Esther Marie Ritzenthaler passed away peacefully surrounded by family members on September 4, 2021 at the age of 94. She was predeceased by her husband William (Bill) Ritzenthaler and leaves behind daughters Nancy Ritzenthaler (Al Odmark), Cynthia Ritzenthaler (Sam Starks), Maria DenOuden (Bob DenOuden), grandchildren Erika, William, Aksel, and Ingrid, a brother John Peter Chapman, and countless friends around the world.
Esther was born on April 13, 1927 in Braintree, Massachusetts to Russell and Ruth Chapman. The Chapman family lived in Hingham, MA and included siblings Russell, Dorothy, Elizabeth and John Peter. Esther was proud of her ancestry, Swedish on one side and English on the other. Her English side was descended from the White family on the Mayflower.
Esther attended Hingham High School where she excelled in academics, particularly languages and team sports. She graduated at the top of her class with honors and scholarships in 1944.
Esther supported herself through college, graduating from Boston University Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa with a BA in Languages and Liberal Arts in 1948, a Master of Arts in Romance Languages in 1949, and a Fulbright Scholarship to improve her French and a scholarship from the French government to teach in Dijon, France. She enjoyed her time on the field hockey team at BU. After returning home from her Fulbright adventure in Dijon, she taught Spanish and French at Westwood (MA) High School until she was recruited by the CIA to a post based out of Paris. Her time in Dijon and Paris began her love of Europe and travel; she took full advantage of that time.
In 1954 she returned to the United States to work at Washington DC headquarters for the CIA. She met Bill Ritzenthaler, an architect from Washington state, also working in Washington DC. They married in 1956 and after their first daughter, Nancy, was born, they relocated to Seattle, ultimately landing on Bainbridge Island. They built a house in the Seabold area of Bainbridge in 1964 and added Cynthia and Maria to their family. Bill and Esther started a small-scale family farm and a large vegetable garden as they built their home. The family enjoyed skiing, backpacking, and a vacation property on the Washington coast. Esther and Bill were very active in the Seabold Community Club.
While on Bainbridge, Esther earned a teaching certificate from the University of Washington later working for the US Department of Education in Seattle as a Financial Aid Auditor. Her region was Alaska, Oregon, and Washington, and she enjoyed traveling to her sites. She and Bill were daily ferry commuters to Seattle, sitting in their usual booth with friends and neighbors.
Esther retired just after Bill and they began traveling frequently to Mexico, Hawaii, Canada, New Zealand and Europe, visiting long-time friends along the way. They both enjoyed van life as they traveled and camped throughout the Western US.
After Bill died, Esther kept up the family home and gardens, made new friends and traveled even more: ski trips to Europe and around the American West, Vietnam, Japan, China, Turkey, Morocco, Scandinavia, Russia, the Baltic countries, France extensively, and, each fall after harvest, to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Esther enjoyed the Seattle Opera, Seattle Symphony, and Bainbridge Performing Arts. She was active in the League of Women Voters, Rhododendron Society, several skiing groups, and several weekly French groups. Esther enjoyed spending time with her family, especially her grandchildren. She spoke often of their adventures and activities.
Esther became involved with the Bainbridge Women’s Club and developed a lasting relationship with the Spicy Ladies, a social group which evolved from the BWC. The Spicy Ladies had meals together regularly and celebrated birthdays, traveled, and generally supported each other like family.
Esther’s family is very grateful for the friendship and support of the Spicy Ladies as well as the Island Volunteer Caregivers group. With the support of these two groups and her loving family, Esther was able to live out her life in her beloved house and garden.
An Open House gathering in her honor will be held on April 16, 2022 from 1 to 4 pm at the Seabold Hall, 14450 Komedal Road, Bainbridge Island. In lieu of flowers or gifts, she requested donations in her memory to PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) and Classical King FM radio station.