Posts filed under ‘men of substance’

Oct. 3rd – the episode – Chris Ritchey

So many October 3rds have come and gone in real time but not in my time . The anniversary of those last photos of you with your family before heading back to MD Anderson and Texas for the trial of SGN 35 to save your life. The head and shoulders shot taken that day – apparently used at the funeral home.

Friday , your dad, was undergoing a procedure. I was once again in a hospital- and I so hate hospitals – I gear myself to go – I put on an armor of self-protection- walk through the pitfalls of triggers – knowing where they are in those places.

I prepared myself as I drove to the appointment for the laughter of those individuals working in these places as they go about their working day, white coats and scrubs , the sound of rubber soles squeaking on polished tiles, the smells, the sights of those who lay in various positions hooked up to life sustaining fluids that drip silently into their veins, the alarms going off when they don’t , those sitting in wheelchairs and those who wait in chairs that provide no comfort, the sound of curtains being drawn around a patients bed, the calls for doctors and needs over the speakers, technicians scurrying with vials of blood in handy little carrying cases,

All routine every day happenings in any hospital but for me a minefield. I have managed in this recent bout of illness and emergency rooms with your dad. I have walked myself through each day each diagnosis, each “episode” ( meaning) “a finite period in which someone is affected by a specified illness”. A throw away word which has much more meaning to some than others.

“Oh he had an episode” during the night……………..

I took a book with me to try to read , that didn’t work , I read the words but did not comprehend , my brain too busy trying to control, block and filter out unwanted sights, sounds and thoughts. I sat and waited.

The procedure was taking longer than they had said. My mind started racing and my blocking mechanism to such thoughts kicked in to hold down the doubts and thoughts which started to form.


A rushing of movement, a curtain being pulled once more across the entrance to the lab corridor, people flying past yet at the same time controlled, disturbing the air where I sat, carts arriving , staff with an intense look to their faces heeding the call. Then nothing just quiet efficiency from those that remained, no more laughter a deadly seriousness entered the area like a spectre waiting to gather in all hope.

I watched the curtain across the corridor, willing it to open , waiting for your dad to reappear from the place behind – nothing and then another “Code Blue Cath Lab” call— more people going through and behind the curtain.

Chris Ritchey  BFA- CIA

Chris Ritchey BFA- CIA

A nurse walked by and looked at me –

are you alright-


came the answer forced from my throat. She wasn’t to know I was no longer in St. John’s Westshore but in a waiting room all alone on a Thanksgiving Day at the Cleveland Clinic and another CODE BLUE continually ringing through the hall the Code Blue being called to your bedside.

White Coat of Death by  Chris Ritchey

White Coat of Death by Chris Ritchey

The armor crumbled, the blocking wall fell slow motion like into so much dust, intentions to stay in the present ripped away – leaving the raw and exposed wound of a scar of grief that never fully heals. I was undone and collapsed like the wall once again in two worlds…………

Although not involved with our case, the nurse checked and it wasn’t your dad. Some other loved one was sending shock waves of terror to their family .

The nurse came back held my hand – “I couldn’t help but notice your eyes – they were so full of fear…..”

I didn’t explain that the woman she had helped and was talking to was just a mere shell – the rest of her was elsewhere still trying to breathe………..

Depths of Despair by  Chris Ritchey

Depths of Despair by Chris Ritchey

October 3, 2016 at 12:42 pm 5 comments

A Maritime History – Lorain was not all steel-The Captains

I am a transplant from a sea faring nation. I always wondered why Lorain did not hold her “inland seas” connection dearer to their historical hearts.

Today’s Morning Journal http://www. morning covered the talk given by one of Charleston Village Society’s Co Chairs- Renee Dore

wilford collage

“One of the captains Dore shared information about was Capt. Thomas Wilford. She referred to him as the “steamboat master” and explained how he saved his family from a ship wreck on Lake Superior.
Dore said she learned about Wilford 10 years ago, and is in part how she became interested in the history of the Black River and those who helped establish Lorain, formerly known as Charleston Village.

As I read Rene’s remarks I remembered the night she introduced us to Captain Wilford
and his connection, how this led to a continuing journey through the seas of Lorain’s maritime history and her lights along the shore …

Words: Henry Burton, 1877.

lights-upon-the-shoreI have reprised the article from February 2008

in the pink
that woman by Loraine Ritchey
He has become “my” captain,from the moment Renee Dore came through my front door with his story, this man of the inland sea captivated my imagination and part of my heart.

