Priscilla Alden Dobbs Ritz is a direct descendant of John Alden, crewmember on the Mayflower and an original settler in the Plymouth colony. Like Alden, she has led a life full of adventure and challenge, which continues here on Blue Mountain in Saugerties.
Kit, as her friends call her, survived the Depression, in which her father lost all he had on Wall Street, by leaving her home in Westchester in search of stability and work.
Her search took her first to Dallas, where she worked for the Dallas Morning News and lived at the YWCA. One day, seeking adventure, Kit departed Dallas with two friends on a trip to Mexico City. They ended up living the stuff of romance novels. Their travels involved handsome Mexican men, dancing on the beach, two marriage proposals, and the theft of their airline tickets home.
They were able to get back to Dallas due to the kindness of strangers. As Kit tells it, “I was standing at the airport crying because our tickets had been stolen and we had no money to get home. The actress Hedy Lamarr’s husband and his friend, the owner of the El Mirador hotel which we had visited, were at the airport. They asked why I was so upset. When I told our story, they promptly bought three tickets for my friends and me. Over time, I actually saved enough money to pay back the loan that saved us.”
Kit next returned to the Northeast. Work took her to Greenwich Village, White Plains, Larchmont and Greenwich, CT. Over the years she has been a lifeguard, a college student, a salesperson, a secretary for such New York Times luminaries as Brooks Atkinson, Lew Funk, and Don Schwartz, a nursery school teacher, a volunteer at Grant D. Morse School, a wife and the mom of two boys.
What grounded Kit in her early years and comforts her now is the cabin which her father and grandfather built in 1929 on two acres purchased for $25 an acre from the Van Vlierden family in Saugerties. In the early years the dwelling only had a wood stove for heat and an outhouse for other uses. Nevertheless, Kit kept returning there to romp with the animals on the Van Vlierden farm and play with her brother. When he was killed on Leyte Island during World War II’s Pacific campaign, it was to Saugerties that Kit came to grieve and to feel the comfort of the mountains.
In keeping with the novel-like adventures of Kit’s life, she met her husband, Rick, on a blind date that involved a sailing trip on Long Island Sound, a hurricane, and a protected cove that saved their lives. The couple stayed together, married and settled in Larchmont, where they lived for 40 years.
Blue Mountain was not out of the picture, however. In 1972 they bought five and a half acres across the street from the original cabin and built a modular home on the property, to which they moved two years later.
Now a widow, Kit continues her active approach to life. She swims three times a week at the Y in Kingston, is a past president and current member of the Society of Little Gardens, attends Bible Study at the Reformed Church in Saugerties, and reads challenging books as a member of the library’s Wednesday afternoon book club. She looks forward to her 87th birthday in a few months and hopes it will bring more adventures.
Kit, what is unique about Saugerties?
It is warm and comfortable, helpful and beautiful.
What is the biggest issue facing Saugerties?
Indifference. We have to truly appreciate what we have here and take pride in the unique nature of our surroundings. When I see a bag of garbage thrown from a car, or hear someone say we don’t have to worry about protecting our beautiful town, I shudder.
Who is the most interesting person you have met here?
Sue Campbell, an astrologer who reads your life in the stars, and loves to dig in the dirt, as do I. Sue also works very hard for The Well thrift shop to benefit the United Council of Churches.
What qualities do you admire most in others?
Honesty, a sense of humor, being true to oneself, and following First Corinthians: 13. Without love there is nothing.
What fault do you tolerate in others?
Lack of self-discipline.
If heaven exists, what would you like to hear St. Peter say when you arrive at the pearly gates?