The Reverend William J. Ritzert, “Father Bill”, 89, of Chicora, a well-known, highly respected Roman Catholic Priest, went to be with the Lord Friday, April 3, 2020 at the Chicora Medical Center.
Father Bill was born on his family farm in Chicora on November 15, 1930. He was the son of the late Urban and Caroline Weiland Ritzert. He was a 1949 graduate of Butler High School and worked at Vavoline Oil Company in East Butler. Father Bill proudly served in the U.S. Army. He trained in Kentucky and was then stationed in Japan during the Korean War.
Father Bill attended college at the Cathedral Latin School in Cleveland, OH and completed his Theological studies at St. Vincent College in Latrobe. He was ordained a Roman Catholic Priest on May 9, 1964, by the late Bishop John Joseph Wright of St. Paul Cathedral of Oakland.
Father Bill served with the Annunciation Catholic Church of Pittsburgh, St. Patrick Catholic Church of Pittsburgh, St. Joseph Church of Verona, and retired from St. Matthias Parish of Evans City where he pastored for over 30 years. The parishioners of St. Matthias named the newly built parish hall “Ritzert Hall” in dedication to Father Bill. He also served as Chaplain at the VA Hospital in Butler for many years.
After retirement, Father Bill returned to his homestead, “the farm” in Chicora, where he continued having daily masses for a small group of family and friends. He enjoyed working on clocks and selling them at auctions. Father Bill liked to travel to Maryland and Virginia often looking for Civil War items. He was an avid collector and would frequent “Archie Bunkers” in search of his next treasure. He was very talented in transforming old worn pieces of furniture into beautiful works of art.
Father Bill was known for his famous root beer recipe that he would always make in his signature orange Snoopy container. He loved stumping family and friends with his fun gadgets. The Hooey Stick (prayer stick) was one of his favorites; he would use it to check if we were saying our prayers. He also would strategically place very real looking rubber snakes, rats and insects to give us a small fright.
Father Bill is survived by two sisters, Nancy Schnur and her husband, Ken, and Dolores Cypher and her husband, Ed, all of Chicora, as well as many nieces, nephews, great and great great nieces and nephews and cousins.
In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by his brothers, Bernard, Herbert and Ronald Ritzert, as well as a number of nieces, nephews, and sisters-in-law.
Father Bill was a beloved priest, brother, uncle, and friend. He will be missed by all. As he would lovingly say to us,
“Be good” and “Bye for now”. We love you Father Bill!
A private blessing service will be held at the Hile Funeral Home of Chicora. Military honors will be accorded by the American Legion Post in Chicora. Interment will take place at St. Joseph Cemetery in North Oakland.
Father Bill’s family is planning a memorial Mass to take place at a later date.