|Name||Jeannie L. Ritter|
Denver, Colorado , United States
|| May 23, 1956
|Contributor||The Sunset Provision|
Mar 12, 2010 11:00pm
|Info||Jeannie Lewis Ritter was born on May 23, 1956, in Virginia. The daughter of a Navy captain whose career required frequent moves, Jeannie lived in Virginia, Texas, Georgia, California, Washington, Rhode Island and North Carolina before settling in Colorado in 1972. |
One of four siblings, Jeannie met Bill Ritter during their junior year in high school. The following year, the two began to date as seniors at Gateway High School in Aurora. Bill played on the football team and Jeannie was a cheerleader. The football team failed to win a single game that season, but it had nothing to do with the spirit of the cheerleading squad!
Jeannie was the first person in her immediate family to attend college. She spent her freshman year at Western State in Gunnison and then transferred to the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley. She graduated in 1978 with a bachelor’s degree in special education and a passion for teaching and traveling.
After graduation, she worked at Thomas Jefferson High School in Denver. In 1979, she accepted a position as a flight attendant with Texas International Airlines, regularly flying around the American Southwest and to Mexico.
In 1982, Jeannie took a yearlong leave of absence from the airline to serve in the Peace Corps. She was stationed in the North African country of Tunisia, where she helped build and open educational and vocational centers for people with disabilities. These were the first centers of their kind in the region, and Jeannie still enjoys friendships with many of the people she met there. She visited Tunisia in 2002 to see those old friends, bringing one of her children along for the trip.
Returning to the United States in the summer of 1983, Jeannie and Bill were married in November of that year and Jeannie resumed her career with the airline, which had become Continental Airlines.
The Ritters had their first child, August, in 1986, and a year later the young family headed off to Zambia, Africa. For three years, they ran a food distribution and nutrition center as lay missionaries for the Catholic Church. Their second child, Abraham, was born in Africa. As AIDS, hunger and other diseases ravaged the continent, Jeannie taught health education alongside of the food programs.
Jeannie, Bill and their two children returned to Colorado in 1990 and over the next three years had two more children, Sam and Tally. In 1996, Jeannie began working for Denver Public Schools as an elementary-school substitute teacher specializing in classrooms for emotionally disturbed children.
As Colorado’s First Lady, Jeannie looks forward to advocating for mental health issues and raising awareness about this important and often-ignored subject.