- Published: February 25, 2010
Ellie Ridinger died Tuesday, Feb. 16. She was 93.
Born Eleanor Alice Hershey on April 28, 1916 in McKnightstown, Pa., Ellie was the last of four children, of whom the eldest was 20 years her senior. Her parents, Charles and Alice (Deardorff) Hershey, came from long lines of farmers in Adams County. Several branches of the family trace their roots in Pennsylvania to Colonial times, making Ellie eligible for — but decidedly not a member of — the Daughters of the American Revolution.
Like farmers everywhere, Ellie’s family was severely impacted by the Depression, when they “lost the farm.” Ellie and her parents then moved into Gettysburg, where she attended high school and where she met her future husband, Bill. Ellie and Bill lived with her parents, had baby Charlotte, and became Scout leaders while Bill attended Gettysburg College.
After several years, Ellie and Bill moved to his first teaching job in Scotland, Pa., and then on to other jobs in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, North Carolina, New York and Illinois. Along the way, son Tom was born and later Ellie began working in a friend’s factory affixing the nameplate onto Weller soldering guns. Later jobs took her into fabric sales and eventually into the male-dominated New York City garment industry, where she worked many years as the assistant to the “Famous Cottons” firm’s pattern maker, cutting the samples used by the sales force.
After her divorce, Ellie’s expertise made her completely self-supporting and led to several long-term friendships which she maintained throughout her life. At retirement in 1981, Ellie and son Tom trucked her worldly goods from Long Island to Yellow Springs, where she moved into an efficiency apartment at Lawson Place. When Phase II of the GMHA Lawson Place residences was completed, Ellie garnered #44, the corner house, which became the “test” unit designed to settle a legal challenge.
Celebrating her retirement by learning to swim, race walk, and throw the discus, shot put and javelin, Ellie began to compete in the Dayton Senior Olympics, where she qualified for state and national competitions every year since their founding in 1987. Her trove of ribbons and medals is legendary, amounting to over 150 by the time she retired in 2007 at age 91. A Yellow Springs Women’s Park tile commemorates her first three national silver medals in 1997. There have been many more medals at all levels of competition, including six national bronzes (2001–2007) and — her particular pride — two national golds for javelin at ages 85 and 91. In recognition of her achievements, Ellie was inducted into both the Dayton and the Ohio Senior Olympic Halls of Fame.
Ellie was a member of the Yellow Springs Senior Center, the Yellow Springs Unitarian Universalist Fellowship and a founding member of the Yellow Rockers square dance group. She was a skilled seamstress and knitter, a great listener and an avid traveler. She hiked in the Smokies (Mount Le Conte), Nova Scotia and New Zealand (Milford Track) and toured Alaska, London and Finland.
Within the past year, Ellie was honored as the oldest person, and only representative of the 75th reunion class of 1934, at the annual banquet of the Gettysburg High School alumni association. She is survived by her daughter, Charlotte Battino, and her husband, Rubin, son Tom Ridinger and his wife Lea, grandson David Battino and wife Hazuki, grandson Ben Battino and wife Jill, great-granddaughters Ellie, Lily and Anabel, great-grandsons Toma, Miaki, Asa, Abel and Ben Yisak, niece Barbara Davies and husband Fred, nephew Jim Davidson and wife Lee and by many friends near and far in the U.S. and abroad.
A memorial celebration of Ellie’s life will be held in Yellow Springs in April or May and her ashes will be returned to Pennsylvania at a later time. Donations in her memory may be made to the Friends Care Community of Yellow Springs, where Ellie received the support of a kind and caring staff for almost two years until her death.