Deaths | deces

Statement from the family of Colonel Karen Ritchie


Col Ritchie was a member of the Board of Directors of the Girl Guides of Canada. Please note that the family would prefer that a donation be made to the Girl Guide of Canada instead of sending flowers. You can do so through the web site here or by mail.

50 Merton Street, Toronto, ON M4S 1A3

Col Ritchie était membre du comité de direction des Guides du Canada. Veuillez noter que la famille préfèrerait qu’un don soit versé au mouvement des Guides du Canada en lieu de fleurs. Vous pouvez effectuer votre don en consultant le site web ou par la poste.

50 Merton Street, Toronto, ON M4S 1A3

Late breaking news.. Thursday – 16 October @ 12 noon

I just received the details. Please post:

The info concerning the funeral of Col Ritchie:

Visitation/viewing will take place Sunday 19 Oct from 2 PM to 4 PM  and 7 PM to 9 PM at Beechwood Military Cemetery, 280 Beechwood Ave Ottawa K1L 8EZ

The religious service will take place on Monday 1:30 PM at Christ Church Cathedral 439 Queen St, Ottawa, K1R 5A6

After the ceremony, burial will take place at Beechwood Military Cemetery, 280 Beechwood Ave Ottawa K1L 8EZ

Please note parking will be extremely limited.
Helga Grodzinski

We regret to announce that we received the following sad news just prior to “posting” e-Veritas 37.



14491 Colonel Karen Ritchie, class of ’85, died as a result of injuries received in a car accident over the weekend. Apparently this occurred in the Hamilton-Burlington area while she and her husband were en-route back to Ottawa.


We are all shocked and saddened by the news of Colonel Karen Ritchie’s death in a vehicle accident on Monday, 13 October 2008. I am sure you have access to her official CF biography, but I have a bit more to offer from the RMC perspective. Please find attached a photograph, taken at a spring-time gathering of women ex-cadets. Colonel Ritchie is the one in CADPAT.

By: 15566 Helga Grodzinski


Top Row – Suzanne Bastien -’86, Martine Gagne – ’86, Patricia Godin – ’86, Jacquie Pothier – ’84.

Bottom Row – Col Karen Ritchie – ’85, LCdr Sandra MacLeod (née Hawes) – ’86, Megan Trethewey (née Marnitz) – ’86, LCol Nishika Jardine (née Sardana) – ’86, Carol Werner (née Lauzon) – ’85, Dr. Linda Newton – ’84

Colonel Ritchie was truly a pioneer. Born in England, she immigrated to Canada with her family in 1973 and came to RMC with the first intake of women in 1980, at the very tender age of 17. Colonel Ritchie repeated second year engineering and graduated with the class of 1985. Colonel Ritchie was the first woman RMC graduate to attain that rank.

A year or so earlier, Colonel Ritchie shared with me some thoughts on her RMC career. I had intended them for inclusion in a book about women at RMC, but thought it might be better to share them now. I present them in her own words, below.

My parents had instilled in me the concept that I could do anything that I chose in life. So at the age of 16, in my final year of high school, I decided that I wanted to have a career that would allow me to travel and do something exciting. I first checked out the British Army but quickly found out that Women’s Rights hadn’t actually surfaced in my home country yet and that women were employed in a separate Service Corps. My next stop was the CF Recruiting Centre in Hamilton, ON.

I had been encouraged by my teachers to apply for Engineering in University and my relatively positive experiences in the Air Cadets pointed me towards a career as a Pilot. Unfortunately, women were prohibited from aircrew assignments although I was assured by Recruiting Officers that the Pilot classification was sure to open very soon. I settled for requesting Aeronautical Engineer, secure in the knowledge that I could always change to Pilot once the classification opened for Women!

At sometime in the recruiting process I was informed that the Royal Military College was an option open to me as part of the ROTP. I am very sure that I was told that this would be the first year that women would be admitted but it honestly didn’t register as anything special to me. In hindsight that is probably because I had never felt that I was any different from my male peers in ability or competency and so could not comprehend why the first class of women at RMC would be such a big deal.

In total I spent five years at RMC. I was not a stellar student, mostly due to lack of motivation and laziness on my part. I failed 2nd year electromagnetism and chose to repeat 2nd year Engineering at my own expense rather than proceed into a 3rd year Arts programme. In my second year at RMC I was assigned to the Land Ordinance Engineering Branch (now EME), spending two summers in Borden for training as well as one summer OJT in Gagetown, NB. The promised imminent opening of the Pilot classification occurred after I graduated and although I was asked if I wished to reclassify, at that point I was an Army Officer through and through and had no desire to change allegiance to the Air Force!

