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Woman celebrates 100th birthday

January 12, 2017
By Barbara Louchard - Special to the Town Crier , The Town Crier

Frances Jean Palchefsky Ritz was born Jan. 10, 1917, the daughter of Ignatius and Anna Palchefsky of Youngstown.

Her daughter, Barbara Louchard, and son-in-law, Tom Louchard, along with Frances' two grandsons, Eric and Bjorn, planned a 100th birthday gala for Frances Saturday at Hampton Woods Nursing Center in Poland, where family from across the country united in celebration.

Aside from family, friends and former co-workers attended to share stories and honor the woman they've known for several years.

Frances was the first young woman in the Youngstown Mahoning County area to be awarded the Girl Scouts' highest honor, the Golden Eagle award, in 1935.

Frances graduated valedictorian of her East High School class and was an early volunteer during her youth at the Pearl Street Community Center, Christ Mission Youth, and during summer breaks from attending Youngstown College - now Youngstown State University - she was a lifeguard at one of the city's pools.

After graduating from YSU with a Bachelor of Science degree in business education, she began her teaching career at different area schools, including four years teaching at YSU, but was still very active in volunteering her time. She was proud of the fact that she coached a girls' basketball team in Attica that made it to the state finals.

She was a war bride who traveled to Oklahoma in 1944 to get married. The ceremony took place at the Air Base 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 Gen. Nathan Twining headquartered at Bari, Italy. During the course of the war, her husband was awarded five battle stars for his European, African, Middle Eastern campaign ribbon.

After his return, he became a Youngstown Vindicator crime reporter, and then he and Frances in 1947 became the proud parents of their only daughter, Barbara.

Frances later received her master's degree from Kent State University and after 48 years of teaching, 32 years at Boardman High School teaching the Cooperative Office Education program (COE), she retired at age 74 in 1991, credited and honored for having found 700 office jobs for her students in the fields of medicine, law, finance, health and social services.

She had been instrumental in revamping the business education department by instituting vocational labs, including electronic typewriters, electronic calculators, office sized desks, and IBM personal microcomputers, all state-of-the-art at that particular 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 in business education.

In addition to her teaching career, 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 traveling across the country, collecting minerals, and later learning to polish them to exhibit at craft fairs.

After her husband passed away in 1980, Frances continued her teaching career at Boardman High. She devoted untold hours to her students, preparing them for competitions in Columbus and worked tirelessly to find them office jobs. To publicize the COE program to the community, she would speak to various groups like the Rotary Club, Kiwanis, and the Chamber of Commerce to ask for their assistance in hiring her students to work as interns part-time in training.

She also recognized employers who hired her students at yearly "bosses appreciation banquets" for 25 years and presented trophies, awards and certificates of achievement to her students and plaques to all the employers. So many of her former students have approached her over the years, crediting her for getting them started in future professional careers.

She continues to be active in many professional organizations, Delta Kappa Gamma and American Association of University Women, and was treasurer of both the Friends of the Boardman and Poland libraries for many years, even as she approached her 90s.

After her retirement in 1991, she took the opportunity to travel. She has visited Russia, Siberia and Czechoslovakia three times with the Slippery Rock University Studies program, as well as having taken Caribbean cruises and trips to Alaska and Hawaii.



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