Harold Dean Ritter

November 19, 1933December 31, 2022
Obituary of Harold Dean Ritter
Harold Dean Ritter, former Mayor of Cary, passed away peacefully in his home on December 31, 2022. He was born in Moore County, North Carolina on November 19, 1933 as the third child of Walter E. Ritter and Ruth Clemmer Ritter. He is survived by his wife of 65 years, Geraldine Parham Ritter; his son, Edwin Scott Ritter and daughter-in-law, Denise M. Ritter; granddaughters, Ava Ritter and Erica Dean Ritter; and his younger brother, Otis Ritter. He is predeceased by his son, Dean Ritter and his siblings, Swanson Ritter, Paul Ritter, and Geneva Needham. Harold grew up in Robbins, North Carolina, where he developed many of his lifelong interests, skills, and talents. A community of family members, teachers, and local leaders helped nurture his love of plants, participation in the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts, and his interest in service to others. Throughout his life, he served his Country, his State, his City, and many civic institutions. After graduating from Elise High School in Robbins in 1953, Harold joined the United States Marine Corps. He completed his training at Parris Island where he earned a medal as the top sharpshooter in his platoon and was offered admission to Officer Candidates School in Quantico, Virginia, but he chose to actively serve in the 3rd Battalion in Korea and Japan. His love of Korean and Japanese culture and art began during this time. He was honorably discharged in August 1956 as a Sergeant and was awarded a National Defense Service Medal for active combat in the Korean War. After his service, Harold continued his education at North Carolina State University and studied horticulture and landscape design. In 1957, he married his high school sweetheart, Geraldine Parham Ritter, a Meredith College graduate in education and religion. Gerry began teaching at Cary Elementary, and they moved to Cary with their son, Dean, in 1959. After his studies at North Carolina State, Harold was then hired as the General Manager of Meadowmont Farms in Chapel Hill, North Carolina where he learned many practical and innovative land use skills. In 1972, he became Superintendent of Government Grounds for the State of North Carolina under Governor Bob Scott. He worked closely with Governor Scott’s Administration to improve the appearance of the government’s grounds in the Capital Area. By 1977, the State of North Carolina was awarded the Grand National Award for Government Grounds design and maintenance by the federal government. The grounds had blooming plants every season, including impatiens, tulips, and mums, and ornamental cabbage in the winter. Harold continued his service as Superintendent under Governors Jim Hunt and Jim Holshouser. He was awarded the Order of the Long Leaf Pine by all three of the governors under which he served. During his service at the NC Department of Transportation, he led the introduction of the Wildflower program. With the help of many others, he implemented the program across the state and authored a handbook for the program entitled “Wildflowers on North Carolina Roadsides” to help the program flourish across the state and beyond. During the 1970’s, Harold became interested in Cary’s development and appearance. He served as the first Chairman of the City of Cary’s Appearance Commission and was awarded Citizen of the Year in 1971. He was elected to the City Council in an at-large position in 1973. He worked as Mayor Pro-Tem with the Council members and Mayor Fred Bond to develop a comprehensive growth plan for the City. The Council developed progressive policies to guide the development of the City including: establishing the greenway system, preserving the tree canopy, expanding recreation facilities, and designing a more responsive public engagement process. Harold was elected Mayor of Cary in 1983 and served for four years. Under his leadership, the City preserved the Page-Walker Hotel which is now an Arts and History Center; brokered a public-private partnership to conserve Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve; built the Herbert C. Young Community Center; and started the traditions of the City Christmas tree and the holiday flotilla at Lochmere. Harold was also an active volunteer in civic life. He led Troop 245 of the Boy Scouts of America and led the first integrated Cub Scout troop in the Occoneechee Council. He was actively involved in Boy Scout leadership development for many years, completed his Wood Badge training, and was honored with the Silver Beaver Award, which recognizes exceptional character in Scouters who have provided distinguished service within a council. He was an early member of Greenwood Forest Baptist Church and helped complete the construction of the first sanctuary building. He was an active member of the Church throughout his life. He helped design the grounds of the Sanctuary, including planting a Japanese Maple in honor of his deceased son, Dean Ritter. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Dean Ritter Scholarship Fund or the Together We Build Fund at Greenwood Forest Baptist Church, 110 SE Maynard Road, Cary, North Carolina 27511, or Transitions LifeCare of Wake County, 250 Hospice Circle, Raleigh, NC 27607. The family greatly appreciates the care given to Harold in his final days by Fran Meier and Wanda Wall. The family received friends Friday, January 6, 2023 from 12:30 PM to 1:45 PM at Greenwood Forest Baptist Church in the Fellowship Hall (110 SE Maynard Rd, Cary, NC 27511). A funeral service followed at 2:00 PM. Burial at Hillcrest Cemetery (off Page St, Cary, NC 27511). Fond memories and expressions of sympathy may be shared at for the Ritter family.

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Friday, January 06, 2023

Receiving of Friends

Friday, January 06, 2023

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