St. Francis House Has Been a Haven

It’s rare to see Veteran Jerry Ritchey without a smile on his face and a story ready to tell. He served his country for twenty-three years, from 1964 through 1987,  first in the Navy and then in the Army.  

Born in El Dorado, Texas, this family moved to Odessa when his father got a job in the oilfields. He graduated from Odessa High School. “I joined the Navy as soon as I turned eighteen. I actually left after a month, but I missed it so much, I went back.” He was stationed initially in the Philippines and then Viet Nam. “I was a boatswain’s mate on the USS Koiner and after Viet Nam, I was on the USS Chilton. That was fun; we carried a battalion of Marines out of Norfolk, Virginia so we got to go all over the Mediterranean.”

After leaving the Navy, Mr. Ritchey joined the Army as a part of the signal core.” We weren’t attached to any one specific base; we went wherever they needed communications. When I started it was wire telephones and by the time I left, we were using electronics and satellite phones and computers. I went to different places  in Africa, back to the Philippines, Germany, France, Holland- I loved that!”

Mr. Ritchey came to Arkansas for a job with the US government at the Pine Bluff arsenal. “I was a cataloger. We kept the property books up to date and my area was equipment. I worked there until I retired in 2017.”

Mr. Ritchey was living with a relative, but as other family members relocated and moved in, there was no more space for him. “I went to get a motel, and my chest started hurting. They couldn’t find anything wrong, but the staff let me stay the night and then brought me to Little Rock to the Compassion Center. I was there for five days and the Veterans’ Day Treatment Center arranged for me to come to St. Francis House. It’s been a haven for me.”

During his stay at St. Francis House, Mr. Ritchey has continued to deal with medical issues. “When I got sick again, the staff here took me to McClellan. They found out that I had pneumonia. When I got out, I came back here and the staff took great care of me. I’ve already found an apartment so once all the paperwork is done, I’ll be moving out. But I can’t say enough good things about St. Francis House. There are some rules I don’t like,” he said laughing, “but I do them anyway. And the staff is superb! St. Francis House is the best in the world.”