It all started in frustration and anger -this romance. Charleston Village Executive Board were holding a meeting in my home- we were under threat of blight and had been told that the little park that had been a public green space for two centuries was to make way for “condos”. We were meeting to plan a course of action . What could we do , this small band of neighbors, to show the worthiness of Lorain’s history and this oldest neighborhood, from which Lorain eventually grew, to those that only saw limited revenue for the short term?
the park

As we sat there, Renee mentioned that she had received some papers from a contact at Bowling Green University. Renee, who loves this old neighborhood, played as a child on her streets, and has given back to her three fold, including building a “new” home – Renee's home

hoping to restart a community, had gone in search of a man- a ship’s captain. Her captain may have lived in the house where she lived as a “wee bairn” and in her search through the archives of the Black River Historical Society and the Lorain Public Library, in order to document the stories and the worth of Portside – before it went to the wrecking ball-
Portside sketch click to enlarge
had come across a story of a ship’s captain who had saved his wife, children and crew from a shipwreck.

I remember Renee coming in that evening, full of excitement, even though the meeting was going to be “dour”, as we started reading the old news paper accounts; I came to the overwhelming realization ,that inspite of what we were facing ,I had to chronicle this man’s tale. It is a tale of love, bravery, adventure and humanity, one that my grandfather would’ve described as a “cracking good yarn” .

I persuaded Renee to leave me the documents and started to piece the tale together, my theatrical background switched into overdrive, in my mind I saw the play , the movie that could be made from this…. my creative instincts saw so many possibilities.Charle's Aunt
I kept studying the old black and white photo copy of the man in question, Captain Wilford
I was experiencing deja vu – I know this face, his eyes -why? I am not even from here originally; he was originally from England , but nowhere near where I had lived. Why was this face amongst the old newsprint so familiar? I asked my mother who came over the next day as I was typing “Her Book

“Mum look at this picture what do you think?”

He certainly reminds me of someone but who? – well lets get on with “my memories” mumsince you have nagged me to do this for decades”

and the Captain stayed on the desk.
The days went by and the Captain’s face haunted me, as I typed my mum’s memories of her childhood and young life. I would take a break and look at the photo on top of the printer

“you know me- you know – you know me “

it seemed to accuse but I just couldn’t make the connection.
I eventually got lost in the problems facing Lorain, the root cause
when a phone call took me back to The Captain. It was my very good friend, fellow actor Dave Cotton. Dave and I have gone through the good times and the bad, we laugh and moan together. It was one of those dreary days –

“tell me something good”

he said
Dave, I have just been putting together a story about a sea captain , it would make a great play even a better movie- the visual , the romance , the tragedy, the bravery I just can’t get this guy out of my mind.
Dave hadn’t heard of such a significantly adventurous tale from Lorain’s past and he and his family had lived in the area for generations.
I then went rabbitting on about this Captain Wilford,

That’s funny

said Dave

my great grandmother’s name was Wilford

THE FACE – of course that face -it was David- the moustache , the hair was a little different but the eyes – it WAS DAVID!!!!!

Dave IT IS YOU!!!

David who has known my penchant for the dramatic, laughed and said

” I have never heard of this guy in our family stories or documents” Dave.this is just too coincidental ! You have to look and see

after a couple of days research it was confirmed the heretofore unknown Captain Thomas Wilford was Dave’s great,great uncle.
Dave had passed his home on his way to meetings at the Black River Historical Society , never knowing that he had a connection. Wilford Bartenfeld home
From there the tale continued to grow, in order to raise funds for the Charleston Village Cemetery, Dave, his theatrical talent blessing us, started telling the tale of the shipwreck, and in order to make sure his facts were correct embarked on a journey of his own discovery .
Dave as Captain Wilford

Not only was a remarkable piece of Lorain’s history found, more was uncovered , his wife-Fanny who had had his arms protectvely wrapped around her as the large Canadian ship came out of the fog to slice into their schooner) her own connection to the Civil War
Fanny  Gilmore
, her family and Lakeview Park , General  Gilmorethe worth of a rental, Wilford house
the people who laid this towns foundations, once again living and breathing as we celebrated the two hundred years .
The fact that the State of Michigan deems the story of the shipwreck and the preservation of the wreck as important to the history of the Inland Seas and the archiver of the Titanic- Ken Marschall has also archived the Osborne but Lorain knew not the worth of her people to the maritime history………
Note to access the photos of the Osborne as she rests at the bottom of Lake Superior – near White Fish Point click here and scroll down
to be continued……….proposed maritime museum

September 29, 2016 at 2:21 pm 2 comments

Sept 3rd- a day / life captured – Chris Ritchey

chrisart collage

I have some of your work from Cleveland Institute of Art

displayed appropriately in most rooms , even the bathroom.


