Danvers’ first-year head coach Jill McGinnity then took the microphone in the pressbox of Lovely Field and read a statement before the start of the game.
“Hello everybody,” she said over the loudspeaker, taking the microphone veteran Andover High School sports announcer Bill Drummond. “I’m going to try to do this without getting too emotional.”
Her voice cracked as she spoke about Ritzer, who taught many of the girls on the Danvers field hockey team. Ritzer’s brother, Dan, and sister, Laura, a senior at Andover High School, stood along with hundreds of other spectators in silence.
“This is a perfect setting to remember a sister, a daughter, a teacher and a friend,” McGinnity said, her voice echoing across the cold field. “Colleen had a huge and positive effect on everyone. Let’s pay her memory forward and live by her words: Be kind, smile and find the good in every day.”
Players from both teams stood in a circle at center field, holding pink balloons.
After asking for a moment of silence, McGinnity said, “Here’s to you, Miss Ritzer. You may release the balloons.”
The balloons rose into the darkness as most of the people there shed at least a few tears.
Several Danvers parents were touched by the ceremony.
“It was very classy for Andover to do that,” said John Papamechail, whose daughter, Nicole, is a senior who plays goalie. He said his daughter had Ritzer as her math teacher last year. When news of her death hit, he said his daughter was “devastated.”
Most of the kids didn’t want to go back to school last Friday, the first day classes resumed following Ritzer’s death Tuesday night. But, he said, Danvers High School handled things well.
“The principal has been unbelievable,” he said, referring to Susan Ambrozavitch. “Everything is from the heart.”