Death of the Angel of The Gap
2012 05 22

By Glenda Kwek | SydneyMorningHerald


Gap Bluff, Watsons Bay, Sydney, cliff above the Pacific Ocean. Wikipedia/Mussklprozz


For almost half a century, Don Ritchie would approach people contemplating suicide at the edge of The Gap, just 50 metres from his home in Watsons Bay, his palms facing up.

Mr Ritchie told his daughter Sue Ritchie Bereny he would smile and say: "Is there something I could do to help you?"

"And that was all that was often needed to turn people around, and he would say not to underestimate the power of a kind word and a smile," said Ms Ritchie Bereny.

Mr Ritchie, sometimes known as the angel or watchman of The Gap, is acknowledged to have stopped about 160 people from jumping to their deaths.



Don Ritchie. Photo: Steve Baccon


He died at St Vincent’s Hospital on Sunday, surrounded by his wife Moya, 85, daughters Jan, Donna and Sue, and four grandchildren, who travelled from across Australia and from Indonesia to Sydney to see him. He was 85.




Mr Ritchie was born on June 9, 1926 in Vaucluse, and studied at Vaucluse Public School and Scots College.

When World War II broke out, he served in the Royal Australian Navy on HMAS Hobart, and was on the ship in Tokyo Bay when the Japanese surrendered in 1945.

From his 30s to his 60s, Mr Ritchie worked for a multinational firm and built up a significant career in the corporate world, Ms Ritchie Bereny said.


Don and Moya Ritchie


In 1964, the former life insurance salesman moved into a house on Old South Head Road across the road from Jacobs Ladder at the southern end of the Gap Park. It was his home till the end.

From that time, Mr Ritchie started to rescue suicidal strangers.

"Things were different way back then. It was before there were police rescue vans, before there were more sophisticated mechanisms like hotlines. In those days, he got a bravery medal for saving somebody at the cliff - he actually tackled somebody on the edge of the cliff," Ms Ritchie Bereny said.

"He is famous for bringing people back to the house for tea or breakfast."

In 2006 Mr Ritchie was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for his rescues.

His actions touched so many hearts that, in 2010, he and his wife were named Woollahra Council’s citizens of the year.

Last year, he was given the Local Hero Award for Australia by the National Australia Day Council.

"In a situation where most would turn a blind eye, Don has taken action ... With such simple actions Don has saved an extraordinary number of lives," the National Australia Day Council said.

Today, Woollahra Council and the National Australia Day Council praised Mr Ritchie for his dedication.

"Don’s story touched the hearts of all Australians and challenged each of us to rethink what it means to be a good neighbour," the acting chief executive of the National Australia Day Council, Tam Johnston, said in a statement.


[...]

"...It’s about an everyday person who did an extraordinary thing for many people that saved lives, without any want of recognition."


Read the full article at: smh.com.au









Related Articles
Suicide: News Fit to Print
Suicide Forest in Japan (Video)
War Woe: Suicide kills more US soldiers than combat (Video)
Remembering the US Soldier Who Committed Suicide After She Refused to Take Part in Torture
Greece’s locked up migrant children attempt suicide
Air pollution ups suicide risk: Study
Can you commit suicide while sleeping?
The Commonwealth Bank congratulates Australia’s Local Hero


Latest News from our Front Page

NATO Exercise in Ukraine Coincided with MH-17 Shoot-down
2014 07 24
Rapid Trident was omitted from the flurry of coverage on the shoot-down MH-17. From the U.S. Army in Europe website: Rapid Trident supports interoperability among Ukraine, the United States, NATO and Partnership for Peace member nations. The exercise helps prepare participants to operate successfully in a joint, multinational, integrated environment with host-nation support from civil and governmental agencies. ...
Warning of ’imminent’ terror attack in Norway
2014 07 24
Norwegians were warned Thursday of the concrete possibility of a terror attack occurring in that country at the hands of people with connections to an extremist group in Syria. A press conference was called in Oslo, Norway on Thursday where an announcement was made of a "possible concrete threat" to national security in that country from terrorists related to an extremist ...
Judge says government can access everything in a Gmail account
2014 07 24
All your emails are belong to us. At least that’s what the latest court order from a judge in New York says. The warrant, granted on June 11, states that the government can access all the content and files contained in a Gmail account. Yes, this is a significant blow to privacy. The subject of this specific search relates to a money laundering ...
Scotland Yard Spied on Grieving Families: secret surveillance after police victim shot seven times in head ’by mistake’
2014 07 24
More terror from the ’anti-terror’ brigade. Undercover police gathered evidence on 18 grieving families By Rob Evans and Vikram Dodd | The Guardian Undercover police officers secretly gathered intelligence over two decades on 18 families fighting to get justice from the police, it was revealed on Thursday. The intelligence covering high-profile campaigns was collected between the mid-1980s and 2005, and affected grieving families ...
Air Algerie AH5017 with 116 onboard goes missing for hours, found crashed in Mali
2014 07 24
An Air Algerie flight carrying 110 passengers and six crew members has reportedly crashed in Mali after having disappeared from radar early on Thursday morning between Burkina Faso and Algeria. A French Ministry of Defense official told Fox News that the two French fighter jets located the wreckage of the plane, which had crashed in Mali. An airport official additionally confirmed ...
More News »