YAKIMA - On December 5, 2013, a little after midnight, Barbara J. Abeyta-Ritchie, was lifted from her family's loving arms by an angel and taken to Heaven, where she will live happily with God for all eternity. She was given a new, strong, and healthy body and a sharp, clear mind.
Barbara was born on December 11, 1932 to Gordon and Hazel Schlagel, at St. Elizabeth Hospital Yakima, Washington. She was raised on her parents' ranch in East Selah, near the Yakima Firing Center. Her father was an apple grower and her mother a nurse.
Barbara attended school in Selah. As a child, she developed a love of all of God's creatures, especially horses and dogs. She rode all over the hills east of Selah with her first horse, Roanie, sometimes skipping school to go on a horseback adventure. Once, she brought home an abandoned duck, which rode home with her on the back of her horse. Another time, much to her mother's dismay, she brought Roanie into the house!
Barbara was fortunate to have had two loves of her life – one young love and one "second-time-around" love. Her first love was Paul Abeyta, a dashingly handsome young man, who swept Barbara off her feet at age 15. Mom became a young bride at the tender age of 16.
Barbara and Paul started their married life in a small house on her parents' orchard. It had no electricity, no indoor plumbing, and a wood stove. They could hear coyotes howl at night. Barbara killed more than a few rattlesnakes on their doorstep.
Barbara and Paul had two children, a son, Terry Paul, in 1951, and a daughter, Kathy Jean, in 1953. Barbara took care of their children and kept the family home while Paul worked his way up from the stock room to manager of Weisfield Jewelers. As their children entered high school, they began to take in foster children.
Barbara and Paul took their family camping and on trailer trips, often accompanied by her mother. They eventually bought a rustic cabin where the South Fork of the Tieton River runs into Rimrock Lake. Even though it had no indoor bathroom and no electricity, Barbara loved spending time at the cabin where the family hiked, swam, and water-skied. Best friends Faye and Kip Ives were often a part of those good times.
Terry started a band and, despite the volume, Barbara and Paul allowed them to practice in the family room. Barbara helped sell tickets and refreshments when the band played at the Ahtanum Grange and other locations.
Barbara continued to ride horses and the family moved to a small acreage at Wiley Heights where she had pasture for her horse. Kathy learned to ride horses, but Terry, to Barbara's great disappointment, was more interested in rock and roll.
The marriage lasted almost 25 years. When it ended, Barbara found herself on her own, a single woman without a high school diploma, in the job market for the first time in her life. She moved to Seattle and eventually found work in a uniform shop, where she worked her way up to manager.
In 1983, on a blind date, Barbara met Norman (Mickey) Ritchie, a good-looking cowboy who had a day job in grocery merchandising. Things clicked and they were married a couple of years later. This marriage lasted almost 28 years, until Barbara's death.
Barbara and Mickey shared a mutual love of horses, the mountains, and nature. They were happiest when they were packing in to high country lakes in the Cascades. They packed in to many beautiful high country lakes including Cirque, Surprise, and Sheepherder. Barbara loved to catch mountain trout and often out fished Mickey, who claimed he was too busy baiting her hook to get much fishing done himself.
Barbara was a founding member of Back Country Horsemen of Central Washington. She and Mickey made many lifetime friends from the club.
Barbara's love of children, especially those who had special needs, lasted her whole life. Over the years, Barbara and Mickey had many foster children in their home, including Dee Dee Yates, Debbie Goodwin, Naomi, Sabrina, Angie Sharkey, Rosa Morfin, and Sylvia Valencia. They loved these children and tried their best to instill values that would last them a lifetime.
Barbara also enjoyed her annual "girls' week" camping with her daughter Kathy. They enjoyed riding, hiking, and talking. It remained a mystery to Mickey how the girls never ran out of things to talk about.
Barbara also had special memories of traveling with Mickey, Terry, and Denielle Beaulaurier. They enjoyed road trips through the Canadian Rockies, Glacier National Park, Yellowstone National Park, and, especially, a cruise to Alaska. Barbara said the Alaskan cruise was "the best" vacation she ever had.
Barbara was especially proud of her grandchildren Meagan, Julie, and David. Watching her great grandchildren, Shawn, Jarrin, Beauchene, Avery, Jamison, and Penelope, brought her great joy.
Barbara's love for animals continued her entire life. She always had horses, dogs, and cats. Chico was her horse that she rode for many years. She absolutely adored her two poodles, Muffin and Charlie, and they lived to be on her lap. They followed her around the house like her shadow.
Barbara is survived by her husband Norman M. (Mickey) Ritchie, of East Selah, her son Terry P. Abeyta (Denielle Beaulaurier), her daughter Kathy McClain-Robinson (Tutt Robinson), three grandchildren, Meagan J. Abeyta, Julie K. Baken (Paul), and David P. Abeyta (Chelsea Irwin-Abeyta); six great grandchildren, Shawn L. Abeyta, Jarrin J. Baken, Beauchene P. Abeyta, Avery P. Baken, Jamison T. Baken, and Penelope S. Abeyta, all of Yakima, and a sister, Bette Rogers (Lyndon), of East Selah.
She is also survived by three children through marriage, Steven Scribner, Susan Scribner, of Burien, and Scott Ritchie, of Walla Walla, and four grandchildren through marriage, Chase A. Comstock of Kenmore, Ellen C. Scribner of Burien, and Noah A. Ritchie and Sarah M. Ritchie, both of Walla Walla.
She was preceded in death by her parents, Gordon V. and Hazel M. Schlagel, and her first husband, Paul Abeyta.
Barbara spent the last year of her life at Highgate House, where she received loving care from its entire staff. The family gives special thanks to Deise, Chelce, and Davina for their loving care of our mother. The family also sends a special thanks to Barbara's doctor, Silvia Labes, M.D., for her years of compassionate medical care, and to Cheri, Peg, Cali, and Laurie, of Memorial Hospice, for their care of Barbara and support of her family during Barbara's last weeks of life. Also a special thank you to Rev. Lawrence T. Reilly and Msgr. John Ecker for their spiritual support of Barbara and her family.
Visitation is planned from 4-8 p.m., Monday, December 9, 2013 at Keith & Keith Funeral Home. Burial will be Tuesday, December 10, 2013, at 10 a.m. at Calvary Cemetery, 1405 South 24th Avenue. Celebration of Barbara's life will be at 11:30 a.m. at Keith & Keith Funeral Chapel, 902 West Yakima Avenue, followed by a reception at 1 p.m. at Yakima Valley Museum, 2105 Tieton Drive.
In lieu of flowers, gifts can be made to Pegasus Project, an equine therapy program for special needs children, 4860 US Highway 12, Yakima, WA 98901.
To share a memory of Barbara, go to www.keithandkeith.com.