Ritchey remembered as a 'soldier for life'

January 03, 2004|by RICHARD F. BELISLE

Paul Arnold Ritchey, who was killed this week while on a church mission in Kenya, was well-known in the 1980s and early 1990s for his shouting protests at a Hagerstown abortion clinic.

Nearly every week, Ritchey stood near the Hagerstown Reproductive Health Services clinic on West Washington Street and railed loudly against abortion to anyone who would listen - a practice that landed him jail time on several occasions for disturbing the peace.

Ritchey, 62, of 12167 Walnut Point West, was shot to death Tuesday while staying at the home of a pastor of the Bible Outreach church in Balaba near Kenya's border with Uganda. Ritchey, who was on a preaching mission, was shot during a robbery attempt at the pastor's home, according to the officer in charge of Teso district.


Ritchey was a member of the Bible Brethren Church at 524 Ridge Ave. in Hagerstown.

Shirley Spencer, an anti-abortion activist who lives in Hagerstown, remembers Ritchey.

"He was a great friend, a man on a mission," Spencer said of Ritchey. She said she had not seem him in years.

"Paul was a soldier for life, a fervent follower of Christ. He loved God, his family and his church," she said. "I was always proud to be associated with him. He was faithful to the pro-life movement."

Ritchey would appear faithfully in front of the clinic wearing a sandwich board bearing bold anti-abortion messages and shouting his message at the top of his lungs.

Ritchey said at the time that he had been spit on and jeered by those who didn't agree with him on the highly charged issue of abortion.

He had been an activist in the local movement since 1979.

Spencer said she doesn't recall why Ritchey ended his protests at the clinic. She said Friday it may have been because of a change in his employment. At one time, he worked at Mack Trucks, she said.

Susan Freed said she was shocked when she learned of Ritchey's death. The wife of Pastor William Freed, she recalled that Ritchey and his family once were faithful members of the Freeds' congregation, Broadfording Bible Brethren Church.

"He was such an advocate for the unborn," Freed said. "Paul's heart was determined to save those babies."

To that goal, Ritchey rarely would miss what became a weekly demonstration, she said.

"Paul was faithful - rain or shine, he would be out there," Freed said.

Ritchey was arrested for disturbing the peace several times, not for protesting the clinic or for his message. It was his booming, non-stop, disruptive shouting that brought the law down on him and sent him to jail.

"I never knew anyone as passionate as Paul for Christ," Pastor William Freed said. "He was totally committed."

Freed said he knew that Ritchey was involved in mission work in this country and abroad.

Staff writer Marlo Barnhart contributed to this story.

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