1950 – 2022
IN LOVING MEMORY
Charles J. "Chuck" Ritter
Charles J. (“Chuck”) Ritter, a resident of Port Charlotte, FL, and previously a long-time resident of Rhode Island, died peacefully on May 12, 2022, after complications following open heart surgery.
His family wish to thank the surgeons, attending doctors, specialists, nurses, CNAs, techs, and other staff at Tampa General Hospital, who provided Chuck with an outstanding level of medical care and compassion. A special thank you goes to the nurses of the Cardiothoracic ICU, the hospital chaplain, and the TGH hospice staff.
Early Days, Education, and Marriage
Chuck Ritter was born in Rochester, NY, in 1950, but grew up in the nearby small town of Hilton, NY, with his parents Chester J. Ritter, Jr. and Barbara Ritter (nee Libby), along with his siblings Catharine Ritter, Paul Ritter, and John Ritter, and his grandparents Chester J. Ritter, Sr. and Hilda Ritter.
After graduating from Hilton High School in 1968, Chuck attended Brown University in Providence, RI. Chuck majored in solid mechanics at Brown, at a time when the solid mechanics faculty featured such notables as Jack Duffy, Paul Symonds, William Prager and Pedro Marcal.
At Brown, Chuck learned that Newton was behind all the problems he was being trained to solve, and that you had to be very careful with computer modeling and its attendant software, because valuable information could go in and yet garbage could still come out. Chuck became deeply rooted in the belief that the primary responsibility of an Engineer working in Mechanics was to develop and maintain a deep understanding of the foundations of this discipline in order to do the job correctly.
Chuck’s studies in physics, chemistry, applied mathematics, engineering mechanics and numerical analysis at Brown prepared him well in what was to form the basis for his entire later career; i.e., the finite element method. Finite element analysis (FEA) is a computer based numerical method for solving differential equations that arise in many fields of engineering such as structural analysis and heat transfer. When Chuck was at Brown, FEA was confined more to academia and high level research organizations than it is today.
During his college days, Chuck met his wife Teresa Ritter (nee Miller). They became engaged in 1972 and were married in 1973. They would have celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in August of 2023.
Chuck graduated from Brown in 1973 with a double diploma: an expected Bachelor of Science in Engineering, with a life-long membership in Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society, and also a Bachelor of Arts degree.
The BA degree reflected the fact that even though he had a brilliant mind for mathematics and engineering, Chuck was also interested in a wide array of other subjects -- art, architecture, history, music, and literature. Throughout his life, he had a great love of reading and was supportive of his wife Teresa’s creative efforts as a prize-winning poet.
After graduation from Brown, Chuck went to work as a Customer Support Engineer at Marc Analysis Research Corporation (MARC), founded by Pedro Marcal, and located in Providence, RI, at that time. MARC was a multi-discipline engineering mechanics research and development consulting firm internationally known for its MARC General Purpose Finite Element Program.
The staff at MARC featured an international mix of PhD level research engineers, as well as prominent finite element experts, such as O.C. Zienkiewicz and R.H. Gallagher, as consultants. Though he was only a fresh BS out of college, Chuck more than held his own in this environment and became an important member of the MARC team.
In addition to functioning as an analyst implementing the MARC program in linear and nonlinear finite element analysis, Chuck’s duties at MARC included consulting with corporate clients in the use of the MARC program. His support-related duties presented many challenges, including the fact that MARC was the first nonlinear finite element code of any consequence to be commercialized. Many clients had to learn to deal with such complexities as establishing convergence criteria for controlling the MARC Program’s then non-intuitive Newton-Raphson based iterative solution process. Chuck’s competent, lucid explanations were valued by his employers and clients alike.
Through his intelligence, patience, and genuine interest in helping clients to progress in developing their skills, Chuck became a highly effective advocate for the finite element method to the engineering community. He fulfilled this advocacy role throughout the remainder of his career, gaining the respect of numerous clients, coworkers, and colleagues.
In 1977, Chuck left MARC, and together with Steve Jordan and Michael Apostal, founded Jordan, Apostal, Ritter Associates (JAR). Headquartered in North Kingstown, RI, JAR is a multi-discipline high technology research, development and design support firm that specializes in providing expertise in advanced computer methods for structural and interdisciplinary engineering analysis.
Chuck was a valuable team member on many notable projects undertaken by JAR. These included collaboration with Morton Thiokol in the redesign of NASA’s Space Shuttle Solid Rocket Booster after the Challenger Accident, and structural analysis of the Hubble Space Telescope for Perkin Elmer Corporation.
In addition, Chuck was JAR’s sole investigator for other notable projects, such as the ABIOMED Artificial Heart flexible diaphragm simulation, and FEA of the rotary joints that orient and rotate the HGA high-gain and MGA medium-gain antennas on the James Webb Space Telescope, the recently launched successor to the Hubble. The HGA highgain antenna, that enables the telescope to send data to Earth and receive commands via NASA’s Deep Space Network, was fully deployed in December of 2021.
For most of the last two decades, Chuck’s work has focused on two significant areas: the structural and thermal finite element analysis of complex Li-ion Battery Designs, and the structural analysis of Autonomous (AUV) and Unmanned (UUV) Underwater Vehicles.
