Keith Tritle saw the world from his motorcycle

October 22, 2006|by ERIN JULIUS

Editor's note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail runs "A Life Remembered." The story takes a look back - through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others - at a member of the community who died recently. Today's "A Life Remembered" is about Keith Allen Tritle, who died Oct. 13 at the age of 50. His obituary appeared in the Oct. 16 editions of The Morning Herald and The Daily Mail.

Maugansville will be without its beloved Santa Claus this December.

For years, Keith Tritle dressed in his Santa suit for local schoolchildren and friends' holiday parties, said his wife, Rae Ann Tritle. It was the only time he didn't mind attention, she said.

Keith died at their home Oct. 13 at the age of 50.

On Wednesday, Keith's wife and children sat in the family room they added onto the house two summers ago, talking about their husband and father. He had reserved the space between the windows for a giant television, his wife said.


Rae met Keith in high school 34 years ago. She was a senior, he was a sophomore, and they both played in the orchestra.

They dated four years before marrying in April 1976. Keith always joked that he married an "older woman," Rae said. He sent her coral-colored roses and signed notes "forever and a day" throughout their marriage, she said.

Their first son, Jason, was born in February 1977. A daughter, Emily, came along soon after. Fifteen years later, their son, Logan, 13, was born.

First and foremost in Keith's life was his family. Second was his motorcycle, Rae said.

He started riding in the 1980s, she said.

When he wasn't at work, Keith always wore black jeans, black Harley-Davidson T-shirts and Converse sneakers. When he went riding, he wore a World War I-era German helmet "because it was different," said Jason, 29. His latest bike was one he really had wanted - a police edition motorcycle.

Keith passed his love of riding on to his daughter, Emily Lynch, 28, and he accompanied her to her motorcycle test.

Motorcycles were his "outlet," and riding home from his job as a correctional officer helped him unwind, Jason said.

Keith worked a lot of overtime at the prison because of a shortage of correctional officers, Rae said. He even worked a 12-hour shift the day before he was admitted to the hospital in July, when he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

While he was sick, several inmates sent handmade get-well cards.

"They respected him because he always did things by the book," Rae said.

Keith's colleagues respected him, too, and within an hour of his passing, the house was filled with Keith's friends and co-workers.

"These tough correctional officers were standing around crying," Emily said.

After Keith was diagnosed, her father said it was "no big deal, just a bump in the road," Emily said.

He had suffered "bumps" before. In 1996, he was involved in a motorcycle accident, but was more concerned about his bike than his broken ribs and a punctured lung, Jason said.

Keith never smoked or drank excessively, but did struggle with diabetes for many years, Rae said.

When Emily explained to her children, Delaney, 9, and Bryce, 6, that their Pop-Pop was gone, Bryce said it was OK because he went to heaven to be with God, Emily said.

Keith and Rae renewed their vows aboard a cruise ship in February in honor of their 30th wedding anniversary. The always-casual Keith bought a tuxedo for the event.

Just before he died, "he told me he would save me a place, and wait for me forever," Rae said.

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