Patty and Richard “Red” Witter

Patty and Richard “Red” Witter met while they were students at The Ohio State University.  Red was a student of Veterinary Medicine, and Patty was an English major.  They married while still in school and eventually settled into a comfortable suburban life.  Red established a veterinary clinic in Columbus, and they became parents of a son, Michael, and daughter, Melinda.  The family was active in First Community Church where Dr. Roy Burkhart, the head minister, was an important influence in both their lives.  Patty became interested in meditation through friends at the church and came upon Edgar Casey’s and Paul Brunton’s books.  Patty and Barbara Plaisted met in 1965 through a mutual friend at the church and often met to discuss and share ideas.  Red and Patty met Anthony Damiani in 1970 when Anthony came to Columbus to teach classes.  Red caught some of Anthony’s enthusiasm for these studies, and they joined classes at The Philosopher’s Stone Bookstore, a small shop the members of the Columbus study group had started in order to disseminate philosophic books and as a place to hold classes.

When their children were nearly grown, Patty and Red began planning a dream vacation: a month in Europe.  Patty wrote a letter to Paul Brunton asking for an interview with him.  She was extremely disappointed when she received the answer that he would be unable to see them.  Upon visiting Montreaux, Switzerland, they telephoned and asked again for a brief interview, but again they were told that PB could not see them.  They were so deflated that the previous pleasure they found in traveling vanished; they shortened their trip and came home. 

Sometime after their trip Patty began experiencing extreme dizziness and a lack of energy.  She was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.  She retired to their home where she lived an increasingly solitary life for the next ten years.  The Witters' home became a center for the Columbus Group’s weekly meetings, and Red developed into a teacher under Anthony’s tutelage.  Anthony stayed at their home when he came to Columbus to teach classes.  Anthony explained that Patty’s incipient illness likely would have sped up if PB had met with them in Switzerland, since very often karma speeds up when meeting someone of PB’s attainment.  Red valiantly met the demanding task of continuing his full-time career as a veterinarian, caring for Patty, and studying intensely in his spare time for many years.  When PB visited Columbus in 1977 he chose to stay in their home, and the interviews were held there.  It was a very special time for all in attendance.  Patty once said that her later years had brought the greatest contentment and happiness she had known in her life.  Patty suffered an aneurysm and died quickly in 1985.

Some years later Richard married Diana Corn, a lifelong member of First Community Church.  One characteristic of Red’s personality was his willingness to be available to spiritual seekers.  No matter how small the question, he would make every effort to deepen and clarify their understanding.  This eagerness to serve others continued as he began to teach classes in philosophy at the church.

Although diagnosed with ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease he continued to make a lasting impact on members of the congregation as well as on many others.  As he fearlessly faced death, he shared his strength, courage and deep beliefs with both church leaders as well as members of the Philosophy group.  One by one they came to his bedside to be given wise, uplifting spiritual counsel.  Members from the church recorded their conversations with him.  The series of tapes is called, “Dealing With Our Mortality: An Unrehearsed Dialogue About Spirituality and Mortality.”  The tapes were placed in the church library, and a copy of them is also housed at the PBPF headquarters.

Richard passed away on  March 2, 1993 surrounded by his family, many of his friends from the Columbus group and members of Wisdom’s Goldenrod.  He is survived by his children, Michael and Melinda Witter, and by his spouse, Diana.  He will be remembered as a remarkable man who lived PB’s dictum, that what we take with us into the next world is our character and our capacity—that is, the transformation of the ego into a vessel for the Overself, and the capacity to seek, to learn, and to change in response to that sacred presence.