Along with such high profile projects, Chuck amassed an impressive resume of other advanced finite element modelling efforts too numerous to mention here. However, in summing up the achievements of his long career, the large number and high quality of Chuck’s individual modelling efforts may not be what matter most, but rather the part he played as an effective proponent of the finite element method to the engineering
Family, Hobbies, Interests, and Community Involvement
In his personal life, Chuck was blessed with two wonderful children of whom he was immensely proud. His son Paul J. Ritter, who holds a Master’s Degree from Providence College, is currently a Security Manager with Allied Universal, and oversees that company’s account on behalf of Tishman Speyer at One Federal Street in Boston’s financial district.
Chuck’s daughter Amy Grace Ritter, a graduate of the University of Rhode Island, is a registered nurse who worked in nursing homes throughout the COVID pandemic, and who now cares for pediatric patients through Bayada Home Health Care. Amy has been accepted into URI’s Nurse Practitioner program starting this fall.
One of the happiest events in Chuck’s personal life was the birth of his granddaughter, Allison Ruth Ritter, born to Paul and his wife Jennifer Ritter (nee Boyce) in January 2020. Allison brought a huge amount of joy into the final years of Chuck’s life.
In his younger days, while living in Rhode Island, Chuck was a very athletic individual who enjoyed skiing and bicycling -- including fifty mile bicycle rides with the Narragansett Bay Wheelmen. Chuck took very good care of his two Italian racing bicycles – a Bianchi and a Legnano. He liked fast, powerful cars and had a particular weakness for Porsche vehicles, owning first a 911 and then a Cayman.
Chuck always had an appreciation of nature and a love of outdoor activities. He and his son Paul enjoyed sailing their JY-14 in Narragansett Bay, and Chuck enjoyed participating in races around Conanicut Island aboard a sail boat owned by his friend Denny Stoops.
Chuck was a good cook who liked to experiment rather than always following a recipe. He especially enjoyed cooking outdoors on his Big Green Egg. He would show his love for family members by preparing special dishes for them. His daughter Amy fondly recalls the delicious key lime pies which Chuck would make for her birthday.
Chuck was an avid collector of antique oriental textiles, especially tribal rugs and bag faces. In his large collection of seashells, every shell was carefully labeled with its correct taxonomy. Both Chuck and Teresa loved books and together they amassed a library of over 2,000 volumes, all stored in mahogany bookcases which Chuck made himself by hand.
Chuck passed along his love of reading and books to his children by reading to them when they were young, thus creating a second generation of bibliophiles. His favorite book to share with Amy and Paul when they were small was Dr. Seuss’ “Green Eggs and Ham.”
Woodworking, furniture building, and doing home remodeling projects were hobbies which Chuck pursued throughout his life. He and Teresa rehabbed a 100 year-old Victorian-style house in Providence, RI, which was their home for a decade. In the late 1980’s, they and other family members built an unusual pole house from a kit in Jamestown, RI, where they lived for 29 years. That home was cited in “Houses of Architectural or Historic Interest in Jamestown, Rhode Island,” a publication of the RI Historic Preservation & Cultural Heritage Commission.
In addition to the friendships he formed among his professional colleagues, Chuck also made friends among his neighbors in Jamestown, who found him to be generous, helpful, and good-humored. He will be missed by neighbors Sue and Carl Sakovits, and especially by John and Judy Allen, who were like part of the Ritter family.
Chuck’s demanding professional life and frequent business travel did not always leave him with much time for community activities, but he did serve for several years on the board of the East Passage Neighborhood Association, and he was part of a team of volunteers who built a community playground for Jamestown kids. He routinely donated money to help support the Jamestown Philomenian Library and the volunteer Fire/EMS in Jamestown. He was a long-time member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and served a term as President of ASME’s Providence Section.
If you ever asked Chuck, “Who is your best friend?” he would always say, “My wife, Teresa.” Over the long course of their marriage, Chuck was supportive of his wife’s two very different careers. With an MBA from the University of Rhode Island, Teresa worked as a Human Resources Management professional for 25+ years. After that she was self-employed as a web site designer and developer for 10 years.
Greatly Missed by So Many
Chuck will be greatly missed by his wife, family, and extended family: his son Paul, daughter-in-law Jen, and granddaughter Allie; his daughter Amy Ritter and her husband Anthony Byron; his sister Cathy Ritter and her husband Bob Reynolds; his brother John Ritter; his brother Paul Ritter and his wife Julie Tullis; his mother-in-law Gladys Miller; his sister-in-law Jean and her husband John Boothby; his nieces Paula Reynolds and Jeanna Ritter; his niece Emily and her husband Kevin Sweeney; his niece Jennifer and her husband Michael Mahern; his niece Jessie and her husband Jay Gaze; his nephew Jack Ritter; his nephew Joshua Boothby and his wife Nikki; his nephew Jake Boothby and his wife Tara; Jen Ritter’s parents, Brenda and Barry Boyce; and Chuck’s great nieces and great-nephews.
Chuck will also be greatly missed by dear friends who were like part of the Ritter family for many years, including Steve and Donna Jordan, and especially Mike Apostal. Mike and his wife Rose stood as godparents to Chuck’s son Paul, and Mike was very close friends with Chuck for 45 years, right up to the very end.
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