LtCol Leland C. Ritter Obituary
Lt. Col. Leland Clark Ritter went to be with our Lord peacefully on Saturday, November 26, 2022 at his residence in Fredericka Manor Care Center in Chula Vista, CA. Col. Ritter was approaching his 101st birthday and had enjoyed good health up until the last few weeks of his life.
He was born in Paul’s Valley, OK in 1922, the son of Leland C. and Hazel Ritter. The family moved to El Centro, CA where Lee grew up and subsequently graduated from El Cento Union High School in 1940. While living in El Cento Lee realized a childhood ambition by learning to fly single engine airplanes.
After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Lee enlisted in the Marine Corps where he was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant and continued his flight training. In 1944 he married Army Nurse Corps Lt. Emily Curtis, RN, of Mansfield, GA. Later that year he was assigned to Dive Bomber Squadron 245 and served in the Marshall Islands in the Pacific theater where he was awarded the Marine Corps Air Medal for Heroic and Meritorious service.
In 1950 he served his first of three deployments to Korea and participated in General MacArthur’s surprise attack on Inchon, North Korea. Captain Ritter was placed in charge of coordinating air traffic in and out of Kimpo airport, North Korea while enemy forces were still active in the area
After the war Lee learned to fly helicopters and eventually became the first Commanding Officer of helicopter squadron HMM 265. During his Marine Corps career he flew the PBY Catalina, the SBD Dauntless, the F4U Corsair, the Sikorsky UH-34 and many other aircraft.
Lt. Col. Ritter retired from the Marine Corps in 1968 and settled in Chula Vista, CA with his wife Emily and their three children. Lee soon became employed at the Naval Amphibious Base Coronado in data processing and then became the Manager of Computer Operations for the Southwest College in Chula Vista. Lee actively enjoyed hunting and fishing. He was also very active in serving Chula Vista Presbyterian Church for over 50 years. He fully retired from work in 1985.
After 56 years of marriage, Emily Ritter went home to be with the Lord in 2000. In addition to his parents and his wife he was predeceased by a brother Hugh “Bud” Ritter of El Centro, CA. Surviving are his sister Rocella Brockett of Costa Mesa, CA; his children Leland Clark Ritter III and his husband John Gowan of San Diego, CA; Randy Ritter and his wife Clare Ritter of Pine Valley, CA.; and Kay Ritter Grasso and her husband Michael Grasso of Escondido, CA; four grandchildren Rhonda Ritter, Bobby Ritter, Brandon Ritter, and Leif Ritter; three great- grandchildren and many nieces and nephews in California and Georgia.
A service of remembrance and celebration of life is planned for 2 PM on Friday, January 20, 2023 – the 101st anniversary of Lee’s birth. It will be held at Chula Vista Presbyterian Church in Chula Vista, CA. Those who wish to remember Lee in a special way may make gifts in his memory to the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society.