Jean Marie Orlosky
Jean Rittenhouse was born on July 29, 1932, and grew up in the Brockway area living along Route 219 in the Dellwood area for her whole life – first beside the Shawmut Railroad trestle and later a little farther south following her marriage to Dale Rittenhouse, her late sister Josephine’s widower, on July 29, 1967, on her birthday. They were married for more than 30 years until his death on September 25, 2000.
She had four sisters and five brothers. Her oldest brother was killed by an automobile, while walking home from a party in Lanes Mills. Her youngest brother Philip gained fame as a nuclear reactor supervisor out of the University of Buffalo when he assisted with installation of a reactor in Thailand.
Except for her sister Helen, the sisters each married and took on the role of housewives, some settling in the home neighborhood while others moved totally out of the area.
In writing about her early life, Rittenhouse confessed that she had a strange liking for coal when she was small. She tried to eat it whenever no one was looking, but sometimes when her older family members were watching, they always stopped her. When she was 3 years old, she tried to eat the thermometer. She had the glass chewed up before anyone noticed what she was doing. There were no serious results except that they had to buy a new thermometer.
She started school at the little neighborhood building that can still be found along Granville Road, with Mrs. Rose Nale as teacher. The greatest excitement came from playing in the trees and swamp at recess. She went to the Ninth Avenue and High School buildings after that and the years went by quickly. She was her mother’s little baby girl so the rest of the family were always cautioned not to let anything happen to that girl ... but sometimes they did!
On one such occasion around Halloween, the local gang of mischief actors decided to dangle a dummy over the railroad trestle across the DuBois Road right beside her homestead. With the scene all set, the gang settled into the adjacent bushes and waited for the next train to come down over the hill from the Lane place (now the home of the Randy Bart family). At the best possible moment as the engine rolled over the trestle, the engineer triggered a big blast of power and whistle leaving a big cloud of coal dust over the whole place. All of the kids including Rittenhouse were covered with coal dust and soot – leaving clear evidence of who was doing what that day.
On another occasion, the gang had crossed Route 219 and the main railroad to prowl around on Broad Street. This time they decided to throw squishy tomatoes at the house of school janitor K. C. Hamman who everybody knew and really liked. All the kids ran – but Rittenhouse who was embarrassed by the mess that was left behind. Hamman caught up with her and admitted that he was sure she was really innocent of the mess, but someone had to be responsible and she was the only one left behind. She ended up cleaning up the whole mess.
She graduated from Brockway Area High School in 1950 having served her class as treasurer. She had taken the commercial course so she could get an office job after graduation. She specialized in secretarial work and bookkeeping. Soon after high school, she found a job at the Brockway Citizens Bank on Main Street in Brockway. She developed this experience into a lifetime career and eventually retired from S & T Bank after 42 years and 8 months of service.
She had an experience while working as a teller at the local bank, something that has been unique to her job in Brockway. Sometime around 1960, she was approached by a customer who announced, “This is a hold up!” and indicated that he had a gun. She is said to have just smiled as she always did, and responded with, “You’re kidding, right!” The story doesn’t tell just what did happen after that.
She has been a member of the St. Tobias Roman Catholic Church all of her life where she has served on the money committee, the cemetery board, and the Rosary Society. She has been faithful throughout her whole life with her church participation and is reported by friends and relatives to have never permitted a cross word to come out of her mouth nor ever say or repeat anything she shouldn’t.
Some say she could easily have been called the first “Uber Driver” in Brockway but she never charged any person for her assistance. Since she retired from the bank more than 25 years ago, she has devoted many hours helping classmates, former co-workers, and friends by visiting hospitals, nursing homes, and at their own homes. She has also provided transportation to stores, doctors, churches, and even to eat out.
Jean Rittenhouse was a homemaker who dearly loved her family, friends and relatives. She had many nieces and nephews and kept in contact with them throughout her life. She phones her niece Marjorie Lankard Baughman twice ever day at 8 o’clock in the morning and in the evening – just to make sure both are up and about.