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Church window a labor of love for senior artist

Greg Ritter carefully arranges the colorful pieces of glass for his stained-glass window.
Greg Ritter carefully arranges the colorful pieces of glass for his stained-glass window. (-, Submitted photo)

After his wife Josie and son Jeff passed away last year, Greg Ritter grew determined to create a lasting memorial in their honor.

When his son Mike, an elder at St. Paul's Independent Church in Millers, mentioned that the church planned to replace the stained-glass window above its front door, Greg found his legacy project.

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Greg Ritter, a 91-year-old BGE retiree, had done some artwork through the years, but started learning about stained glass after he and his wife moved from their longtime home in Ellicott City to Homewood retirement community in Hanover, Pa., in 2005.

Working with experienced stained-glass artisans residing at Homewood, he made a number of suncatchers and other small items. The window at St. Paul's, however, would be done on a much larger scale, and something he would design and craft himself.

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From May through August, Ritter worked on the stained-glass window — mostly at the dining room table of the apartment he and Josie had shared at Homewood.

"Josie wouldn't have wanted me to have that mess on the dining room table," Ritter said, smiling. But he figured she would be pleased with the end result.

His colorful window — which has a large cross flanked by two smaller crosses, as at Calvary — has now replaced the church's original transom window, which bore the letters EUB.

The church had been founded as an Evangelical United Brethren congregation in 1848.

The congregation dedicated the new window "to the glory of God and in memory of Josephine O. Ritter and Jeffrey F. Ritter" in October.

Josie and Greg had been married for 69 years when she passed away in August 2013, and their son Jeff, a physician assistant who was married and had two daughters, was only 55 when he passed away two months later.

"As the sun streams through this new church window, we are reminded of the light that Mom and Jeff brought into so many lives, and of the Christian faith that is so important to our family," said Mike Ritter.

The window did become a family project. Mike and brother Paul Ritter helped their father with some finishing touches as the new window was prepared for installation at the church in late August. They removed the old EUB window and installed the new window, and Mike placed a small plaque for the window just inside the church's front door. Sister Cathy Papathakis provided encouragement for her father and picked up supplies as he devoted himself to giving meticulous care to the project — as well as helping to keep that dining room table as tidy as possible.

The EUB window, which needs some restoration work, will be displayed in the church's fellowship hall.

"The church receives this beautiful window and the love it represents with deep appreciation," said St. Paul's Rev. Don Holloway. "It will serve to inspire those within the church even as it invites those outside to become part of our fellowship."

Contributed by the Ritter Family

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