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A Tribute to Claudine Ryce

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Claudine Ryce and Terri Lynn, December 2008

Hard to imagine that ten years ago we lost the remarkable, Claudine Ryce. Her death was sudden and we were stunned. I’m not a doctor but all of us know that Claudine died of a broken heart.

The following are excerpts from a eulogy given by Terri Lynn at Claudine Ryce’s funeral in January 2009.

Don and Claudine had successful careers, a beautiful family they adored, a great home and lots of outings with Ted, Martha and Jimmy to look forward to.  They had such big dreams and plans for the future.

Then life kicked in on September 11, 1995. And the life Claudine knew ended forever when her son Jimmy was abducted, raped and murdered on his way home from school.

I first met Claudine during a petition drive for Jimmy at the Miami Seaquarium. Watching her that Saturday afternoon, in October of 1995,

I was struck by the way people just gravitated towards her. Reached out to her. Talked to her. Bonded with her.

“Aha,” I said to myself. “She’s not in this alone.” People want to help her. They sensed her realness and her genuine goodness.

Bill Hagmaier from the FBI once remarked that most people who endured what Don and Claudine did would just curl up in bed and pull the blankets over their heads for the rest of their lives.  But that was not Claudine’s style. She was a survivor in every sense of the word.

She fought for her Jimmy.

She fought to have his picture on a milk carton.

She fought to have his posters at post offices.

And after Jimmy’s death, Claudine fought for every child and made it her mission that children had the tools to escape from a sexual predator.

Nothing pleased her more than learning that a child escaped danger as a result of outwitting and outsmarting a person who planned to harm them.

 

United States President Bill Clinton signs a Memorandum directing the heads of Executive Departments and Agencies to designate an area in all federal buildings for the posting of missing children notices in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC on January 19, 1996. The President was joined at the signing in the Oval Office by(left to right): Don and Claudine Ryce, Marc Klaas, Colleen Nick, Adam Croote, and Linda Koerner. Standing far right is US Representative Peter Deutsch.

And because of her and Don’s relentless efforts, in 1996 President Clinton issued an executive order allowing that picture of missing children be posted on federal buildings. Claudine stood right behind him just to make sure that his signature was on the dotted line. “Jimmy’s looking down,” she said. “The American people care.”

Claudine made no apologies for the Jimmy Ryce Act that some people said was too harsh. Both she and Don refused to budge an inch on it. And the next time you see a bulletin board of missing children at Wal-Mart, it’s because of Claudine Ryce.

“Claudine did not ask for any of this; she did not ask to be a crusader. But she took it up with grace, courage and determination,” Don Ryce once said.

Claudine was so proud of her GEMS Great Escape Maneuvers and the handbook she and Martha wrote to help other families cope when their child has been abducted.

She was so proud of the Jimmy Ryce Law Enforcement Training Center.

She found comfort in Team Hope a national network that helped parents searching for their child.

And when she found a new law enforcement agency that would take a bloodhound you would think she hit the Powerball jackpot.

The human spirit is remarkable and before her death, Claudine was regaining her zest for life. She loved planning trips for her and Don and looked forward to their travel adventures.

I was with Claudine on the bad days, the good days, holidays and everything in between. When she wanted to talk about Jimmy I  listened. And over the years she tried. She really tried to have conversations about other things in her life.

Claudine Ryce was strong, she was brilliant, and she was beautiful. She was a woman who believed in her convictions and she was unstoppable.

Mark Young, Claudine Ryce, Don Ryce and Terri Lynn

Today the Jimmy Ryce Center for Victims of Predatory Abduction continues in both her and Jimmy’s memory. The organization relies solely on donations and provides bloodhounds, for free, to law enforcement agencies across the country.

 

“Every time a bloodhound finds a child it’s as if Jimmy is giving us a hug,” Claudine Ryce would say.

Please help us keep the mission going.

Thank you.

www.JimmyRyce.org

 

 

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Terri Lynn has earned a reputation as a dynamo in the fast-past world of high profile public relations. Her blue chip press contacts, dazzling creativity and unstoppable determination, combined with superb writing skills, consistently produces extensive media coverage for her clients. She’s regarded as tenacious, persuasive and always gets the job done!