, Salem, MA

Local News

October 24, 2013

Young teacher found joy 'in the littlest things'

Friends at home remember Colleen Ritzer

ANDOVER — Amazing, happy, great smile, devoted to her students.

These are just a few of the words and phrases friends and family members used to describe Colleen Ritzer, 24, of 5 Dascomb Road, Andover, who was killed Tuesday night in Danvers. Police have arrested 14-year-old Philip Chism, a student at Danvers High School, where Ritzer taught math, and charged him with first-degree murder.

“She was just an amazing person who loved life,” said Jennifer Berger, who graduated with Ritzer in 2007 from Andover High School. The two went to Sanborn Elementary and West Middle School together, as well. They hung out together Saturday night watching the Red Sox on TV.

“She was so kind and caring,” Berger said. “She could find joy in the littlest things in life. If she was having a bad day, she would find a quote from a song that would turn it around.

“I just want people to know how amazing she was. ... She was my go-to best friend. I just can’t believe she is gone,” Berger said before bursting into tears.

Others recalled Ritzer as someone with a great personality who always made them smile.

Dan Yanofsky, who also graduated in the Class of 2007, said he met Ritzer in a TV production class taught by retired high school teacher Joe Spanos.

“I never saw her with anything but a smile on her face,” Yanofsky said, “and she had a positive attitude about everything. She cared more about her family and friends than anything else.”

He said he couldn’t believe the news yesterday.

“My first reaction was just how unfair it was for her to go this way,” he said. “This shouldn’t happen to anyone, but it feels even more cruel when I know just how kind and happy she was. When they said her name on the news, I felt sick to my stomach.”

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