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Walter R. Ditch, 94, of Ridgway passed away peacefully on Friday, Dec. 30, 2011 of cardiac arrhythmia and advanced age. Walter was the patriarch of his family and recently celebrated his birthday with five generations in attendance. He was born Nov. 24, 1917 in Ramsaytown, Jefferson Co., Pa.
His family relocated to Ridgway when he was about 10 and with the exception of several years during WWII, spent the remainder of his life in the home he built on the family farm along Boot Jack.
During WWII he worked at Curtis Wright plants in Buffalo, N.Y. and Louisville, Ky., helping manufacture the famous P-40 fighter and C-46 cargo planes. The family returned to Ridgway after the war and Walter worked in the automobile collision repair and refinishing business for Elk Motors in St. Marys and Rich Motors in Ridgway before going into business for himself, finally retiring at age 70.
In his youth, he was an outstanding bowler and fast pitch softball pitcher and retained a keen interest in sports his entire life. He enjoyed watching professional baseball, football and NASCAR. His mind remained alert and he was interested in and followed the news on television as well as reading several papers each day. He held strong opinions on numerous topics such as tolling Route 80, Wal-Mart and the war in Iraq and enjoyed discussing them as well as topics as current as Justin Bieber and iPods. He also had a great sense of humor and enjoyed a good joke.
An avid gardener, he enjoyed raising large onions, tomatoes and peppers and was very generous in sharing the crop with friends and family. As he aged, it became physically more difficult to prepare and care for a garden and each spring he would consider not having one, only to get the urge when the new seed catalogs arrived in the mail. This past spring, no longer able to run the Rototiller, but undaunted, he supervised as his neighbor prepared and planted a small garden by the house.
Dad was a kind, generous and compassionate man who had a soft spot for animals of all kinds and over the years adopted numerous cats and dogs that either needed new homes or were strays. They never had it so good as after he adopted them. Even wild animals such as raccoons and skunks that frequented his bird feeders were not discouraged, but were often treated to dinner leftovers.
At age 94, Walter outlived nearly all of his relatives including his father, Arnatha Ditch; mother Annabelle Yount Hayes; stepfather, William Hayes; three brothers, William (Gerald) Ditch, Ronald Maxton (killed in action, WWII) and infant brother Harold Maxton; and a sister, Doris Rocco. His loving wife of nearly 60 years, Bernice Corrine Miles Ditch and numerous cousins and nephews and in-laws preceded him.
Walter is survived by three sons, Roger (Jeannie) Ditch of Windsor, N.Y., Larry (Honore) Ditch of Summerville, Fla. and Alan Zito of New Port Richey, Fla.; six grandchildren; eight great-grandchildren; four great-great grandchildren. He is also survived by two cousins, Elsie Yount Brands of Buffalo, N.Y. and Nancy Yount Yates of Brookville and several nieces and nephews.
Walter was a loving father, grandfather, great-grandfather and a wonderful friend to many. He was a fixture in his family for so long it does not seem possible that he is gone. He leaves behind a legacy of a life well lived, of generosity and compassion and above all, love of family... we will miss him dearly.
Walter was a member of Trinity United Methodist Church.
Funeral Services will be conducted at Thompson Funeral Home at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 4 by Pastor David Roddy. The family will receive friends one hour prior to the service. Burial will be at Oakmont Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, please consider donations to The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, River Walk Corp. Centre, 333 E. Carson St., Ste 441, Pittsburgh, PA 15219.