Eye on KELOLAND: Remembering those who raised them


SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – Losing a parent is never easy and in 2020, many people faced that difficulty when so many lives were lost during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“He was deliberate, intentional, well-read, loved to consider opposing arguments, look at multiple sides of things, loved to question, liked to discuss things, really did care what other people thought,” David Mills-Rittmann said.

David Mills-Rittmann lost his father, John Rittmann, to COVID-19 on November 22 at the age of 83. His mother, Lorraine Rittmann, had tested positive for the virus first.

“He, we made the choice to keep them together. So even though he did not have COVID himself, the two of them went onto the COVID ward and probably about a half a week or so after that, maybe around the 11th, is when he contracted it,” Mills-Rittmann said.

John Rittmann began working as a small-town doctor in Watertown in the early 70’s.

“It’s been fascinating for me to return to Watertown to hear the various interactions that he’s had with the community there. So I keep hearing things, running into people that have had their own little interactions and stories with them. So he touched quite a few people in the community,” Mills-Rittmann said.

But he actually grew up on the other side of the world and brought that lifestyle to the Midwest.

“Growing up in India, back in the 40’s, was kind of a village life and he had opportunities to have chickens and various animals running around and he wanted to recreate that in his later years, in his retirement. So, he got into racing pigeons and rollers, had a small flock of chickens,” Mills-Rittmann said.

David Mills-Rittmann says his dad had a number of hobbies, some of which they shared together.

“He and I did a number of, they call it RASDak now, but it was Tour Dakota, it was bike rides across South Dakota, the Tour Dakota was on the eastern edge so he fostered a love of cycling in me way back when I was in high school,” Mills-Rittmann said.

Mary Schmidt of Huron describes her parents, Frank and Mary Ann Fransen as hard workers.

“When they retired, I don’t think they retired for even one day and my dad took a part-time job just to get out of the house at Beck’s Car Wash in Pierre and my mom did bookkeeping for All-Around T’s in Pierre,” Schmidt said.

They passed away shortly after being diagnosed with COVID-19. Mary Ann went first at the age of 88 and twenty days later, her husband followed on January 6th at the age of 87. They had both been living with Schmidt since 2015. She recalls the relationship they had with their grandkids.

“My mom always said that the most fun that she had was she got to watch my kids grow up, she’d never had grandkids close enough. You know, she saw them on weekends and holidays, but she liked having them in the home,” Schmidt said.

Memories with grandma…

“My kids remember her for her cookies and, because my kids are a little younger, they would always take them to Pizza Ranch on Friday nights and give them quarters for the games and then the kids would help them with their yardwork and things,” Schmidt said.

Mary Schmidt was the youngest of 10 children. She looks back on the lessons she learned growing up and the time spent with her parents.

“I was fortunate enough to have my mom to myself as the youngest child a lot, so I remember her teaching me how to cook and bake and do canning, They always had a very big garden, you know, that’s kind of the thing to feed your large family, they always had a big garden. And, my dad, you know, he worked in the garden and then at the meat plant and as we all got our driver’s license we got to help him make deliveries and things,” Schmidt said.

Memories to look back on as she tries to find a new normal without her parents.

Faces of COVID19

Almost two thousand people have lost their lives during the COVID-19 pandemic in South Dakota, we want to hear from those impacted by the virus. Whether you are currently fighting it, have recovered, or you’ve lost a loved one — help us take a look beyond the numbers by emailing us at Ushare@KELOLAND.com

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