Thursday, April 13, 2006
One of my oldest friends in Holly Springs passed away this weekend.
Not only was Joe Ridgway 87, but I’ve known him and his wife Mattie just about as long as I’ve been in Holly Springs.
Mr. Ridgway was one of those “special” people that you come to know and love. He was very conscientious about getting the VFW news in the paper for many years — and he was faithful as “Old Faithful” about calling and making sure that the Saturday night dance was listed in the calender — and listed properly!
I’ve done many stories through the years with the men at the VFW and a common thread among the “older” soldiers was their service in “the big war.”
Old soldiers don’t give up either — they continue to serve their country and community as long as they can.
Sherry Janssen, wife of the Collins-Hurdle Post No. 5697 Commander Bill Janssen, where Mr. Ridgway served so long and so faithfully, told me a story Tuesday morning about Mr. Ridgway’s dedication.
“Mr. Joe was in charge of the popcorn machine. He and Mattie would come in early and make up the popcorn and then we’d fix him two hamburgers, one for him and one for Mattie and they’d go home. He did this as long as he could,” Sherry said.
Mr. Ridgway and Mattie had been married 62 years — at 90, she was a couple years older than he. The obituary in The Commercial Appeal said he was “one of the last heroes in Holly Springs.” I’m guessing they meant to say “war” hero, but either way, he was truly one of the last of his kind.
Joe and Mattie were a familiar and well-loved sight to most of us in Holly Springs — Mattie always in front and Joe bringing up the rear, carrying her purse. He carried her purse for her the entire 20 years I knew them. It takes a very confidant man to carry his wife’s purse as happily as he did.
Sherry also told me that Joe and Mattie were mugged about a year ago. The muggers broke Joe’s arm taking Mattie’s purse away from him and then knocked Mattie down.
One of my first thoughts on hearing of Joe’s passing was “who is going to carry Mattie’s purse for her now...?”
I’ve bought many a poppy on Veteran’s Day from Mr. Ridgway — last year, I had to buy one from Bill Janssen as Mr. Ridgway wasn’t in such great health anymore.
Mr. Ridgway was extremely proud to have served his country and was very dedicated to Mattie and taking care of her.
Our town will be a poorer place for his passing. And his tomatoes will surely be missed.
I salute you Mr. Ridgway — and Mattie, who served valiantly in the Ladies Auxiliary for many, many years.
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