Obituary of Irene Ritschard
Irene Ritschard (1943-2023)
In loving memory of Irene “Renie” Ritschard, a remarkable woman whose warmth, laughter and sense of adventure touched the lives of everyone who knew her.
Irene was born in Steamboat Springs, Colorado on September 27, 1943 to Ted and Florence (Starbuck) Ritschard, and peacefully passed away December 6, 2023 at the age of 80. Her vibrant
spirit and love for life remained unwavering until the end.
Irene’s formative years unfolded on the family ranch near Whiteley Peak, just north of Kremmling, The ranching life was both demanding and rewarding and Irene cherished the memories of those bygone days. In high school, Irene was active in 4-H, wrote for the school newspaper, played the clarinet and was even chosen to be the Betty Crocker Homemaker of the Year, an achievement of which she often reminded her daughters. During this time, Irene formed close bonds with her classmates, many who have remained treasured friends throughout their lives. These experiences shaped her lifelong values of hard work, community and deep appreciation for nature.
A lifelong love for travel was sparked in Irene’s early adulthood. Following high school, Irene embraced the opportunity to live and work in Washington D.C., experiencing the vibrant urban lifestyle in contrast to her rural Colorado roots. Subsequently, Irene embarked on a remarkable journey through the Asian Pacific, exploring Tokyo, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and the Philippines, in the company of her cousin's family and a dear friend. This transformative adventure marked a significant chapter in Irene's life.
Upon returning to Colorado, Irene married and raised two daughters in the Longmont area, working at Hygiene Elementary School while her daughters were young. Later, she fulfilled her dream of becoming a travel agent taking advantage of many international opportunities and specializing in Australia and New Zealand experiences.
Irene returned to her childhood home in Grand County in 1998 and shortly thereafter created her own beautiful home amid the aspen below Gore Pass. Irene’s love for reading and learning led her to transition from travel agent to Children's Librarian in Kremmling, ultimately moving up to become Branch Librarian. This role brought her much joy as she implemented innovative programs that transformed the library into a thriving hub of activity for all ages and interests. She was especially proud of her successful efforts to install a flagpole in front of the library.
Irene's commitment to nature and community extended into her volunteer pursuits. One notable project involved early mornings documenting sage grouse activity in Middle Park. This activity led to meeting her future husband Jim, who was affiliated with the Division of Wildlife.
After retiring, Irene and Jim moved to Grand Junction, marrying in 2007. In her new home, Irene maintained her love for reading and volunteering, becoming an ESL tutor at the Grand Junction Library and contributing to Heirlooms, a local hospice boutique. Additionally, she embraced the role
of a city trail host. Retirement didn't dampen Irene's love for travel, and she and Jim continued their adventures, exploring the world and reveling in the local canyons and beauty.
In 2020, Irene realized the ambition she noted in her high school yearbook and held throughout her life, “to write a book.” This treasury of life anecdotes, family stories and collection of memories is a testament to her rich experiences and the enduring legacy she leaves for generations to come.
Irene’s adventurous spirit shone through in everything she did and she took advantage of every opportunity to experience life. Irene never met a fence she wouldn’t climb over, feared a road less traveled, or let a day go to waste. She loved the sunshine and bright blue sky, was rejuvenated by time spent outdoors, and collected friends wherever she went.
Irene’s greatest pride was her family. She was preceded in death by her parents, Ted and Florence; her sister, Karla Pond; and her sisters-in-law, Barbara Ritschard and Ida Lovelady. She is survived by her husband, Jim Liewer; daughters, Liz (Mike) Gaston and Kathy (Jerry) Westcott; three grandchildren, Evan Gaston, Ryan Gaston and Lauren Gaston; step-son Chris Liewer; siblings Herb Ritschard, Ruth (Bert) Welz, Jim (Diann) Ritschard and Bob Ritschard; former husband Tom Plahte, and many treasured cousins, nieces and nephews.
Irene’s legacy of love, adventure and impact will be cherished by all who knew her.
A Celebration of Life to honor Irene Ritschard will be held this spring in Grand Junction. Details will be shared at a later date. In Irene’s memory, please consider supporting one of her chosen causes:
ALS United Rocky Mountain (Support Agency for ALS Patients)
Dan's Vans/Hilltop Community Resources (Provider of wheelchair vans for ALS Patients)