Friday, May 17, 2013

One of us: vale Kathreen Ricketson

Some of you might have heard of the tragic death of Kathreen Ricketson and her partner Rob Shugg in the news in the last day or so. The shock and disbelief that has resulted has been profound, not only for the absolute random horror of the event, and not only because there are now two beautiful children who have no parents, but because both people were brilliant, kind and energetic in the best possible way, and their lights have been snuffed out at a point where they had so much potential ahead of them. I didn't know Rob as much as Kathreen (but I now have a much better sense of him via my lovely Dr Sista Outlaw, as he turns out to have been her first boyfriend); she has always been a good person with whom to sit and drink a cuppa at my local coffee-shop and talk about how to perform this extraordinary juggling act that is life.

After walking around in a bubble of shock and tears for 24 hours, I have managed to pinpoint what was nagging at the back of my brain. It's to do with the number of communities that Kathreen, especially, had built up and actively contributed to. You can get a sense of it on Twitter, where there are myriad expressions of shock and grief, and in the initial tributes to her, which of course will proliferate. She had so many skills: photographer, designer, crafter, writer, but the main skill was her way with people. She was kind, helpful and above all, inclusive. You can see it in the tributes, that all seem to say 'she was one of us, and leaves a hole'. I could never understand how she got so much done in her life, she was indefatigable.

For me, it is doubly tragic that she died now, in Canberra's centenary year, because so much of the focus of the year has been on celebrating great Canberrans, and drawing attention to our 'exports' like Patricia Piccanini. Kathreen was a truly great Canberran and she wasn't an export, because she was determined to make an international life for herself while leading the lifestyle she wanted in a city that she loved. She was an excellent communicator with an amazing eye for design; she achieved the dream of having an external life fully connected with the world while staying grounded locally and being able to immerse herself in her family and enjoy every moment of their time together -- and we all know how hard and rare that is.

Kathreen was an internal asset for Canberra. She proved that living here is not being stuck at the bottom of the ends of the Earth, and there are hundreds of people around the world mourning her today as a result. Not to mention those of us who were lucky enough to encounter her in the flesh. She was one of us, we Canberra folk.

There are many discussions brewing about how best to remember her, and how to help her children. I hope that something particularly Canberran can happen, and in this year, because she was one of our best ambassadors and she will be sorely missed.

UPDATE: Whip Up have organised a trust fund for the children. If you feel that you'd like to contribute, here's the place to go.