Story and Photos by Katie Drake

In Part I of this story, Jayne Ritz shared something that most people don’t know about her. She wears a bracelet that she never takes off. It was a gift from her dear friend Alice that reads: Be The Change.

That morning over coffee, she rolled up her sleeve to show me her beautifully simple bracelet that she is so fond of. She said, “Be The Change. It’s my personal motto. At my age, I do whatever I want to do and I’m as happy as I’ve ever been. I’m in my mid 80’s- it’s a wonderful time and I have marvelous people around me. It’s a chance to be totally myself.”

In addition to her ability to see beauty in the things you and I may not see right away, Jayne Ritz has always been very generous with her time. It was through volunteering that I first met her almost 20 years ago. She has been involved in many ways since she came to Little Falls.

Just offer to help

“Nothing that I’ve done would have been possible without a big group of people with big ideas that we were able to accomplish together. If you hear of something unsettling or that you’d wish would change, just offer to help. Make phone calls, whatever your skills, you have something to contribute. Just do it.”

“Get a group of people together with a common goal. When you join people with all different skills, with a willingness to work, and you can accomplish anything. Working together with people is a lot of fun. Be a good example.”

Jayne added, “It’s exciting to be over here on the South Side. I love it all. The water is just wonderful and the people are terrific. I am the one being enriched over here. Outdoor recreation is very important and we are so close to walking, hiking, biking, and the marina. The energy is the same as Canal Place. The folks here are so eager to have it better, so we started the South Side Improvement Association. Already, it’s been wonderful. We want to get rid of some of the zombie houses, they need to go. And we want a pedestrian bridge that connects the South Side to the other side of the river.”

(Imagine, for a moment, how cool it would be to make the rest of our beautiful city even more accessible for people using the Empire State Trail, Moss Island, etc?)

It’s a funny story

I asked Jayne what is one of her favorite memories of living in Little Falls? “It’s a funny story,” she said with a smile, “but I’m not sure you’ll want to include it.”

“It all started when I was volunteering on the Beatification Committee. Ruth Busacker, Lucy Conte, Val Tooley and my dear friend Nan Resue and others financed it through bake sales and lots of hard work. Once, we were standing on Main Street with canisters, asking for donations. Pit The Painter came up to me and he said, ‘Jayne, that is good for your middle-class white a$$ to be out here begging on the street corner!’ And, he was right.” The Beautification Committee did many wonderful things including getting all the trees planted on Route 5.

In addition to her work there, Jayne has been involved in many things she is so proud of. I asked her to name some of her favorites.

Photo by Dave Warner – The open sign is out at the Mohawk Valley Center for the Arts.

The Mohawk Valley Center For The Arts. “Arts are really important to our community. I was happy to give them a home in our building.”

The Composting Toilet. “It’s a funny story and we’ve had a lot of laughs. With a very generous $50,000 gift to this community, along with a group of hardworking people made this possible. Chico Urich and Mike Evans from Main Street First still take care of it.”

Removing the graffiti from the Rocks. “As you come off the Wind Bridge that is the first impression people see when coming into town. But setting the tone for where you’re going… it’s important. So, we got brushes, and paint, and painted over it. It was quite a sight to see, all these older people, clambering up the rocks.”

Preserve Our Past

Preserve Our Past. “When I lived on Garden Street near Richard Vogt and David Taylor, there was the Sheard House on Jackson Street along the park. That common goal of saving that place was what started POP. Many great people have done very good things at POP (like saving the Italian Ovens), but you can’t win them all.” POP is still the voice of preservation in our community.

Blue Waters. “That’s the bird watching place by the Herkimer Home. It’s really quite remarkable. If you haven’t been there, go!”

Art Benches. “You won’t believe the people who slow or stop along the canal to take pictures of all the benches. There have even been marriage proposals there!”

Main Street First

Main Street First. “Of all the things I have been involved in, the victory of keeping a supermarket in the center of our town was one of the most important. A lot of people with different skills worked so hard. Along with that came the smart growth principles that Main Street First embodies.”

What’s your advice about volunteering to others? “Don’t wait for someone else to do it for you, just do it yourself. Take ownership of your area, not just your own property. If you see weeds growing… just go do it. If you don’t like something, don’t complain about it, do something to change it. Change takes a long, long time and happens in a series of many small things. So do one small thing to start.”

Jayne, thank you for sharing your light, your time, your ideas, and your vision with us all. And if you’re reading this, and want to do something impactful, just go do it. And you, too, can Be The Change.

Katie Drake moved to Little Falls in 2003 and fell in love with this city. She says she isn’t really a writer, but a storyteller.

The opportunity to highlight the great people of Little Falls, share her personal perspectives and some humor from time to time piqued her interest and here we are.

Just ask her, and she’ll tell you that after growing up in Millers Mills, population 25+ (according to the sign), Little Falls was just the right size. Katie is the oldest of her two brothers and five sisters.

In 2020 Katie and her best friend Chris began their greatest adventure yet in 2020, with the birth of their sweet and sassy son Nolan who makes them laugh every day.

In her free time, Katie loves to snowmobile, golf, hike, and travel.

If you have feedback on one of her articles or an idea for a story, please feel free to reach out to Katie at, she would love to hear from you.

If this article leaves you wanting more, or you are just bored out of your mind, feel free to check out other articles she has contributed by visiting Katie Drake Archives – My Little Falls.