Friday, April 10, 2009
The Road Les Traveled
If our information is correct, Les Rietz will be celebrating his fourth Easter Sunday birthday this year. His first was in 1925, the second in 1936 and the third in 1998.
This is another way of saying that Les will be celebrating his 90th birthday this Easter Sunday at an open house in the Parish Activity Center after the 11 a.m. Mass.
Old timers will remember when Les was a driving force in St. Paul parish and in the Akron area at large. His life story is one of social service. He's often in a wheelchair now, but his wife, June, makes certain that he still makes the rounds.
The SOLACE support group, which has been a parish mainstay, was one of the services which Les started at St. Paul after the death of his son, Joe, at the age of 19. SOLACE is an acronym for Surviving Our Losses After Caring Experiences.
At the time there were no support groups, so Les and June decided it was a ministry that was needed. The organization is in its 27th year at St. Paul's. Les continued his part until he had kidney failure and then two strokes.
He was a lector and also active at St. Paul in the Cana Club, Renewal, and Parish School of Religion.
Born at home in Chicago on April 12, 1919, Leslie Charles Rietz grew up in the family home on Lawler Ave. His father, William F. Rietz, was a Chicago policeman, and his mother, Wilhelmina "Minnie" (Newhouse) Rietz, was a homemaker who raised Les and his six siblings. Les and his beloved baby sister, Edith (a retired Maryknoll missionary), are the surviving members of the family.
Les attended Our Lady Help of Christians grade school and St. Patrick high school, winning three scholarships to high school. He worked after high school in the office of the Brockway Glass Company in downtown Chicago, a firm that sold glass bottles.
He was drafted into the Army in 1940 and served five years, earning the rank of warrant officer. He went to college on the G.I. bill and completed his bachelor of arts degree in three years at DePaul
University and studied at the University of Chicago for a master’s degree in social work.
He was married August 12, 1950, to June Marguerite Stebbins, who was born in Cleveland but grew up in Chicago. After their marriage, Les worked a year for a social work agency in Chicago, during which time their first son, Christopher, was born May 28, 1951.
He then returned to the University of Chicago to complete his master’s degree in 1952.
Les and June then moved to Shawano, Wisconsin, which is on the edge of the Menominee Indian Reservation. Les worked for the county social services department. Their daughter Mary Edith was born March 5, 1953, in Shawano.
The family then moved to Cleveland, where Les worked for the Youth Bureau, but he disliked that work and started looking for other work. Joseph was born in Cleveland on August 19, 1954.
Then the family moved to Les’ new job in Akron with Akron Children’s Service, and he worked for that agency for several years before he switched to the Catholic Service League as an adoption worker. He also did adoption work for the courts and took night calls for the Red Cross,
Paul (June 23, 1957), John (April 1, 1960), and Mary Clare (November 16, 1964) all were born in Akron. Les and June also took in a foster child, Sandra (February 22, 1958), who was 5 ½ years old and had cerebral palsy. She remains a part of the family.
By the early 1960s, Les had three jobs and a big family. Eventually he assumed the role of executive director of the Canton Catholic Community League, where he served for 20 years until his retirement in 1984. His work in Canton earned him the respect and admiration of his staff and many in the wider community.
Besides his work life and life in the parish, the main focus for Les always has been his family. He often boasted to his children (particularly on camping trips) that "the blood of Vikings courses
through these veins!" and when he overruled the children's requests, he reminded them, "This is a benevolent dictatorship, not a democracy," or, "I'm the boss of the applesauce." This playful good humor was a hallmark of his firm but gentle style as a father.
He continues to be a loving, caring father who accepts each of his children for his or her unique self. He is truly a patriarch, looked up to and thoroughly loved by his children, his nine grandchildren, his
great-grandchild, and also his wife, June.
The Rietz children are Chris of Lansing, Michigan, who works as a CD buyer and ad copy editor at Elderly Instruments; Mary Edith “Mimi” of Akron, mother and homemaker; Paul of Columbus, who has worked as a telecommunications software developer at Alcatel-Lucent for many years;
Sandy of Cuyahoga Falls, who is very active in her church; John of Ann Arbor, Michigan, who is a professor of English at Henry Ford Community College in Dearborn; Mary Clare of Cincinnati, who is an organizer for Ohioans for Health, Environment and Justice and works in a volunteer
capacity for Al Gore's Climate Project.
Everyone who knows Les knows his eternally sunny disposition and his sense of humor, especially his love of a good (and even a not-so-good) pun. (We hope he appreciates the title of this tribute!) Though he is in some ways diminished, his wit remains sharp, as you will see when you join him to celebrate his 90th birthday on Easter Sunday.
Posted by Harry Liggett at 9:09 AM