Alfred Grayson Ritter Jr., 84, supplied region with ambulances, hearses

November 05, 1999|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Alfred Grayson Ritter Jr., founder and owner of Ritter M & M Sales Inc., which supplied emergency vehicles and hearses to fire departments, rescue squads and funeral homes in the Mid-Atlantic region, died Oct. 29 from complications of a stroke at Blakehurst, the Towson retirement community where he had resided since 1994. He was 84.

The former longtime Cockeysville and Sparks resident owned Ritter Jeep Sales in Timonium from 1957 until 1961, when he established Ritter M & M Sales.

Mr. Ritter, a handsome and kindly man who thought nothing of putting in 90-hour, seven-day work weeks, traveled throughout Maryland, Delaware and Virginia selling Miller-Medeor vehicles to rescue squads and funeral homes.

"He sold us many, many hearses over the years," said John O. Mitchell III, proprietor of Mitchell-Wiedefeld Home Inc. in Rodgers Forge, yesterday.

"He was a very friendly, outgoing, low-key guy who always had a big smile. He was a warm-hearted individual, and not the least bit aggressive," said Mr. Mitchell, who shared Mr. Ritter's interest in skeet shooting and often accompanied him to the Loch Raven Skeet and Trap Club Inc.

"His company had a good reputation nationally, and Al sold a quality product. For us, it was a good marriage. He treated us fairly and honestly and always delivered our hearses in person. The personal touch -- that was his style," said Mr. Mitchell.

Mr. Ritter, who picked up hearses and ambulances at the factory and delivered them personally, was driving on the Eastern Shore once when he fell asleep at the wheel of a hearse and had an accident.

"When the volunteer rescue squad pulled up to help him, they recognized who he was because he had sold them their ambulance, so they gave him the royal treatment," said his son, Alfred C. Ritter Sr. of Cockeysville.

"He was especially noted for his kind heart to rescue squads unable to afford the purchase of an ambulance to protect their community. Over the years, he donated 30 used ambulances to area rescue squads so they could provide service to their communities," he said.

Mr. Ritter, who often worked into the night visiting and talking with volunteer fire companies and squadmen trying to meet their needs, also had an understanding for struggling funeral directors who had just started in business.

He had the same empathy for new businessman as well as established accounts, and treated them accordingly, said the son.

"Funeral directors to this day still revere him as a compassionate man who was ready to serve their needs in any way possible," said Mr. Ritter.

Mr. Ritter's firm was one of the first to produce ambulances mounted on truck bodies rather than the old limousine-style of ambulance, as well as telemetry units which allowed paramedics to communicate directly with emergency rooms.

He also customized units to suit a purchaser's needs, and once converted a hearse to suit a rather corpulent owner who needed transportation for herself and her dogs.

He sold the business and retired in 1978.

Born and raised in Towson, he graduated from Towson High School in 1932 and began his business career selling Packards for Zell-Packard Motor Co. on Mount Royal Avenue. He later worked for Valley Chevrolet before establishing his own firm.

His marriage in 1953 to Ruth Coleman ended in divorce.

He was a member of Towson United Methodist Church, 501 Hampton Lane, where a memorial service will be held at 2: 30 p.m. Sunday.

In addition to his son, Mr. Ritter is survived by a grandson, Alfred C. Ritter Jr. of Cockeysville; a stepson, John F. Campbell of Chicago; and special friend of 17 years, Frances Jacob of Towson.

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