After a life as a Navy seaman and then selling life insurance, Australian Don Ritchie took on a new and unexpected voluntary role and likely the most important one of his life. He and his wife Moya moved to a cliff edge property at the entrance of Sydney Harbour in Australia, an area known as The Gap. Very quickly Ritchie became known as The Angel of the Gap. As it turned out, this cliff was the common spot for locals to commit suicide but Ritchie tried to change that. He tried and succeeded many times.
Every morning he’d head to his window and as he would often see someone wandering near the cliff edge, he’d approach them and say with a smile “Why don’t you come and have a cup of tea?” And often, over 160 times at least, the person he was speaking to opted to do just that and not take their life. He knew he had to try to save these lives and he figured that in many cases the person just needed someone to talk to, a friendly face to listen to their problems. Unfortunately though he was not always successful and in some cases was risking his own life but he knew he needed to try and in every case he did everything he could do. Often asked if their choice of home location was a burden, he and his wife said no as they were glad they had the opportunity to help people.
While Richie passed away in 2012 at the age of 85, his efforts did not go unrecognized. In 2006 the Australian Government recognized him with a Medal of the Order of Australia, among the nation’s highest civilian honours. He also received a Local Hero Award and Citizens of the Year awards together with his wife.
This video shows Don Ritchie speaking about his efforts shortly before his death. While he certainly wouldn’t admit it, he sure is a hero and an inspiration to us all. What a wonderful human being.
Photo credit: Steve Baccon
Video: The Sydney Morning Herald