William H. Ritchie Jr., 90, of New Bern, North Carolina, passed away Friday, August 21, 2020.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Hoke and Ethel Ritchie; and older brother, James P. Ritchie.
He is survived by his loving wife of over four decades, Nancy; two younger brothers, Bob and wife Joan of Westminster, Colorado, and Tom Ritchie of Louisville, Kentucky; as well as sister-in-law, Nidya Ritchie of Mobile, Alabama; two sons, David, and wife Heather, and Tripp, and wife Cathy, of Blue Ridge; two daughters, Kimberly, and husband Bruce of Atlanta, Georgia, and Susan Fiery, and husband Mike of Maryland; Nancy’s daughter, Meg Farris, and husband David of Raleigh, North Carolina; and 12 grandchildren.
Bill was born in Blue Ridge, August 3,1930. When he was five years old, he moved to Tennessee where he attended the local schools. He was 1948 Valedictorian of his class at Copperhill High School, captain of the football team, a member of the baseball and basketball teams and also an Eagle Scout. He attended Marion Military Institute and was appointed to the U.S. Naval Academy and graduated in June of 1953, where he stood 325 in his class of 930. Upon graduation he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S.A.F., entered flight training and earned his pilot’s wings in 1955. He remained as a flight instructor until late 1958 where he was selected for operational space vehicle training. Subsequently he was assigned to engineering and operational duties in the early Air Force unmanned satellite program which allowed the Air Force to recover its first space capsule. In 1963, he was assigned to Ascension Island in the South Atlantic Ocean as the base commander of a missile and satellite tracking station. In 1964, he was returned to flight duty in the C130 at Patrick AFB Florida in support of missile and space launches from Cape Canaveral. During this period, he wrote the ARIA aircraft world Air Force wide support plan for project Apollo. In 1968, he went to Vietnam where he flew 435 combat missions as a foreword air controller and air liaison officer attached to the Vietnamese Army.
Returning home, he attended the University of Rochester and graduated in June of 1970 with an M.S. degree in business administration and was reassigned to the Pentagon in Air Force Programs and Resources which lasted until his voluntary retirement as a Lieutenant Colonel in November of 1973. During his military career, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal with 17 Oak Leaf Clusters, the Air Force Commendation Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award, the Meritorious Service Medal and the Vietnamese Honor Medal.
Following Air Force retirement, he worked for Computer Sciences Corporation where he was involved in public systems projects for the next five years as both a participant and as a manager. His next position was with Riverside Research Institute. For the first eight and one-half years he was involved in management and technical analysis for classified projects which included the Strategic Defensive Initiative.
He was elected, as a write-in candidate, to the River Bend Town Council in 1991 and was elected as Mayor in 1993 and served three terms, where his tenure was marked by civility, fairness and openness in government. He was a member of the Governor’s Neuse River Basin Regional Council environmental advisory board, served on the Board of the Coastal Regional Solid Waste Management Authority and served as President of the Scottish Heritage Society of Eastern Northern Carolina. He founded the Eastern North Carolina Chapter of the U.S.N.A. He was a devoted husband and father, a patriot and a gentleman.
The family received friends from 2 to 3 p.m. Friday, August 28, at Cotten Funeral Home, followed by the funeral service at 3 p.m. in the Chapel with the Rev. Steve Simpson officiating. Burial with full military honors will be in Arlington National Cemetery at a later date.
In lieu of flowers, a donation may be made to the William H. Ritchie Jr. and Nancy R. Ritchie Scholarship Fund, Marion Military Institute,1101 Washing Street, Marion, Alabama, 36756 or to the American Heart Association.