Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Tuesday, December 22, 1931: A day that changed lives

Exactly one month after the death of Charles J. Davis another tragedy occurred for those at Practical Bible Training School.

As the Great Depression edged on the LORD took care of the needs of the school in different ways. One way was that farmers would give food from the previous harvest to help the school, but someone from the school would need to go to the farms to pick up the food. On Tuesday, December 22, 1931 a group of guys from the school went down to Pennsylvania to collect some potatoes from a farmer. After an afternoon of loading the food on the vehicle they headed back as before it got too dark. Without warning one of tires blew out, and the students had to pull over to change it.

The Freshman class of 1934 in the 1932 Theologue (G. Arthur Woolsey is the 2nd from the right top row)

The student in charge of changing the tire was freshman G. Arthur Woolsey of Evergreen, PA. G. Arthur was born on November 30, 1913 and had just turned 18 years old less than a month earlier. Ten years earlier G. Arthur's mother had passed away and only shortly after he had graduated from High School his father passed away. Before his father died he promised him that he would attend Bible College for one year. So in 1931 he headed to Practical Bible Training School though he really did not want to.

On that same trip to and from Pennsylvania was another freshman by the name of Steve Ritz. Steve was a little bit older than G. Arthur as he was born on September 8, 1910. Steve was from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and had accepted the LORD at the age of 16 in late 1926 or 1927 and had joined Johnson Avenue Baptist Church in Hazelwood, just outside of Pittsburgh. Over the next 4 years he grew in the word of God and in his faith in Christ. He loved the Word and had a burning desire to study for the ministry which came to pass in the fall of 1931, when he came to the Practical Bible Training School. He was always a young man of prayer and hard work, it was not long before he had touched the lives of most of the students in a spiritually helpful manner.

Both of these men had completely ideas of what their futures held, but God had a different idea as Isaiah 55.8-9 says, "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD. “ For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts."

G. Arthur got out of the truck and started to jack it up to change the tire. It was starting to get dark out and started to crawl under the truck, but Steve Ritz pushed G. Arthur aside to change the tire. It was in that moment that everything changed. As Steve was under the car for only a minute or so the lights of an approaching car appeared quickly and there was a crash. The car slammed into the truck and dislodged the jack. The truck came crashing down on Steve sending him face to face with his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
A memorial page to Steve Ritz in the 1932 Theologue

The grave of Steve Ritz in Oakmont, PA

The death of Steve Ritz sent ripples through PBTS and many individuals. For some faculty members it could be seen as one of the straws that broke the camel's back in the split from PBTS that created Baptist Baptist Seminary.

It is a fact that it was a turning point for G. Arthur Woolsey. He was determined to be a lawyer after finishing his one year at PBTS, but after the death of Steve Ritz (a death that could have been his own) he went into the ministry. The death affected him that he left PBTS and joined BBS when it started in 1932, and graduated from BBS two years later in 1934. G. Arthur Woolsey became Dr. Woolsey served as President of BBS from 1960-1970. It was during his time as president that the College and Seminary moved to Clark Submit, PA from Johnson City. In total Dr. Woolsey served 70 years in ministry before going home to glory on February 8, 2004.

A brief bio of Dr. G. Arthur Woolsey after his home going

Another person that the death of Steve Ritz affected was Steve's younger brother, Samuel Ritz. As a result of his brother's untimely passing Sam wanted to continue where his brother had left off. He wanted to go in the ministry and share Christ with others. Sam Ritz attended a Bible school in the Pittsburgh area, while not finishing the schooling, worked as a Baptist lay minister for 65 years before he entered the gates of Heaven to join his brother in 1997.

In total between these two men, that on Monday, December 21, 1931 had no desire to enter the ministry, over 130 years of serving the LORD was put into action. God has a way of changing plans and lives in an instant and only eternity will tell how many lives were changed, because of this one death of a young man who was devoted to God.

=====How God brought these two stories together=====

It has been amazing to see how God can use technology to bring people together. Since starting this blog in 2006 I have received emails from several people (many of whom are not associated with the school directly). The story of how I learned of the following story came from Aleta Ellington filling out the form on the side of the blog on Monday, July 21, 2008. She is the daughter of G. Arthur Woolsey. We corresponded over the summer months of 2008 as I learned about death of "another student" that had impacted her father's life. I had never heard of this event, but it definitely a major event for the school and so I archived it on my computer.

Several months after getting the message from Aleta on December 7, 2008 I received a form from a Gene Ritz. He mentioned that he had been looking for information about his late uncle for around 40 years. He said his uncle Steve Ritz had died on on December 22, 1931 and that he had been a student at PBTS. At first I couldn't find anything about him as I scan through some Theologues. I sent him back an email and found out some more information of when he was born and in that second email Gene gave me enough information that made my mind go back to the story Aleta had told me several months earlier. Gene mentioned that "he was killed in an accident while allegedly changing a tire along the road (in NY state or PA)." I immediately found the information about Dr. Woolsey and sent it to Gene. He replied back, "I am almost speechless Corey. I am quite taken aback by the actual, accurate explanation of the accident. I never expected to read words like these."

Over the next several weeks/months I was able to learn more about Steve and was able to put Gene in touch with Aleta. It is amazing how God is able to brings things to pass. Through this tragedy God was able to bring at least two men into the ministry that otherwise would not have, and countless souls were reached as a result.

As 2 Corinthians 2.14 says, "Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place." Steve's death was a still a sweet smelling aroma to God. It was through his death that Christ triumphed in the lives of Dr. G. Arthur Woolsey and Pastor Samuel Ritz.

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At 12:13 AM, Blogger Gene said...

Just received an e-mail from Aleta about your blog. Thanks Corey for all your hard work to solve this decades old mystery of my uncle Steves' passing. I can tell you it was a true revelation to me and my family! The college should be very proud of you. It speaks well to have had students like you, my uncle Steve and Dr. Woolsey at PBTS/Davis. My sincere thanks!
Gene Ritz


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