MISSOULA — Linaire O. Ritter (Wells), loving wife, mother and grandmother, passed peacefully at her residence in Missoula, surrounded by her family, on the morning of Saturday, Oct. 7, 2017, at the age of 83.
Born on March 13, 1934, outside Antigo, Wisconsin, Linaire was the only child of William “Wiley” Adget and Helen (Kirsch) Adget. The Adgets and Kirsches were of German and Quebecois ancestry, emigrating to the United States in the mid-20th century. Her birth father, William, was a decorated veteran of the first World War. After returning from the war, William married Helen, and they welcomed Linaire, their first and only child, shortly thereafter.
Tragedy struck early in Linaire’s life with the sudden death of her father William in 1938. Following his passing, Linaire’s mother Helen married Charles Wells, who adopted Linaire and moved the family to Helena, Montana in the late 1930s. In 1945, the family was marred again by death, when Linaire’s mother Helen died due to complications from breast cancer. Linaire was only 11 years old.
Shortly after the passing of her mother, Linaire moved into the Helena Deaconess School for Children, where she was raised and received her early education. Though she resided at the Deaconess Home, Linaire would later recall fond memories of her stepfather Charles picking her up on weekends for outings to the drive-in or bowling alley. In 1952, Linaire graduated from Helena High School and went to work at the office of the Montana State Auditor.
Four years later, in 1954, Linaire met a young Russ Ritter while he was home on leave from the U.S. Marine Corps. Their courtship lasted just over a year while Russ served in the Korean War, and the two were married at the Helena Cathedral on Aug. 4, 1956.
By the close of 1957, the couple had moved to Billings, where Russ had taken a job as a teacher and coach at Billings Central. In Billings, they welcomed their firstborn, Mike. After one year, the couple moved to Missoula in 1958 where their two daughters, Leslie and Teresa, were born. In the summer of 1962, the family moved yet again to Kalispell, where younger sons Greg and Dan were born. Finally, in 1969, the Ritters packed up and permanently relocated to Helena, the city Russ and Linaire knew best and would spend the next 47 years.
In Helena, Linaire was known for her firebrand spirit, unbounded kindness, and seamlessly-planned social events. Together with Russ, the two were staples of the Helena philanthropic circuit, particularly with respect to development efforts at Carroll College. Linaire was additionally known for her volunteer work across the community, notably her mentorship of students in the Central School reading program. Linaire’s fondness for pets and animals of all shapes and sizes was known to many — she was indeed a lifelong animal lover. Dubbed “Grandma Awesome” by family and friends, her immaculately decorated, holiday-themed sugar cookies and cakes will be sorely missed. Twice a survivor of lymphoma, Linaire’s fighting spirit inspired those around her and she will forever be remembered for her lifelong perseverance in the face of adversity.
A devoted wife, mother and grandmother, Linaire is survived by her five children and their spouses, Mike and Mary Ritter, Leslie and Tom Wozniak, Teresa Ritter, Greg and Brenda Ritter and Dan Ritter; and her 13 grandchildren and their spouses, Matt and Kara, Brian, Andy, Alex, Sarah, Abby, and Jenna Ritter; Ryan, Dylan, and Stephanie Wozniak; and Donovan, Mitchell, and Connor Dennis.
A funeral Mass will be celebrated at noon on Friday, Oct. 13, at the Cathedral of St. Helena, 530 N. Ewing St., Helena. A reception will follow the Mass in the Brondel Center located in the Cathedral’s lower level. Burial at Resurrection Cemetery will follow the reception. In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that condolences be directed to the Florence Crittenton Home, 901 N. Harris St., Helena, MT, 59601 and the Lewis and Clark Humane Society, 2112 E. Custer Ave, Helena, MT, 59602. Please visit aswfuneralhome.com to offer a condolence to the family or to share a memory of Linaire.