."

Then he showed me the faces of the ones who'd come because of me
So many faces that my life had led to Calvary
All those years I thought nobody saw as I labored in lowly places
That's when Jesus smiled and showed me all the faces.

He said though you did not see the yield,
You were faithful to plow the field
At other times you helped me plant the seed
No matter how small the task, you did just as I asked
And thanks to you these souls have been set free.

Then he showed me the faces of the ones who'd come because of me
So many faces that my life had led to Calvary
All those years I thought nobody saw as I labored in lowly places
That's when Jesus smiled and showed me all the faces.

And for those years you thought
Nobody saw as you labored in lowly places
One day He'll smile and show you all the faces.
... the faces... you'll see their faces.

I wanted to put the video for the song here, but whoever posted it on Youtube disabled that feature, but you can view it here.


Mrs. Deb. Blowers said...

Thanks Mark for such a wonderful tribute. Denise sent me the link to it and I believe no one could have said it better. She was a dear friend to me as well and I will miss her. But I have wonderful memories of great times together and my fondest memories are of times of prayer and just her style of praying and her sense of 'burden' for those she prayed for. Thanks for saying it so well.

Pamela said...

Beautiful, Mark. Thanks for taking time to write a tribute.

Joy said...

Mark, this was an excellent post remembering an incredible woman whose life will never be forgotten.

Kim M. said...

What a great tribute!