Joseph Patrick Ritchie, 88, Educator, World War II Veteran

Joseph Patrick Ritchie, 88, of Plaistow, N.H., died May 6 at Holy Family Hospital after a brief illness.

Ritchie was born March 8, 1927, in Haverhill to Raymond and Elizabeth (McCaughey) Ritchie. As a child he attended St. James Grammar school and was a graduate of St. James High School where he was a standout member of the football team, earning the name “Speed Merchant” for his lightning fast work on the football field. Ritchie went on to attend Boston College where he graduated with distinction with both a Bachelors degree in Ancient Greek and Latin and a Masters degree in English.

He served his country honorably during World War II in the Naval Armed Forces. He spent the majority of his time in service assisting with Allied efforts in the Pacific.

Ritchie then went on to pursue a degree in education starting as a teacher at the Shanahan school in Groveland. He went on to become a principal at the Cole school in Boxford, and then spent 25 years as the principal at Spofford Pond school in Boxford, where he was a respected leader known for his brilliant but gentle, warm and effective manner, beloved by both teachers and students alike. Ritchie was also an active member of the St. Patrick’s Church Parish in Groveland and served as a CCD teacher for many years. Ritchie retired from Spofford Pond in 1981 and then launched a private business out of his home until 1988. He then returned to education and served as principal of Immaculate Conception school in Newburyport until 1993. In his retirement, Ritchie was very involved in many community events, including several years as an active member of a local musical group known as the Music Masters. Ritchie also drove a van for elderly residents in the community through the Councils on Aging in Merrimac and Groveland until 2009. He also dearly loved to travel and spend time with his loving wife of 45 years, Ann (Dinneen) Ritchie, whom he married in 1959 after meeting in Rome on a trip for young Catholics in the Boston area. Throughout his life, he was a dedicated family man who could always be counted on to put family, siblings and friends first. Ritchie touched many lives during his 88 years and was well known in the community as a warmhearted and kind man who was well liked by all he met. Before moving to Plaistow in 1992, Mr. and Mrs. Ritchie were 33-year residents of Groveland.

Ritchie leaves three children, a son, Christopher J. Ritchie of Austin, Minnesota, and his companion Susan and their son Shaun; a daughter, Marianne R. McMorrow, of Braintree, her husband Dan, and their sons Jack and Tom; and a daughter Joan H. Goodchild, of Shrewsbury, her husband Bryan, and their children, Charlie and Violet. He also leaves a sister Mary Ritchie, of North Andover, and a brother William Ritchie, of Concord, and his wife Margie, as well as grandchildren Bryan Ritchie and Melissa Ritchie, a longtime companion, Virginia Douglass of East Kingston, N.H., a sister in law, Betty Ritchie, of Bradford, and several nieces and nephews. Ritchie is predeceased by his parents, and his brothers Lawrence, Francis, Robert and John. He leaves this Earth to once again join his loving wife, Ann, who died in 2004 after 45 years of marriage.

Friends and family are invited to call on Monday from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Kevin B. Comeau Funeral Home, 486 Main St. Haverhill. Funeral services begin Tuesday morning at 10 from the funeral with a Mass of Christian Burial to be celebrated at 11 at St. John the Baptist Church, Lincoln Ave. Haverhill. Burial will follow at St. James Cemetery, Primrose St. Haverhill. Memorial donations may be made in his name to the Friends of the Council on Aging, Merrimac, 100 East Main St. Merrimac, MA 01860.