One of your first tries at glass making- the glass frosted and slightly wonky but it holds the Daffodils of spring, red Roses and Lavender of summer and the Chrysanthemums of fall , reminders the seasons and years as they continue to pass.

Your work has brought me comfort, longing, as well as tears. I went through your portfolio in those first “tearing” weeks when we all were so fragmented – one didn’t know where we began and ended, lost in a maelstrom of disbelief and pain. I found the photographs , “another assignment”A Day in the Life of a College Student. There you were in those photos brushing your teeth, making breakfast – such as it was- all the things that are so everyday- studying , taking care of the garbage ,


playing X- box –


working on projects, having a beer – all there . These simple acts of living archived and not meaning much of anything to anyone else but to us the world.

The wall of your apartment adorned with another photography assignment , and the subject Angela- less the angelic person her name implies (in my opinion .)
The work showed another side to this young woman – one I came to know all too well during the dying days and afterwards. You captured in the lens of the camera something hidden to the eye. I remember saying to you


“there is a darkness in these photos- Chris and I don’t think her mother would be pleased so I wouldn’t show them to her .

There they are on the wall frozen in the camera lens and time . A part of your day and your life but one I would so like to forget.

I have a day in your life , the simple acts of living, stopped by the camera just as your life was stopped and now we are frozen in the loss of you. In amongst all the projects , drawing, design a very special piece of your work has given to us something that is always lost when someone dies – captured in the amber and gold glass – your breath. This work is cherished above all else because it contains the breath of your body locked in beauty.

Breath of Life - Celtic Knot - Chris Ritchey

Breath of Life – Celtic Knot – Chris Ritchey

We have such a lot of YOU but not enough to take away the pain, only YOU walking through the door once more could do that …. I love you

September 3, 2016 at 11:27 am Leave a comment

Another Birthday- time stopping- Chris Ritchey

artwork Chris Ritchey

artwork Chris Ritchey

It has come around once again – your birthday- the day when I first held you outside of my heart- looked at your little screwed up face, smiled down at you in my arms and promised you the world , as much of it as I could give. Excited phone calls to the UK – a boy!!! Nana always wanted a boy – at last she had one.

Another hospital , another birthday , another invasive test – and hope and promises dissolving in our tears.

The trouble with cancer it ignores special days, it ignores a mother’s tears, it just does what it is good at doing ……….. and on your birthday – a day remembered with such hope it took that memory and took away hope.

I will look for your face and your spirit tomorrow – try to hear your voice in my memory and try not to dissolve completely…

I loved and still love you my little boy who will not grow old …

August 21, 2016 at 11:22 am 1 comment

A Tall- tree- Tale ends- Lorain ( dudes)

the neighborhood  after tornado

the neighborhood after tornado

The Tornado of Lorain
took down homes, and with it lives as well as beauty . The people living in Lorain in the early 1900’s cared- they cared about quality of life of beautification, they were proud of their homes , we don’t see a lot of that in Lorain’s old neighborhoods nowadays.
Admiral King Home back in the day-

Post Card Admiral King's home

Post Card Admiral King’s home

The Gillmore’s
at the end of my street, their home, now well over 100 years old , planted a tree . That particular tree grew through the decades, spared by the tornado, but age took its toll just as it does with all of us. The tree became a hazard and one day after a particularly bad storm in the early 2000 ‘s the tree fell across Oberlin avenue. Peggy Gillmore, was extremely upset about the loss of that tree planted by members of her family long passed.
403 Oberlinres
403 Oberlin
When the little park at the end of the street, now known as Veterans Park
was cleaned after the tornado. The community planted trees to once again add ambiance and to honor those lives lost in the tornado.

On the right side of my property ( next door) to the west was a huge Maple tree- actually tied with iron rods at some time in its history)You can see it in the photo from the Lorain County Auditors site –

I believe that tree must have been young at the time of the tornado. The circumference of the trunk took up over a third of the small back yard- 33 feet . The property to the east side of my own 33 foot lot stood another very large maple – not as big as the one to the west – but gigantic in its own way.