With the exception of some moments in 1st year, I truly enjoyed my time at RMC and honestly believe that I received a first rate, rounded education that prepared me well for my professional military career. My good memories, as with all university graduates, revolve around the friendships that I made and the good times that we had. My bad memories stem exclusively from first year and the difficult times that I had at the hands of a few, very young, ill-prepared senior cadets who were no doubt grappling with their own challenges at having been thrust into a mixed-gender environment on relatively short notice.

I entered RMC as a young, naïve teenager and graduated as a 21 year old army officer. Although I had traveled extensively as a child, I still had led a rather sheltered life and RMC certainly introduced me to the realities of a professional career. My self confidence and self discipline improved vastly over the five years I spent at the College and on summer training. I learned a second language that has opened my eyes to an entirely new Canadian culture. The most important formal lesson that I learned at RMC was from the College Sergeant-Major and his staff. In 3rd and 4th year we would have fortnightly lectures on the officer/senior NCO relationship with the CSM instead of drill. The lessons imparted to us by these professional soldiers have stayed with me to this day and have served me well.

The message that I would like to give to young women entering RMC today is always be proud of who and what you are. When I was young I spent an awful amount of time trying to “be one of the guys” and fit in so that people wouldn’t notice that I was female. As I get older I find that I prefer to be recognized as a competent military officer who happens also to be a woman. Men and women are different; that is a fact of life. We share many common abilities but we also bring different skill sets and approaches to the table.

‘She was a vibrant, energetic person’ – Jennifer Campbell, Citizen Special


  • Denis Beausoleil

    October 16, 2008 at 1:33 pm

    Je fût des plus surpris et peiné lorsque j’ai appris la perte de cette grande dame qu’était pour moi le colonel Karen Ritchie. Son leadership en tant que commandant était exemplaire. En tant que personne, elle était infiniment humaine et très à l’écoute de tous et chacun. J’ai particulièrement apprécié sa simplicité et sa façon très amicale d’aborder les gens,que ce soit au mess, au gymanse ou dans toutes autres circonstances. Je tiens à transmettre mes plus sincères condoléances à tous ses proches. Je garderai un souvenir des plus favorables de cette femme exceptionnelle. Je vous salue avec admiration mon colonel.

  • Joseph Collier

    October 16, 2008 at 2:22 pm

    I spend several wonderful years in the Light Armoured Vehicle Program with Col Ritchie. It saddens me to hear such a vibrant person has been takened away. My deepest condolences to the Ritchie Family.

  • Keith and Elizabeth Howard

    October 16, 2008 at 2:37 pm

    It is with great sadness that we heard of Karen’s tragic death.

    We send our sincere sympathy to her family.

    Keith and Elizabeth Howard

  • sylvie sarrazin

    October 16, 2008 at 3:52 pm

    Quelle grande dame !!! Elle apportait beaucoup de bien à tous les gens qu’elle côtoyait et à toute la communauté. Une énorme perte pour le monde civil et militaire. Mes pensées et mes prières vous accompagnent dans ces moments difficiles. Mes sincères sympathies à toute la famille.

  • Line Paquette

    October 16, 2008 at 10:04 pm

    It was with great sadness that I heard of Col Ritchie Karen’s sudden and tragic death. I never really work with Col Richie but saw her in action at many venues around the EME family. Her dedication and commitment to everything she did is a profound inspiration to me. The world is a sadder placewth out Karen, she will be missed.

    My deepest sympathies and condolences go out to Don and her family.


  • BGen Al Howard

    October 16, 2008 at 11:18 pm

    We will all miss Karen. An accomplished leader and a good friend to all Col Karen Ritchie is a perfect example of what makes the Canadain Forces first rate – exceptionally talented people! I’ll remember fondly her perservance and thoroughly helpful approach.

    14274 Alan Howard

  • Emilie Dumont-Blanchette

    October 17, 2008 at 9:05 am

    En regroupant tous les messages que les gens ont écrit, je retrouve ma description de Mme Ritchie: intelligente, les yeux pétillants, un charisme incroyable… Je me souviendrai toujours de son 1er café du Cmdt à St-Jean et de sa présentation à la conférence sur le Leadership des Femmes dans les FC au printemps passé. Je suis Cpl réserviste, et j’ai malgré tout eu la chance d’avoir 2 conversations avec elle en ces 2 occasions. Elle aimait les gens, peu importe leur statut.

