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Jim Ritter, 89, of Richland, died May 2, 2004, at the North Senior Care Home at Richland.
There will be a Celebration of Life and Memorial Service for him at 11 a.m. Friday at the Pine Haven Cemetery in Halfway.
Jim was born at Halfway on March 3, 1915. His father was J.P. Ritter, a cattle rancher and community leader. J.P. had been a county commissioner as well as president of the local bank. Jim’s mother was Ella Belle Canaday. His siblings were Harold, Clair, Perk, Ellen and Maud. They all died earlier.
The family lived on the ranch on Boulder Flat that is currently owned by Keith McLean. Jim grew up helping his father with the cattle and farming on the ranch. For a short time in his teen years, he traveled the rodeo circuit.
He participated in saddle bronc and bulldogging events at the local fair and surrounding areas. He also traveled to the Calgary Stampede, to Laramie and Cheyenne, Wyo., and to the Cow Palace in San Francisco. Kayo Garritson and George Hanson were his traveling buddies on a couple of occasions.
His brother, Perk Ritter, shared his love of rodeo. They were instrumental along with many others, in getting the Pine Valley Fair established in Halfway over the Labor Day weekends.
Jim met Evelyn Merrick while he was in the hospital in La Grande. They were married in 1943. They had one son: James, born in 1952, who lives in Canada.
Jim and Evelyn were very close to two nieces, Darlene and Joan Merrick. The girls lived with them for a couple of years. Their family ties remained strong over the years and Jim spoke of them often.
When Jim’s mother, Ella, died, Jim and Evelyn moved in with his father on the ranch to help him through his elder years and to keep the ranch intact. During this time, Jim tried his hand at some outside career projects.
He built and operated a grain mill in Richland — the first mill of its kind in the area. Local farmers could take their crops directly to the mill and have them processed into feed.
Later Jim and Hugh Lockett operated a cube mill. It was located next to where Quilts Plus is now and across from the Halfway Feed and Seed.
Jim was a great, unknown inventor. His brother-in-law, Cliff Waldron, used to laugh and say, “Jim will spend 10 hours inventing something to do a job that would take 10 minutes to do.”
His first invention was an automatic butter churner. He hated helping his mother churn cream into butter, so he devised jars that fit on a ring which in turn fit on the washing machine agitator. It actually made butter.
He also made and designed a grain auger. It was a spiral pole- type device that moved grain into the hoppers at his mill. It worked well and was the first of its kind seen in this area.
He also loved to make things with wood and was very adept with a hammer and saw. He made all kinds of animals, birdhouses, windmills and other items for yards. He also once built a chair that would transform into a ladder when needed.
His wife, Evelyn, died in 1967. Shortly afterward, he sold the ranch and moved to Canada where he stayed for several years.
He returned to Halfway in the early 1980s. He and a couple of friends decided to stake claims on a couple of mines. They spent many hours in the hills working these claims and dreaming of a rich gold strike.
Jim met Muriel Smith of Weiser, Idaho, through one of his mining buddies. They were married in 1984. They made their home at Weiser until Muriel died in May of 2000.
Jim closed out his home at Weiser and came back to Halfway. He stayed with his nephew, Bill Waldron, for a short time and then tried living at Settlers Park in Baker City. He was not happy there, so the family moved him to the North home at Richland.
This move made him very happy. It made him feel like he was back on the farm. He loved to feed the pigs and take care of other outside chores.
Survivors in Halfway and Baker City include Bill and Bob Waldron and their families and Melody Huff, granddaughter of Perk Ritter.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Halfway/Oxbow or Eagle Valley Ambulance through Tami’s Pine Valley Funeral Home, P.O. Box 543, Halfway, Oregon 97834.
Used with permission from: Baker City Herald, Baker City, Oregon, September 3, 2004
Transcribed by: Belva Ticknor