Vernon Lou “Buddy” Ritchie died at peace on December 14, 2018, at Willard Walker Hospice Home in Fayetteville. Buddy was born May 3, 1935, in Delaney, Arkansas, to the late Elmo and Lizzie Stewart Ritchie. He was also preceded in death by his first wife of 44 years, Betty Belote Ritchie. He is survived by his wife Donita Hubbard Ritchie, whom he married December 4, 1999; sons, Steve Ritchie and wife Deanne, Mike Ritchie; granddaughters, Carley and Olivia Ritchie, Diana Jones; step-grandson, Taylor Schneider; numerous nieces, nephews and loved ones in the Belote and Ritchie families; stepsons, Will Hubbard and wife Nicole, Winston Hubbard; step-grandchildren, Jessi Hubbard, Reagan Hubbard, Cassidy Trewin, Dylan Trewin; and members of the extended family he joined by marriage to Donita. He is also survived by two sisters, Sue Hall and Patsy Wootton. Buddy’s caregiver family included Mary and John Paxson, Amber and Jimmy King, Gary Belote and Steve Ritchie, Rodger Hunter, Karen Ferling, David Arnold, and Helen Brown, as well as Northwest Home Health (Brandi and Matt) and Washington Regional Hospice (Ashley, Vickie, and Cynthia). The family is deeply grateful to the caring staff of the Willard Walker Hospice Home for filling his final days with loving care and comfort.
Buddy grew up in Madison County, Arkansas, attending elementary school in Delaney. He attended Huntsville Junior High and Fayetteville High School, graduating in 1953. He worked at Jug Wheeler’s and Collier Drug Store on Dickson Street during high school and while attending Fayetteville Business College through 1959. Buddy began work in the poultry industry in 1959, working in Springdale at Big Dutchman USA, for ten years. In 1970, he began selling poultry equipment and supervising construction of major egg production facilities in seven states for ChoreTime (CTB, Inc). He spent 27 years with CTB, retiring in 1997, as Regional Sales Manager. He was a member of the Viney Grove Methodist Church, serving as a deacon for a number of years. Since 2000, Buddy has been a member of the Central United Methodist Church in Fayetteville.
Although he was unable to serve his country in the military, Buddy was a patriot who loved America. He also loved gospel music and classic country music, particularly the songs of Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard. He was an avid hunter, spending a week each November for 25 years hunting elk and deer with friends in northern Colorado, and in recent years hunting in Madison County with son Steve and brother-in-law Gary Belote. Buddy was an accomplished antique car restorer, with two full original restorations of 1950 Chevy Bel Aires. For many years, he was a member of the Foothills of the Ozarks antique car club, enjoying cruises, car shows and swap meets, and serving a term as President of the club in 2001. In 2017 and 2018, Buddy drove as a car courier for Enterprise, enjoying the camaraderie of a number of other retirees. Additionally, for recreation, Buddy enjoyed playing golf, and fishing in Colorado and at Bull Shoals and Beaver Lake with his pal, John Paxson. A special part of his life was spent attending Razorback sports events as a member of the athletic department “family” with his wife, Donita. Since 2006, Buddy and Donita enjoyed extensive “lake time” with a close-knit neighborhood of friends in Fern Hollow cove at Beaver Lake.
Buddy was a gifted caregiver who gave his time and care for many friends and loved ones facing the end of life. Probably his most significant service to others was as a charter member of the Caring Friends Respite Care of Fayetteville, where he spent every Thursday for the last seven years of his life at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church caring for patrons with Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia. His many friends there will fondly remember his sense of humor and his ability to make everyone comfortable by serving as a coffee chef, pledge to the Flag leader, domino partner, puzzle partner or bingo caller.
Those who knew Buddy Ritchie believe that he surely heard his Master say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
A memorial service was held Saturday, December 29, at the Central United Methodist Church Great Hall (Activities Center) in Fayetteville.
In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be made to Central United Methodist Church Genesis Food and Clothing Pantry, the Caring Friends Respite Care Ministry at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, or the Willard Walker Hospice Home.