Thursday, September 13, 2012

A Bicentennial Moment: Mayor Ritari (1946-1955)

Beginning with George Riker (1889-1896), Fairport Harbor has had 31 Mayors in its history.  Some such as Dr. Amy Kaukonen and Niels M. Rasmussen are known in history for other major contributions to our county.  Four Mayors were of Finnish descent (first generation), the first of whom was said to be the first woman mayor in Ohio and the U.S.  Tim Manross is Fairport's newest Mayor, elected in 2011.  While each Mayor has left a footprint on the Village of Fairport, it is Arthur J. Ritari who helped with 'keeping  Fairport on the Map' in the modern era.

Fairport's chief executive was born in Fairport in 1904.  He graduated from the high school in 1922. Arthur attended Mount Union College and Ohio State University.  Graduated from OSU, he was admitted to the Ohio bar in 1930.  Ritari served as Village Solicitor from 1932-1940, serving four councils.  During the Rendrick administration, his legal advice helped Fairport secure the water plant and street paving projects.  He married Ethel Lawrence (daughter of famous Fairport merchant E.E. Lawrence).

It is during his tenure as Mayor of Fairport that two signature village events occurred.  Ritari was solely responsible for all the contact work with the heirs of Samuel Huntington, who deeded the Huntington Beach property to Fairport in 1946.  Huntington Beach is still under village control today as part of a cooperative lease with Lake Metroparks.  Ritari's second signature event involved the local lighthouse and marine museum.  The Fairport Harbor Historical Society had saved the iconic lighthouse from the wrecking ball many years earlier.  Its volunteers established a non-profit museum on the site and maintained control of the property until 1952.  In June 1952, the lighthouse property had been deemed government surplus property.  This declaration meant the FHHS could not legally gain title to their lighthouse and museum.  Ritari urged immediate action to regain title of the site.  His efforts in making the museum a historic venue and the lighthouse a monument gained steam.  On May 14, 1953 Ritari was able to get Congress to give the deed to the village.  Furthermore this quitclaim deed from the Department of the Interior guaranteed that the FHHS and lighthouse museum would continue in its mission of preserving the history and sentiment of Fairport and the Great Lakes area.  For $1.00 per year the FHHS continues to lease Lake County's famous landmark, thanks to the civic mindedness of Fairport's twenty-third mayor.

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