During the 2015 Association for Death Education and Counseling conference, Dr. Gloria Horsley interviewed Pastor Ron Ritter about storytelling after a loved one’s death. Pastor Ritter holds an MD and Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Drexel University in Philadelphia and completed his seminary training at Concordia Theological Seminary in Illinois. Ordained a pastor within the Lutheran Church in Missouri Synod in 1970, he’s a Baltimore native and served in the US Marine Corps Reserve for five years in the 1960s.
His military career includes serving as the Navy Chaplain for an additional six years after reserve duty. During this time, he met and married his wife Judith Anne Orendorff, and the two of them had four children together between 1970 and 1987. Currently, Pastor Ritter resides in Fallbrook, California where he’s a pastor at the Lutheran Church in Hemet. Pastor Ritter first experienced a major loss when his 26-year-old brother Donald died—Pastor Ritter was 11 years old at the time. Years later, Pastor Ritter’s son, Steven, died at 16 in a car crash. It was Steven’s death that really pushed Pastor Ritter to work in bereavement.
A Life of Service
Pastor Ritter has led a life of service in some capacity ever since he could remember. However, Steven’s death took a major toll. He was clinically depressed for five years following that death. Working through that depression is what re-focused his energy on the ministry of bereavement. When Dr. Horsley asks what his favorite scripture is, Pastor Ritter recites Psalm 34:18: “God is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
Today, Pastor Ritter works closely with the bereaved, sharing his own story to promote empathy, compassion, and provide light at the end of a particularly dark tunnel.