Colleen Ritzer Remembrance Walk unites AC community

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Kristina Wyman's picture
Katie Akers

On April 27, Assumption College hosted the Colleen Ritzer Remembrance Walk. The day included a memorial Mass, a tree dedication and a walk with Ritzer’s family, friends and the Assumption Community around the campus.
Registration for the walk was $25 for the general public, $20 for alumni, $10 for those who are under 18 and $5 for current Assumption College students. The proceeds from the registration and the offertory during Mass went to the Colleen Ritzer Memorial Scholarship Fund.

“This morning’s Mass begins a day of tribute to honor the memory of the late Colleen Ritzer, Assumption College class of 2011,” said President Francesco Cesareo. “Everyone is invited to participate in these events during which the College will remember our alumna who lost her life last October, yet continues to inspire many.”

After the Mass, a crowd of over 300 faculty, staff, students, alumni, as well as Ritzer’s family and friends, walked to Kennedy Memorial Hall, where Ritzer’s memorial tree and garden were planted.

“May this tree remind us all, in our darkest of hours and in times of great despair that, in Colleen’s words, ‘every day may not be good, but there is something good in every day,’” said Cesareo in his speech in front of Kennedy. The walk was largely by Caroline Rufo, Ritzer’s close friend.

“Colleen had a walk every year for her grandma, who passed away unexpectedly a few years ago,” said Shannon Reilly, Ritzer’s college roommate. “Caroline, who was really close with [Colleen], wanted to do something. So, we talked about just having a walk, and then we started with Assumption. They were really willing to work with us and plan the walk and have all the funds go to the scholarship that they set up.”

In accordance with Ritzer’s favorite colors, the flowers that were planted in front of Kennedy were pink, and the shirts given to everyone who registered were blue with a graph and pink footprints in remembrance of Ritzer’s love for math. The money from the walk benefited the scholarship fund that was made in Ritzer’s memory to help an individual who is a math major and plans to teach after graduation. Senior Robert Flynn was awarded the scholarship at this year’s Honors Convocation.

“This spot was chosen for the memorial garden, as Kennedy Memorial Hall is one of the buildings where Colleen had many of her classes. It was here that she was provided the knowledge to be a teacher,” said Rufo. “Her family and friends supported her goal to empower and enlighten young minds.”

As Rufo concluded her speech, the morning rain momentarily come to a standstill as the clouds parted and the sun came out.

Lieutenant Steven Mackay of the Assumption College Police Department presented Ritzer’s family with the American flag that was lowered to half-staff after the College was informed of the tragedy. After a blessing from Fr. Barry Bercier, A.A, the audience was encouraged to look at the garden and mingle before the walk started at noon.

Before the walk began, Rufo explained that the route was covered with pink bows and signs that had Ritzer’s favorite quotes on them. A few of the signs even had quotes from Ritzer herself.

“If there ever comes a day when we can’t be together, keep me in your heart, I’ll stay there forever,” said one sign. “No matter what happens in life, be good to people. Being good to people is a wonderful legacy to leave behind,” said another.

Ritzer’s family and Cesareo led the walk around campus and through the sudden light rain, which began again after the tree ceremony.

“I think it reflects the sense of community that exists on this campus and that even when a student leaves after graduation that they are still very much a part of the Assumption family and the outpouring of support and warmth for Colleen’s family and to recall her memory. I think it’s indicative of the spirit of this College,” said Cesareo. “I think [the Mass] was a time for us to come together in prayer to remember Colleen but also show our support for her family and to give them that courage and strength that they need to get through this difficult time.”

At the end of the walk, the rain again let up just in time to have lunch on the Chapel lawn, where senior Katerina Reilly sang.

“The walk means everything. Every day is difficult and this is what kind of gets us through.We wake up and we know every day is going to be tough, but when you come out and see everyone come out to support us and her is just great; it means the world to us, and we can’t thank people enough,” said Dan Ritzer, Colleen’s brother, after the tree and garden dedication.

“We think of Colleen often, and she continues to inspire us to live our lives to the fullest,” said Rufo. “Each day we are reminded of something she said or did that encourages us to live a selfless life. Through this walk, we can raise the necessary resources to provide scholarships to those Assumption students who wish to pursue teaching as a profession.”

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