Paul Stephen Ritz
April 26. 1952 - May 13, 2016
He was born near the Twin Cities, Minnesota at Glencoe Hospital, because his hometown of Lester Prairie didn’t have a hospital. His father, Rev. Rudolph Albert Ritz, was a Missouri-Synod Lutheran minister. His mother, Meta Eldoris Amanda Anna Deutschlander Ritz, was a registered nurse and artist.
When still a baby, his family moved to Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, the capital city for about five years. They then moved to Kokomo, Indiana for around 10 years. This is where he acquired a love of books, especially fantasy. He loved the OZ books and others like Mary Poppins & Dr. DoLittle. The family then moved to Deltona, Florida for two years and then on to the Cleveland area of Ohio. This is where he finished high school at West Geauga in Chesterland and where he discovered the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and science-fiction. He also met his future wife, Beatrice I. Fanelli, now divorced.
He went to college at Bowling Green State University, Ohio, where he graduated in 1974 with a degree in Library Media; history; art and art history. He started a literary discussion group for science-fiction and fantasy ( a branch of Mythopoeic Society). This group was especially interested in the “Inklings” a group of Oxford Christian authors (England). At this time also, he was one of four founders of The American Tolkien Society, where he was the reviews' editor of Minas Tirith Evening-Star (MTES). He has donated his large collections of fantasy & science-fiction to the Popular Culture Library here.
He was an Assistant Manager of B. Dalton Booksellers in Toledo, Ohio for four years before moving back to the Cleveland area to obtain his Masters degree in Library Science at Case Western Reserve University (1980). (He had open-heart surgery in Toledo at St. Vincent’s hospital). He has worked at Western Reserve Historical Society Library; Cleveland Public Library; Cuyahoga Public Library System, and has been with the Clearwater Public Library System since 1985 until his retirement. In 1987 he founded the Clearwater-Largo area science-fiction and fantasy club. He lived in Largo.
He has taken additional classes at USF and SPJC. He was a literacy tutor and a Notary Public. He was President of a computer Club (Commodore). He was a member of Christ the King Lutheran Church, Largo where he has been the Church Librarian and an usher.
He was a Life member of the NAACP and developed the African-American Collection at the Clearwater North Greenwood Library, where he wrote the history of that branch & numerous annotated bibliographies of the special collections. He also worked with the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation and received a grant from them for numerous years. He was a friend of Ezra Jack Keats.
He received the 1999 Dorothy Thompson Heritage Award from SEPIA, was a North Greenwood Association Board member for years and was on the Boards of State and National Organizations such as; FPLA; SELA, YALSA; FLA; & CSLA (all Library groups). He has written numerous book reviews and articles for National Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and OZ publications. (ATS; NY-CS Lewis Society; International Wizard of OZ Club and Beyond Bree). He also wrote several articles for local publications like the Clearwater Library newsletter. He wrote and published an OZ short-story and edited two books: one Tolkien Fandom and devotions of his father (Rev. Rudolph A. Ritz) called Grains of Sand, which was illustrated by his mother, Meta E. Ritz. He was Library Employee of the month in 2000.
He donated his large book and media collections to the Lincoln Memorial University, Harrogate, TN: the de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection at the U. of S. Mississippi, and his other collections to the BGSU Popular Culture Library, Ohio, which includes The American Tolkien Society Archives and The Ritz Family Archives.
There was a Memorial Service Saturday, May 28, 2016 at Hubbell Funeral Home in Belleair Bluffs. Those attending were requested to wear purple if possible, as this was Paul’s favorite color and a request of his.
In lieu of flowers, please make donations to: American Heart Association, P.O. Box 840692, Dallas, Texas 75284-0692 or the Aids Community Project of Tampa Bay, 1214 Cleveland Street, Clearwater, Florida 33755.
[This obituary was largely drafted by Paul himself before his passing. Paul was one of the four Founders of the American Tolkien Society in 1975, and thus a member of the Board of Founders, known as a BOFfin. He was honored by the Society with the honorary degree of Doctor of hobbit Letters (DhL). He long wrote and edited the column in these pages currently known as “Hugo’s Bookshelf,” and brought his skills and knowledge as a librarian to bear in reviewing books and organizing records and materials. He retired from these duties in 2003. His passing leaves a void in our Society and in our hearts which cannot be filled.]
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The photo of J.R.R. Tolkien is used by kind permission of his U.S. publisher, Houghton Mifflin.
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