This tree was probably planted after the tornado or perhaps grew from one of the maple seeds. Nevertheless , I could literally see it up close and personal from my den window, as it stood no more than 8 foot away. There have been times as I have watched “life ” in that tree. It hid a lot of “less than pleasant” sights through the decades as the properties on that lot and the one next to it deteriorated.”

Finally , the very large “pre tornado” tree to the right gave up and split where the crown met the trunk – sent one third of its branches crashing down.

This one “branch”- bigger than most trees- fell across our property and landing with a bang onto the house next door, which was luckily vacant and abandoned . The huge maple, on the lot to the east , just feet away from my home took the force and redirected the fallen limb away from my home leaving the tree damaged and lopsided.

That was January 2008falling-tree
A great deal has happened since then, not of all of it good. We put up with a lot of issues from the lot next door. The little historic house was killed by “pimping landlords” who saw that little house as only a way to make money for the least possible outlay –
and the tree from two doors down finished the job. The house, after a few years, was finally torn down. A sigh of relief , no more vagrants and critters of the 4 and two legged kind hiding out.

Then it began -the parking lot from hell- lack of respect for another’s property- dump trucks, overflow parking and then the shortcut route from the alley to 4th- a cut through for traffic.

red truick


How many times did I watch the lot become a road way ( even as recently as last week) ? Luckily , the Maple tree, dangerous as it was, as it too suffered over the years, was large enough to stop two-way traffic and large vehicles from making it an even more convenient roadway.

That did mean however the reversing into the alley by the dump trucks etc. We would be woken by the sound of backing up construction vehicles – no bird song here. NOTE: it seems to me if you are running a business from a residence then you should have legal parking for your construction vehicles .This block is R 3.

Fortunately we were , at last , able to purchase the lot. This meant the tree which I had complained about to the powers that be and insurance company as a hazard had to come down.

Down it came yesterday to the delight of my two little boys( Lorain Dudes) – loving every minute of watching the cranes, the “axe men ” in real life and all that taking down that tree involved.

two dudeslunch
The view from the window has changed – the Maple tree , by the very size of its trunk blocked a less than perfect view. I will have to do some creative landscaping so I see green once more and appease the birds and squirrels who are definitely NOT happy with the humans here on 4th!

I am extremely happy with the difficult job Tree Pro of Lorain ( 440-288-tree) did in taking down the tree. I would recommend them highly and you know readers coming from me that is not given lightly!
2016-03-29 16.04.14


tree collage

March 30, 2016 at 6:17 pm 1 comment

Windows on Lorain- The Neanderthals- a “tornado” history


Readers will remember that last August a cretin of caveman- like behavior decided to take out their anger against me and this blog by sneaking through the shrubbery in the dead of night and hurling a chunk of concrete through the leaded glass front living room windows and ripping down a “don spout”
another view
2015-08-23 08.16.03

Such lack of intelligence knows no bounds.
Not only did they take out the front window but by venting their anger on the downspout left their calling card – in my opinion-

downspout two
if I ever saw one , as to the sender of the concrete message ! However, no finger prints on the concrete so I am left to my own suppositions and opinions BUT
This was not the end of the tale. After sweeping up the shattered leaded glass ( thankfully the lead in the windows had held the concrete’s forward force ) the glass shattered 20 feet into the dining room the repair had to be done . It could’ve been more dangerous with the flying glass, someone asleep in the chair – doesn’t bear thinking about – although in all honesty “thinking” wasn’t part of this particular crime .

Fast forward after the police had left ( along with my suppositions) and the installations of many cameras recording the comings and goings around the house, alley and property , it was time for the insurance.

The insurance company had no problem with gutter/downspout repair but did not have anyone listed who could fix 90-year-old windows. Eventually they came up with a list- none of whom were close to Lorain.

I contacted a craftsman in Hinckley Ohio –

Jim Ascherl,Ascherl Studios,1616 Center Rd. Hinckley Oh 44233 330-278-4964 shop 440-223-4111 cell

and the tale of 6 degrees of separation unfolded:
A tale of a tornado hitting Lorain in 1924- the rebuilding of a community and new housing . Yes back in 1926- this old house was brand new – as were her windows.


This was our “lot” the day after the tornado ,


The lot was originally 66 ft wide with one house which was destroyed. History has it, a mother and daughter rebuilt two houses on the lot – sub dividing the lot to 33 ft each. The two homes have “all leaded glass windows ”

The time of rebuilding sent a young man to Lorain to repair the leaded and stained glass windows of the churches damaged by the tornado.

