Sisters Jo Atchison (left) and Alae Risse Leitch attended Georgia Tech’s game against Pittsburgh in 2016. (AJC photo by Ken Sugiura)

Alae Risse Leitch, devoted Tech fan, dies at 104

Alae Risse Leitch, an Atlantan who began cheering for Georgia Tech before the advent of television and the Varsity, died Wednesday at the age of 104.

Leitch, whose devotion to the Yellow Jackets began with her support of her football-playing uncles (including All-American Red Barron in the early 1920s) and never relented, held season tickets at Grant Field (later re-named Bobby Dodd Stadium) for decades.

“I’m really sad for myself, but we can’t grieve too much, because she really did have a wonderful life,” said Leitch’s sister, Jo Atchison, 91.

Leitch had recently been hospitalized with pneumonia, her sister said, but returned home to King’s Bridge Retirement Community. More recently, Atichison said, she fell ill again and did not recover.

Leitch was born Oct. 1, 1913, four days after the first-ever game at Grant Field and a year before the start of World War I. When Leitch first started attending Jackets games – her father, Virgil, also played for Tech – she arrived by train from Toccoa and then a street car. The family later moved to Decatur. Leitch graduated from Agnes Scott College and married a Tech grad, the late James “Ike” Leitch.” Together, they raised two daughters. Leitch, whose named was pronounced “Al-uh-reese,” was blessed by four grandchildren and 14 great grandchildren.

“She wasn’t too happy with all of them because some of them ended up going to the University of Georgia,” Atchison said.

Leitch was a schoolteacher until the birth of her first child, Atchison said, and was active in the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Woman’s Missionary Union. She was especially proud of her Agnes Scott education.

“So she didn’t sit around and twiddle her thumbs,” Atchison said.

Her allegiance to the Jackets, though, “was just a lifelong love affair,” her sister said.

The Leitches held season tickets beginning soon after their marriage in 1936, and Atchison and her husband, Ben, did also. After Atchison’s husband died in 2011, she and her sister began attending games together.

In recent years, the two watched games from the suite of Susan Johnson, wife of coach Paul Johnson and a fellow member at Second Ponce de Leon Baptist Church in Buckhead. The two sisters attended the Pittsburgh game last September, days before Leitch turned 104.

“We had her for a long time, and she lived a good life,” Atchison said.

The funeral will be held Wednesday at 11 a.m. at Second Ponce.

Read and sign the online guestbook for Alae Risse Leitch

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