On September 27, 2020, Appalachian Trail Conservancy lost one of its stalwarts. Member of Smoky Mountains Hiking Club since 1984 and Executive Board member since 1988, George accepted responsibilities gladly and executed them faithfully. His West Point training guided his gritty determination to do every job to the best of his ability and lead others by example. As SMHC Treasurer from 1988 – 2010, Membership Secretary and Handbook Editor, George unselfishly contributed his time to the Club. He developed the data base used by SMHC to keep track of volunteer hours. George earned SMHC’s Harvey Broome Distinguished Service Award in 2009 and the Marshall Wilson Presidential Citation in 2013. However, his greatest impact may have been as a member of the Appalachian Trail Maintainers Committee.
As unofficial ATMC Chairperson, he guided the efforts of the volunteers although, ironically, he was physically unable to hike or do trail work in his later years. He served as SMHC’s Appalachian Trail Conservancy SORO Regional Partnership Committee Representative 2005 – 2013 and received the ATC Deep South Region Volunteer of the Year Award for 2013. Quoting George’s nomination for the award:
“In addition to routine trail maintenance work, he organized the design and construction of five accessible moldering privies in Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Cherokee National Forest.”
When the late Lenny Bernstein assembled a team to plan the 2013 ATC Biennial in Cullowhee, NC, George volunteered. “He took responsibility for the finances…and negotiated the financial arrangements between the five Deep South clubs and ATC. He developed a budget for the biennial, worked with others involved in planning the event to come up with a fee structure, and kept track of current and projected expenses.”
“George accumulated thousands of volunteer hours in these activities, but he steadfastly refused to enter his hours in SMHC’s volunteer data base. His reasoning seemed to be that his volunteer hours were “purely administrative,” not comparable to the physical work contributed by others on the trail. This nomination serves as confirmation that administrative hours volunteered in an effort to further the goals of ATC and its maintaining clubs are valued no less than physical labor and that such contributions are essential to our organization’s success.”
George is survived by daughter Diane Petrilla, current SMHC President, and her husband Eric Keller, and by sons George H. Ritter and wife Chris and John Ritter and wife Lee, seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, and by his companion and friend Betty Glenn.
Many thanks, George, and job well done.
- Contributed by Philp Royer