Michael Ascherl 1928

Michael Ascherl 1928

At age 13, Michael Ascherl began working as an apprentice glazier in southern Germany. At age 16, Michael obtained Journeyman status before confiding to his boss that he wanted to learn stained glass. His boss dismissed it stating, “You’re too old to learn a new trade.” A few months later, Michael quit and promptly obtained employment with a small stained glass studio, The J. Gross Company. Michael’s duties included walking from town to town in southern Germany repairing windows. The glass rack and tool box, called a “Kraxze,” that he carried on his back over 100 years ago is proudly displayed in our showroom.

Michael immigrated to New York in the early 1900s where he met his wife before moving to Cleveland Ohio. Michael Ascherl landed employment with a commercial glass company until 1924 when a devastating tornado wiped out the downtown area of nearby Lorain Ohio. Due to extensive damage to downtown churches, Michael’s employer immediately sent him to their Lorain Ohio branch where a stained glass division was hastily set up.

first congregational chuch

For four years Michael spent his days rebuilding all of the damaged windows in the downtown churches.

In 1928, the daunting task of repairing all of the local churches was nearing its end. Michael Ascherl decided that he needed to focus on starting his own studio. Briefly named Sunset Studio, Michael later changed the name to Ascherl Studios.

This young man was Jim’s grandfather( the very artisan I had called – not knowing the connection) for my repair ; the craftsman who also used his talents to make the windows in this old house.

I was fascinated to think 90 years ago Jim’s grandfather standing in the rooms of what is now my home crafting with care these special windows. It was these windows that reminded me of England and home when I first came here, the brick and leaded “dickens windows “, as my mother calls them, drew me to this house.

Jim duly arrived and the consensus was the windows were in all certainty the work of his grandfather!

photo Dan Brady

photo Dan Brady

Also Jim has been working on the stained glass windows damaged etc when the fire totaled First Lutheran Church on 6th Street, so he was familiar with this area . This fire has been ruled arson , another Neanderthal destroying something beautiful and reverent

A Tornado= a craftsman= leaded glass/stained glass windows= a grandson= a neighborhood church=and this old house and sometimes even destruction can bring about a good thing………

Tornado photos courtesy of Ohio Historical Society

March 10, 2016 at 4:16 pm 4 comments

Feb 3rd- the boy – the man- Chris Ritchey

NO LIMITS- Past – Present- Future – Christopher Ritchey
chriscollage snob

These days of missing pile up like so much stuff in a hoarders closet. Pull out one item and blam the rest of those days – stuffed to the back of the “closet of mind”- explode out of their confinement , knocking me off my “grief feet” , stunned , covered in the bits of days I had pushed to the dark recesses- forgotten.

There I am sitting amongst all the rubble of life, the memories, bruised by the sheer weight of it all, overwhelming and in sad recollection. This sheer weight of it all might lessen, as more things are put away again, but the “mind closet” is filled to overflowing and will always be there until end of days.

Desperately hanging on to the memories of your face, your laugh, your voice means reliving the days you were a man.

chrisart collage

I was so proud of you Chris- I still am- your strength – the way you tried to keep from me your fears, your pain in those days of Texas. You knew I was frightened to death of what was happening to you, even in your darkest days you sought to protect Nikki, your dad, Nana and me.
Last month, I received a sympathy card from across the world. They had only just learned you had died. They remembered , not the man, but the child – and at the same time “they” had been little more than a child when they visited us. Their words

“I will forever remember Christopher as a bright-eyed, blond-haired, cheeky, chirpy 8 year old boy”

In my pain of remembering you as the man , it had been a long time since I had pulled from my mind those childhood memories of you. You WERE cheeky, you were a handful, you were loving , boisterous and sometimes bad.
soften collage

Jumping off the neighbor’s garage roof – spraining both ankles – hiding the pain so as not to feel my wrath at such behavior. Your feelings and moods were always written all over your face- open to the world.

Those last months, your eyes hidden for the most part behind those aviator glasses, trying not to share ……

Those happy memories of you -the boy -gave a smile amongst all the clutter of grief-

I love you Chris- both the boy and the man and the strength of your spirit…………………

Breath of Life- Chris Ritchey

February 2, 2016 at 10:49 pm 1 comment

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