|Elton R. seated ft., left.|
Long before I was even born, Daddy was working hard for my mom
"Red Caps" carried her bags and made sure they got on the train safely. Mom always mentioned how kind the Red Cap was to her and how much she appreciated his help. I've read old letters Daddy wrote to my grandmother while overseas. My grandparents helped look after baby Johnny and my mom while Dad was gone. The words Daddy wrote were kind, expressing thankful gratitude to his in-laws for taking care of his family in his absence. Those letters always make me sad to read as I imagined Daddy so far away from home and missing his wife and baby boy.
One of the nicest men I ever knew, my daddy had a big heart for other people in need. He did carpentry work for widow ladies around our neighborhood. He was often seen with a hammer or a paintbrush in his hand, high up on a ladder or roofing on top of someone's house. He seemed to always have a side job going somewhere. Daddy's full time job was as a shift worker at Union Oil Refinery in Nederland, TX. As a shift worker, his daily schedule often changed. When his shift allowed it, he could work during the day on other projects he hired out to do at people's houses. I can still picture him up on a ladder in his white painter's overalls painting a neighbor's house. A couple of summers Daddy worked for an elderly couple who owned a beach house on Gilchrist Beach not far from Beaumont. They vacationed there every summer with their invalid son. Daddy would go down to the beach for a week prior to the couple's arrival with their son. His week at the beach was to repair anything that might have broken during the year or needed painting. The couple's neighbor in Beaumont where they lived, also owned a beach house nearby on the same beach. My parents, brother and I got to stay in her beach house while Daddy worked on the other house in exchange for a little maintenance work on her place, too. I remember those weeks playing in the Gulf, listening to ocean waves crashing in the night and watching the shrimp boats every evening.
Daddy was my champion when it came to helping me learn new skills. Learning to read was hard for me and even after I mastered the concepts, I was not in love with reading. Daddy stuck with me even when I was crying and didn't want to read some boring book my teacher had assigned for my home reading. I remember one time in fourth grade, I had to read a take-home reader named, "Dessert Animals". I just could not make it through hardly a chapter of that awful book. I slumped down the wall of our dining room crying that I couldn't read it. Daddy patiently slipped down beside me and suggested that he read a page and I read the next page. So, that is what we did, and together "Dessert Animals" was conquered.
|Playing Kyle's toy guitar|
Daddy was very handy with his tools fixing almost anything in our house that needed repair. He was
|Daddy working his garden|
|Daddy working on our 1st house.|
When I was a little girl and Daddy worked the graveyard shift at the oil refinery, I got to sleep with my mom. If he worked all night on New Year's Eve, I remember lying next to Mama in her bed listening to the refinery whistles at midnight as they blew in the New Year. Mama recognized the refinery whistles and would comment on which one she thought was Union Oil. My daddy was likely ringing in the new year with a buddy out at the plant over a cup of coffee. Often he would work an extra shift on holidays because it meant extra pay. Those guys working extra shifts also got a bonus of a meal compliments of Union Oil.
|Mom & Dad|
Daddy was an elder at the Church of Christ in Port Neches. I remember when the new church building was constructed back in about 1960. My daddy spent many days there helping work on the building getting it ready for our congregation to worship. He spent many hours of personal Bible study and taught Bible classes. On occasion, he even stepped in the pulpit when our preacher was absent. One such Sunday, Daddy was preaching when I decided to be baptized. It is a special memory to me that my daddy was the one who baptized me that Sunday in 1964.
Even though Elton Ritchey was in his late 70's when he passed away, it was still too soon to lose my daddy. In his mid to late 60's he began to develop signs of Alzheimer's disease. By the time my mother passed away from cancer, my brothers and I realized how far Dad's mind had deteriorated. It was a sad, sad time to watch Daddy's health decline. Before he was put in a nursing home, my two brothers and I took turns spending a weekend with Dad so his weekday sitter could return to her home. He often didn't know who I was when I visited with him, but I tried to act like everything was normal and was careful not to ask questions. On those weekends, we sometimes sat in the backyard glider looking up at the giant oak trees. He enjoyed watching the birds and squirrels working to build their nests in the trees. Before Alzheimer's set in, another of my dad's side jobs was with H & R Block preparing taxes. He was diligent at keeping good home accounting records and prepared other people's taxes as if they were his own. Even though his day job was at a refinery, he had a sharp mind for accounting. I always thought he looked nice in his suit when he went to the H & R office to work. Daddy had been accustomed to working and staying busy around the house. On the weekends I spent with him, I'd observe him "working" in his dresser drawers arranging and rearranging medicine bottles of coins, greeting cards and other meaningless items around his socks and t-shirts. I'd drive him to church and he'd comment to me that another woman had come to visit him and also drove him to church. He was talking about me. I was the only woman who ever drove him to church.
It was hard to watch Dad lose his memory forget who I was. After Daddy's death, it took me a while to picture my daddy as he was while I was growing up. Looking at old photographs of him in happier times made that process easier. The event pictured would bring to mind a story about Daddy's kind, fun personality and caring attitude toward everyone. I loved my daddy, I love him still. For even now after living 61 years, I reminisce about Daddy and feel like his little girl again.
|My wedding day. 12/21/74|