A Lovely Childhood
Barbara Amon Chapin was always a hard worker. After her divorce, she moved her four kids to Sanibel Island in Florida to be near her parents. There she worked three jobs to make ends meet before becoming a successful real estate agent with a national reputation. Her kids were left with no doubt that hard work paid off. Barbara was the oldest child of five - her youngest brother was 13 years behind her. Her family was a mix of Swedish, Welsh and Swiss Amish. Barabra's great great grandfather Joseph Amon was one of the first who brought the Amish tradition to the U.S. She grew up in the tiny town of Courtland, Ohio, south of Cleveland. There were 100 people in her entire high school. Her father and grandfather owned and ran an electrical company, where her husband would also eventually work. She always loved education and was so smart that she skipped a grade in elementary school. She remembers her childhood as idyllic. Her mother, who passed in 2016 at the age of 101, played the piano, and in Barbara's youth the whole family would gather around in the evenings and sing together after dinner. The family worried about her father when he was serving in Japan soon after the atomic bombs were dropped.
Barbara was Independent from the Start
Barbara's father taught her to play baseball and would take her to Cleveland Indians games because she was the oldest. Her first job was delivering papers. When it rained, her parents would sometimes drive her route with her. The family always had dogs, particularly Scotties as Barbara's aunt and uncle bred them down the road outside of town. Her mother worked as a bookkeeper and taught Barbara to be self-sufficient. "I was never very good at men," Barbara laughs. "I was used to being independent." Barbara studied education at Youngstown State University, where she met her husband. Ron Ritchie, five years her elder, had shipped out and spent four years in the Navy before returning to finish his college degree. Barbara was 19 when they married. They honeymooned in the Poconos in Pennsylvania, just across the border from New York. The young couple settled in Courtland, where Ron worked as an electrician for Barbara's family and Barbara taught the sixth grade.
Raising Kids and Starting a Career
The young family - Barbara would have three boys and a girl, Ron, David, Connie and Scott - liked to camp at Lake Erie and Lake Michigan. They lived in Ohio, Florida and Texas. Barbara worked at a mix of public (Ohio, Texas) and private schools (Florida). When they moved to Texas, she was forced to teach the second grade for their first year, as she had no seniority. She didn't enjoy it, and the next year went back to teaching the sixth grade. Despite Ron's discouragement-he never finished college-Barbara went back and finished school while raising their kids, finally graduating in 1969 and she began teaching in 1971. By 1972, their marriage was failing. They divorced and Barbara and the kids moved to Florida where her parents had moved, living in the house next door. Both parents had become realtors and Barbara followed in their footsteps, subsidizing her nascent career by teaching and working in a restaurant. And all the kids pitched in by working after-school jobs at restaurants or grocery stores. Barbara became very successful as a real estate agent helping to start ARPAC, the National Association of Realtors' Political Action Committee. She got involved through ARPACs in regional and national politics.
A Passion for Christmas and Her Family
Barbara's mother Hazel was the social one, whereas Barbara was more of an introvert. But the one thing, besides work, that did get Barbara out was Christmas: her passion was in collecting and assembling little Department 56 holiday villages. She had so many that she put up starting in October that she'd invite folks in to do tours of the family home. And no matter how busy things got with work, the holidays were sacred for Barbara, a time to gather the family and be together. Ron became a fireman and had two kids, Deanna and Matthew. David died young in a car accident. Connie became an interior designer on Sanibel. She also had two kids, Kevin and Alysa. And Scott and his family moved to Colorado, where Barbara eventually followed. He had two boys and a girl: Bryant, Nicholas and Jilian. The tragic loss of her son and two grandsons were the most challenging periods of Barbara's life. But she is excited for the birth of her fourth great-grandchild in 2018 to Scott's oldest son, Bryant.