In April 1984, Diane Cruze-Mills wrote the following article about Oretha Ridgeway for The Pioneer News. It is transcribed below with the paper's permission.
Oretha Ridgeway is a living legend in the Nichols community. She has dedicated her whole life to the community and Nichols school.
Ask anyone in Nichols about 72 year old Mrs. Ridgeway and they will tell you she has helped keep a community spirit alive there. For thirty seven years she has written the community column for The Pioneer News. In addition she has been involved with Nichols Elementary School her whole life.
In 1918, Mrs. Ridgeway started the first grade at Nichols School. "There were very few houses and very few families here then," says Mrs. Ridgeway. She says she remembers coming to the school and seeing her teacher standing on the front porch. "It had two brand new rooms and with a hallway between," she says. "Oh, that was a building."
"We started in July when it was hot and not one child complained," she says. Students started school early because the roads would become impassable later in the year.
She remembers the first time children were transported to the school. "Mrs. Hoagland started bringing the ones from Weavers Run with a wagon," she said. Mrs. Ridgeway said the horse drawn wagon bringing the children was covered. "I didn't get the pleasure of riding in it unless I went home with a friend and stayed overnight with them," she remarked.
Throughout her life, Mrs. Ridgeway has been involved with Nichols school. She was involved in the PTA when her daughters June and Janet attended Nichols. Later she returned to Nichols as a teacher and reading instructor. She has worked at the school since 1957.
"I said ever since I was in the second grade that I wanted to be a teacher," she said. Her second grade teacher, Mrs. Lillian Wiggington of Lebanon Junction made a lasting impression on her. "I told her, 'Mrs. Wiggington, I want to be a teacher just like you.' Just that one imprint," said Mrs. Ridgeway, "there was something about her, I wanted to be just like her."
"After my children were grown I got back to the memories of how I wanted to be a teacher," she said. She decided to attend Catherine Spalding College in Louisville. There she took enough courses to teach school. She returned to Nichols and began teaching fifth grade. "Any year I wasn't regularly in the classroom, I substituted," she said. In 1965 Mrs. Ridgeway became involved in the Title One reading program and taught reading to first through sixth grades. In 1978 she retired from full time teaching, but Mrs. Ridgeway wasn't content to sit home. Instead she continued to teach reading three hours a day.
"It takes the patience of Job," she said. "You can't let frustrations get to you. You cannot give up. If a child can read he will be able to cope with whatever faces him in other subjects."
John Sullivan, principal at Nichols, says Mrs. Ridgeway is an asset to the school. "She brings her knowledge and experience into the classroom." he says. " I think we are very lucky."
"She also brings her love her," says Sullivan. "You can see it in her face and in the children's faces."
"Many afternoons she will spend the whole day helping with special projects," he says. "When an emergency comes up she will always be there."
Not only does Mrs. Ridgeway make herself available to the school, she is also ready to help whenever she hears about a neighbor in need. "We have a good community spirit here," she says. "Whenever anyone is sick we run to see if there is anything we can do."
The Nichols community is Mrs. Ridgeway's life. She ways she was born and raised here and she hopes she will die there also. She is proud of her community and wants to do everything she can for it.
For twenty seven years she has written the community for The Pioneer News. She started writing the column for Mr. Barrow. She said a the time the roads were too bad to get to Shepherdsville so she mailed the weekly column.
"I thought this end of the county needed to be covered and recognized too," she said. "I just kept it up because I was interested. I still enjoy getting the news."
At age seventy one, Mrs. Ridgeway is stil not ready to completely retire. "I want to work until I have bad health," she said.
A major project she is working on now is raising money to landscape Nichols School. To help raise money she wears a tree costume during festivals and special events. While dressed up, she convinces people to contribute money for the landscaping project.
She has already helped raise enough money to purchase seven trees for the front of the school. Now she is trying to raise an additional $1,500 for shrubs for the flagpole area.
"It's a big thing," she said. "We've had people from out of state send money who went to school here or taught here."
Meanwhile Mrs. Ridgeway will continue doing what she does best, serving the Nichols Community.
Mrs. Ridgeway lived another 17 years, much of it spent in her devotion to her community and school. She died on 31 Jul 2001, and is buried in the Knob Creek Cemetery, not far from the school she loved.
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