, Salem, MA

December 6, 2013

A 'shooting star' to honor Ritzer's memory


---- — DANVERS — It took many people in town to get a pink star ornament in memory of Colleen Ritzer halfway up the 30-foot Christmas tree in Danvers Square.

The star got there with the help of Sheryl James, who serves as co-chairman with Nancy Skinner on the Danvers Garden Club’s downtown decorating committee.

The committee members wanted place something on the tree to honor Ritzer’s memory, James said.

The 24-year-old math teacher from Andover died on Oct. 22 at the hands of her freshman student, Philip Chism of Danvers, prosecutors allege.

The incident has shocked and saddened residents, triggering an outpouring from those wanting to do something, including raising money through various events for the Colleen Ritzer Memorial Scholarship. Ritzer’s family established the scholarship through the Essex County Community Foundation of Danvers.

James said retired Danvers High English teacher Sue Nickerson suggested an ornament for Ritzer be hung on the tree. James asked Danvers High technology education teacher Mike Gargan to cut out the ornament. Gargan needed a pattern to work from, so Highlands Elementary School art teacher Kris Smith came up with a design.

“What I love about the star, it’s a skewed star, so it’s shooting,” James said.

Gargan primed the birch plywood star, and James painted it bright pink, added glitter and weatherproofed it. She lettered it with the saying: “Find good in every day,” with Ritzer’s name on it and the year. Ritzer’s sunny outlook was captured in a posting on Twitter on Oct 5: “Find something good in every day.”

James contacted Jeff King, the distribution supervisor at Danvers Electric, to have the star hung on the tree. James said when she handed the star to one of the linemen decorating the tree on Monday, his eyes welled up.

“We are all affected, and it’s good to have her honored on the tree,” James said. The pink color and the placement of the star make it eye-catching, James said. “It was my hope people will remember her fondly,” she added.

Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.