By Jef Rietsma
Collector? Mary Ritter
Collection? Seraphim angel figurines.
How did your collection begin? “The collection started from a purchase I made back in the 1990s. Then a lot of the pieces were given as gifts and I would pick up pieces as time went on. Before I started buying them for myself, though, when my (four) grandkids arrived I gave their folks an angel holding a baby. So, that’s where it all started. I have 17 different angel pieces of my own.”
The angels are manufactured by a company called Roman, are limited in production and individually numbered. Ritter also has an equal-sized collection of Precious Moments pieces and a small assortment of Hummel figurines.
How do you acquire pieces? “I found them at a place called R.J. Jones gift shop in Kalamazoo and I was attracted to them right away. J.C. Penney had a bunch of them, too, at one time. They were definitely limited in distribution but R.J. Jones has folded and Penney’s doesn’t carry them anymore. I have no idea what store I would go today to find new pieces because I don’t think anybody carries them; it’s been quite a few years since my last purchase.”
Why did you choose the pieces that you own? “I would patronize R.J. Jones on a regular basis and I didn’t really keep a list of what pieces I wanted, I would just look to see what’s new and if something caught my eye, I’d purchase it.”
Is there a figure that means more to you than any other? “I have a horse-drawn coach that I absolutely love. But it’s so huge, I wasn’t sure where I would put it. So, I looked around my house and found the perfect spot, right on my living room coffee table. It was $150, the most I ever paid for a piece. Most of the pieces, however, were $60 or $70.”
Do you have any idea the value of your collection? “Oh, heavens no. I’ve never bothered to go on eBay or consider selling them because to me, they’re not about what they’re worth, they’re about what they mean to me. How do you put a price on that?”
What is it about the pieces you admire? “They’re so intricate. Their hands are so tiny, their hair looks like it’s flowing in the wind and their wings are so pretty. They look so lifelike. It’s kind of sad that I don’t see these anymore but I’m at peace with what I have. I don’t have a clue what might be available that I don’t have, and it really wouldn’t matter. When I walk down the hall and look at them, I always say to myself, ‘Oh, they’re so pretty.’”
Footnotes: Ritter, 85, is a Schoolcraft-area resident who grew up in the Austin Lake area. A Vicksburg High School alumna (maiden name Woodham), her father and brother owned what was formerly known as the Austin Lake Airport.