Howard "Bud" Ritter Jr., a retired Towson High School principal who had a second career as an antique toy and train dealer, died of dementia Monday at the Presbyterian Home of Maryland. The longtime Towson resident was 83.
Born in Baltimore and raised in Rodgers Forge and in Stoneleigh, he was a 1946 graduate of Towson High School, where he played basketball and tennis. As a young man, he worked at the Bethlehem Steel Co. and as a Senator Theatre usher.
Mr. Ritter enrolled at Towson State Teachers College. His daughter, Lynn Ritter McKain of Sykesville, said that at that time students received a college education in exchange for a commitment to teach in local school systems.
She said her father earned a degree in education. He was student body vice president and Men's Athletic Association president. He was inducted into Towson University's Athletic Hall of Fame in 1972.
A 1949 Baltimore Sun story detailed how Mr. Ritter, who was 6-foot-5, scored the first point in a basketball game in which underdog Towson beat Johns Hopkins in an upset. He also played tennis and soccer and in the summers ran the Towson Tennis Center, where he taught the sport to children.
"He was a talented person who was friendly and outgoing," said a former team member and Polytechnic Institute coach, George A. "Bucky" Kimmett of Lutherville.
While in college he met his future wife, Carolyn Naumann, also a teacher. They lived initially in Rodgers Forge and later resided in West Towson.
He taught math and science at Towson Junior High School before he was drafted into the Army. Stationed in Karlsruhe, Germany, he edited his unit's newsletter, The Tracer, and was a guidon bearer, or flag carrier, family members said.
After his military service, Mr. Ritter went into school administration. He was named vice principal of Arbutus Junior High and later became North Point Junior High's principal.
"He was a good-natured, child-centered administrator, and he immersed himself in school life," his daughter said. "He took a special interest in troubled students."
Mr. Ritter earned a master's degree in education from the University of Maryland and developed an appreciation for American folklore.
Mr. Ritter went on to be principal of Sparrows Point Junior-Senior High, Dulaney High and Towson High schools.
"He had tremendous love for Towson High School and was highly devoted to his students of Towson," said Randall J. Dase, a former Towson student who is now on its faculty. "Mr. Ritter was a visible leader who was very popular among the students and well respected. Being a Towson High School graduate, he took great pride in being the principal. He advocated school spirit by attending all after-school events and participating in every pep rally."
Mr. Dase recalled him as a people person who enjoyed everyday talks with the students about their academics and school activities.
"He believed a combination of strong academics and extracurricular activities made the school a perfect educational institution," Mr. Dase said. "He was a principal who had fun each day at school but still instilled a strong work ethic within the student body."
While at Towson, he requested an investigation by Baltimore County Police to determine if drugs were being sold among students. A young undercover narcotics officer posed as a student but found little trafficking.
"I would do it again — without reservation," Mr. Ritter said in a 1972 Sun story. "I have to look after the 2,000 students who do not use drugs, not the 20 or 30 who push them."
His daughter said he typically arrived at Towson High two hours early on Wednesdays to make breakfast for student organization presidents.
He retired in 1981 from Johnnycake Junior High School.
"He was affable. Everyone loved Bud," said former Baltimore County schools Superintendent Robert Y. Dubel. "He was a strict disciplinarian and a strong advocate of the athletics program."
Mr. Ritter was a member of the Johns Hopkins University's chapter of Phi Delta Kappa. He also taught Sunday school classes at First English Lutheran Church.
Mr. Ritter received a commendation from the Secondary School Administrators Association for his "significant contribution to American education by faithful leadership and untiring dedication and service to the youth of Baltimore County."
A toy and train collector since his childhood — he often spent time at French's on Baltimore Street and at Lycett's on Charles Street — Mr. Ritter had numerous miniature lead figures, including military and farm scenes, made by the English toy maker, Britains.
In the 1980s, he worked alongside the owner of the old Antique Toy and Train World, a Falls Road shop in Hampden. He then opened his own business, the Buddy R. Toy Co., on Roland Avenue in Hampden.
"Bud was a kind, mild-mannered man," said a customer, Douglas W. Campbell, who lives in Rodgers Forge. "He had a wide scope of knowledge about toys and was certainly more of a collector than a dealer. I wasn't sure he was ever there to make money."
Mr. Ritter also repaired antique toys and trains. His daughter said he had a small basement workshop where he kept thousands of parts and tools. He met with fellow members of the Train Collectors Association and participated in spring and fall meets in York, Pa.
Services will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at the Ruck Towson Funeral Home, 1050 York Road in Towson.
In addition to his wife of 60 years and daughter, survivors include another daughter, Holly Ritter Reasner of Hydes; and a granddaughter.