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Riverbank Loses Longtime Community Activist McRitchie
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Scott McRitchie, president of Friends of Jacob Myers Park, helps out with the Eagle Scout project that built the Gazebo at the park in 2013. FJMP paid for the kit that was built by volunteers, both from the Friends group and also friends and relatives of the prospective Eagle Scout. Ric McGinnis/The News
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While serving as president of the Friends of Jacob Myers Park organization, Scott McRitchie, right, enjoyed applying a dose of color during the ‘Got Color?’ Color Run through the park during the spring of 2016. Ric McGinnis/The News

A pillar of the Riverbank community, and a friend to many here, Scott McRitchie passed away just before Thanksgiving. He was an icon of local volunteerism about whom Mayor Richard O’Brien said “he has had more impact on the city of Riverbank for good than any mayor or council member, ever.”

McRitchie, 79, succumbed after a long battle with cancer, surrounded by family and friends, on Tuesday, Nov. 18.

He, along with wife Marilyn, were recently honored by the city with the naming of the walking/jogging trail at the west end of Jacob Myers Park in his honor. It was during that ceremony that Mayor O’Brien made his comment.

McRitchie was instrumental in reclaiming the park from its apparent desolation in the late ‘90s, when he formed Friends of Jacob Myers Park, a volunteer, non-profit organization dedicated to helping manage and improve the park over the years. He served many years as its president, even while volunteering in other areas around town.

The first major project at Jacob Myers Park came with the installation of a group of large playground structures in the park and construction of public restrooms there, finished in 2001. It was built with grants and contributions from local businesses and organizations, assembled and installed by community members. He was recognized for his efforts at the time by the Community Outreach organization of the San Francisco 49ers, one of only 10 communities in the north state to be so noticed.

Sometime later, the ‘Rocket,’ a 1950s-style playground apparatus that had been in the park but condemned by the state, was returned to the site. It had been renovated by FJMP members and was installed by city staff and dedicated as a monument to the fun that was had (and to be had) in the city’s park.

The Friends group has been instrumental in other improvements in the park over the years, including the improvement and rededication of the Bicentennial Grove near the railroad trestle.

The FJMP helped organize the master plan for park improvements that has helped the city receive various grants to fund the work. There has been the installation of a walking/jogging trail at the west end of the park, an expanded meadow there, where Shakespeare in the Park performances have been held, and an enlarged parking area near there.

Work also has included a camping area near the trail, complete with restroom facilities, fire pit, and tent area, and the addition of a number of park benches along the trail for picnickers or walkers just needing a rest.

The group has also overseen many Eagle Scout projects undertaken through the years, including the construction of a Gazebo utilized in local weddings, the construction of bird nesting boxes around the park, a railing built surrounding the Bicentennial Grove, and railing projects along some of the western extensions of roadways.

McRitchie also helped organize and run the ‘Haunted Hayride’ events held in the park in October.

The Friends of Jacob Myers Park is not the only local group with which McRitchie worked. He also cared deeply about his community and it was apparent through his involvement with his church, St. Frances of Rome, the City of Riverbank, and many throughout the community who needed assistance.

At St. Frances, McRitchie often served as a lector, commentator or lay minister, and a special tradition was personally receiving the children’s offering at mass. He also started the Senior Club which provided many older parishioners a monthly social gathering. McRitchie was often seen around Riverbank, trying to help make the community stronger and better for those in it.

Recognized as Citizen of the Year in 2003, he served on the Planning Commission, Housing Authority, volunteered at the Cheese and Wine Festival, and served on the city’s Finance Committee.

From formal endeavors like his decades-long work for St. Vincent de Paul, to volunteering to conduct census work, to grant writing for non-profits, as well as collecting toys and food for community distribution, and finally leading horseback riding for special needs kids for several years, his contributions touched countless lives.

Born on Sept. 12, 1939 in Los Angeles, McRitchie grew up in Tustin, where he graduated high school. After earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Botany from UCLA and a Masters in Pomology (the science of fruits and fruit growing) from UC Davis, he worked for several large companies before landing a job at Tri-Valley Growers in Modesto and moving to Riverbank in 1988.

In addition to his wife, Marilyn, McRitchie is survived by sons Michael and Kevin and daughter Annie Rogaski. There are five grandchildren. He is also survived by his sister, Sandra Guard and her children, along with many grand nieces and nephews.

A memorial mass has been set for Saturday, Jan. 12, 2019, at St. Frances of Rome Catholic Church, 2827 Topeka St., in Riverbank, California. It will begin with an 11 a.m. mass, with reception following.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to St. Vincent de Paul Society (St. Frances of Rome Church); Community Hospice of Modesto, California; or Friends of Jacob Myers Park 501(c)(3), City of Riverbank, 6707 Third St., Riverbank, CA 95367; Attn. FJMP to help fund McRitchie’s dream of completing an Amphitheater in the back portion of the park.