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Hiking Club

SMHC Honors the Memory of George Ritter

Note: If you'd like for us to include a message or tribute from you here, please send your words to SMHC.

From the November 2020 AT Maintainers Committee newsletter: "The Smoky Mountains Hiking Club and A.T. Maintainers lost an exceptional man on September 27, 2020. George Ritter joined the SMHC in 1984, having developed a deep love for hiking and backpacking after moving to East Tennessee in 1975. In 2001 he became a member of the SMHC Board of Directors, and remained so until his death. He served as Treasurer in the past, Handbook Editor and Membership Secretary, most recently. In 2007 he joined the Appalachian Trail Maintainers Committee. George maintained a section of A.T. in the National Park, participated in many special building projects and provided leadership in recruitment and organization for the ATMC. He was recognized by the ATC as Volunteer of the Year in 2013. As a member of the Club, he received the Marshall Wilson Presidential Citation in 2007 and 2013. He received the Harvey Broome Award in 2009.

However, George eschewed awards and recognition. He worked quietly and steadily to help multiple processes for the Club and maintainers, being proficient in the creation of crucial databases which we still use. People use words like "kindness", "integrity", and "fairness" to describe him. He passed on his love of the outdoors to his children and grandchildren, a gift that is timeless. This writer uses the words "role model" and "Dad' to describe him. He will be missed enormously." - Diane Petrilla, AT maintainer, SMHC President, 2020

Posted originally on SMHC Facebook: "George was definitely one of my favorite people. I loved hiking, backpacking and our Western trips with the group. He was so intelligent and I loved his sense of humor. Always enjoyed our evenings in camp when we could all share our thoughts. He would always say "Is this a great country or what?" I know you are hiking great trails today George. We will always miss you."

- Barbara Allen, AT maintainer, former SMHC director

George's obituary in the Oak Ridger:

"George Gardner Ritter, beloved father, brother, Papaw, Great-Papaw and friend, died on Sept. 27, 2020 at his home in Oak Ridge, Tenn., at age 90.

George was born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania on Oct. 10,1929. He was appointed to West Point from the 18th Congressional District.

On graduation, George went in the Armor Corps. His first assignment was with the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment during 1951. He then went to Berlin and served with the 6th Infantry Regiment. In 1954 George resigned his commission and accepted a position in manufacturing management with Procter and Gamble, where he worked until 1956.

From 1956 to 1974 he served with Westinghouse Electric Corporation’s Bettis Atomic Power Laboratory as Procurement Manager, Program Manager, and Manufacturing Manager on a variety of Naval Nuclear Reactor fuel manufacturing programs. He worked on the Shippingport Project (the first commercial nuclear power reactor) and several submarine reactor core programs. In 1969 he had a key role in the manufacture and delivery of the advanced design replacement reactor cores for the Enterprise aircraft carrier.

From 1974 to 1983 George was at Westinghouse’s Advanced Reactor Division, working on the Clinch River Breeder Reactor Plant Program. Assignments included management of the reactor refueling system and head area design, and program management of reactor and plant auxiliary systems design and fabrication.

From 1983 until 1987 he was Vice President and General Manager of the Maxima Corporation’s Systems Technology and Support Group headquartered in Oak Ridge, Tenn. Maxima provided systems design, performance analysis, environmental engineering, facilities management, computer systems management, and information processing services.

From 1987 to 1993 George was President, Co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of Performance Development Corporation, an engineering services company providing management consulting to a variety of Federal, commercial and government prime contractor customers.

George retired in 1993, but continued for several years to put in a few hours each week performing consulting work for Performance Development Corporation and East Tennessee Materials and Energy Corporation. He participated in Oak Ridge and Roane County civic activities and was a member of East Tennessee Economic Council Board of Directors. George worked on the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance for Seniors Program. He served as Secretary of Gene Research Access Corporation (GENRAC), a 501(c)(3) corporation assisting Oak Ridge National Laboratory Biology Division in establishing a public/private partnership. He was Membership Director of the Oak Ridge Amateur Radio Club as well as serving on the advisory board for the Anderson County Drug Court, programming their database. As part of his great love for the outdoors, George served as Treasurer and Director of Smoky Mountains Hiking Club for many years. He coordinated Appalachian Trail Maintainer Committee work activities and served as the Hiking Club representative to ATC’s Southern Regional Partnership. More recently he managed the finances for ATC Cullowhee 2013, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s biennial conference.

George is survived by daughter Diane L. Petrilla M.D. (spouse Eric Keller), son George H. Ritter (wife Chris), and son John B. Ritter (wife Lee). He is survived by 7 grandchildren (Joe Petrilla and wife Tara, Ally Petrilla, Addy Petrilla, Nick Ritter, Clare Ritter, Jennifer Ritter and Shannon Ritter) as well as 3 great grandchildren (Sierra, Kaia and Leyna). He is also survived by his long-time companion Betty Glenn, as well as sister Suzanne Chandler (husband Richard) and nieces and nephews.

Our father lived his life with extraordinary determination, a wonderful sense of humor, and great integrity. He was a “force” to all who knew him. His legacy to his family is those qualities, as well as his enduring love of the outdoors and the joyfulness it brings to all our lives. He will be missed beyond measure.

Donations in his honor can be made to the Smoky Mountains Hiking Club, PO Box 51592, Knoxville, TN. 37950-1592 or to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, 799 Washington St., Harper’s Ferry, WV 25425-0807."

For information about the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, visit the NPS website or call the information line at (865) 436-1200.

Smoky Mountains Hiking Club

PO Box 51592

Knoxville, TN 37950-1592

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