Bella Ritchie

Posted by on Jul 15, 2015 in Tributes |


A Community Project to honour women who have enriched our lives

The Ban Righ Centre supports mature women who are starting or returning to education at Queen’s University. In taking this significant step, these women found role models, advocates and inspiration in other women. Then, as they engage in their studies and in their activities beyond Queen’s with friends, family, peers and colleagues, these students effect continual and positive change, extending the reach of their mentors and the Ban Righ Centre. Through “Who Is She?” we honour women who make a difference.

Bella Ritchie

Honoured by: Sherrill Ritchie

Bella Ritchie was my mother. Born to Ukrainian immigrants, she began her life in a mud hut situated in a farm field in the Prairies, where her parents worked the land. She did not speak English until she entered school and learned the language through her interactions with other children. At the age of 16, faced with the decision to continue her education or work the land as her father demanded, she left home and became a live-in nanny to a family in order to complete highschool. Because of her excellent academic standing, her principal sponsored her to legally anglicize her name to allow her greater opportunity as she entered the career world. A gifted artist, my mother was offered a scholarship in fashion design, but she did not have the financial background to support herself for the four years required to complete this degree. Instead, she attended secretarial school and was working for a large corporation within six months. When I was six, my mother was diagnosed with a rare neurological disorder that affected her motor skills and speech. She gradually became less mobile and in most of my memories she is either using a wheeled walker at home or in a wheelchair out in the community. This did not deter her from living life to its fullest. She ran our household, participated in cultural events and, after my father retired, travelled extensively, visiting various parts of North America, Europe and Asia. She has been gone from this world for almost 20 years now, but her spirit is always with me. Despite all the obstacles she faced, she never lost her determination to get the most out of life. I often wonder what her future could have been, had she been able to pursue her dream of being a fashion designer. A strong, brave woman, she is with me daily, and when I need strength I think of her and try to follow in her footsteps.