    Grande femme tu as été, grande femme tu resteras dans le coeur de tous ceux qui ont eu la chance de croiser ta route.

    Cpl D-B, analyste PSYOPS

  • Gaudreault C

    October 17, 2008 at 9:44 am

    C’est avec beaucoup de tristesse que j’ai appris le départ du Colonel Karen Ritchie. Elle a passé trop vite dans ma vie et pourtant elle laisse un grand vide.
    Femme de coeur et femme de tête, vous resterez un exemple Colonel!

    J’offre mes plus sincères condoléances à toute sa famille civile et militaire. A tous ceux qui se sentent tristes de cette immense perte.

    Adjuc Peddle à la retraite, mes prières vous accompagnent.

  • Diane Huot

    October 17, 2008 at 9:55 am

    Quel choc ce fût pour moi d’apprendre la nouvelle du décès de cette grande dame. J’ai eu la chance à maintes reprises de rencontrer la Colonnel Ritchie à l’occasion du 49e Congrès eucharistique international – Québec 2008. Une personne proche des gens, d’une bienveillance hors pair avec ceux et celles qu’elle cotayait. J’avais beaucoup d’adminration pour elle et pour la fonction qu’elle occupait. Je me rappelle encore avoir passée presqu’une heure en sa compagnie ainsi qu’avec son mari lors d’une réception au moment du congrès. Nos échanges ont permis de mieux comprendre les grandes responsabilités qui lui incombaient, et ce qu’elle devait vivre avec sa famille pour y arriver. Mais en même temps, j’ai pu percevoir qu’elle avait toutes les qualités pour exercer cette fonction prestigieuse. Il est difficile pour tous d’accepter qu’une personne de cette qualité nous soit enlevée si subitement. Il faut croire qu’elle aura laissée derrière elle une trace indélibile dans son milieu et nos souvenirsde sa personnalité seront un modèle pour tous. Elle nous rappellera que peut importe la fonction que l’on exerce, il y a moyen de le faire avec humanité, grâce, bienveillance et avec un leadership positif.
    Mes plus sincères condoléances à toute sa famille ainsi qu’aux membres de l’armée qui perd un grand chef.
    Diane Huot,
    Directrice gestion des sites
    Congrès eucharistique international
    Église catholique de Québec

  • Caroline Widmer

    October 17, 2008 at 9:58 am

    I am deeply saddened by Colonel Ritchie’s tragic passing. She was the DWAO champion for the Montreal/St-Jean area and I consider it a privilege to have known her. I will always remember her for her leadership, devotion, mentorship, consideration and the time she took to listen to you no matter who you were. In my eyes, Colonel Karen Ritchie was a true leader.

    My deepest condolences to her husband, family and friends. Rest in peace, Colonel Karen Ritchie, you will be missed.

    MCpl Caroline Widmer
    CF Det – Canadian Space Agency

  • Tony Battista

    October 17, 2008 at 12:31 pm

    It is with shock and deep saddeness that I learned of Colonel Karen Ritchie’s untimely passing. She will be sadly missed, but always remembered as an OUTSTANDING military officer who also happened to be a woman.

    My deepest sympathies to her husband Don and Karen’s family.

    Tony Battista
    Colonel, Canadian Defence Attaché Berlin
    (…1979 Cadet Squadron Leader of St-Laurent Squadron, CMR, when the first six women (UTPNCM) were admitted to the Canadian Military College system)

  • Nishika Jardine (née Sardana)

    October 17, 2008 at 2:15 pm

    It is inconceivable to me that Karen – Col Ritchie – is gone. She was a member of many families, and like all those to whom she belonged, the EME family is poorer for her passing. To me and to many in our branch and in the Canadian Forces, she was an inspiration and a role model, not only as a senior leader, but as a woman and an officer. I last saw her at the Army Run – as always she was enthusiastic, determined, joyous.
    She is sorely, sorely missed.
    Nishika Jardine (née Sardana)
    Cmdt CFSEME

  • Guy Lang, Cmdt 2e GPRC

    October 17, 2008 at 2:37 pm

    Le départ prématuré du Col Ritchie pour son dernier devoir nous affecte profondément. Le 2e GPRC pert une alliée, une marraine et une amie. Les Rangers canadiens et les Rangers juniors canadiens se rappelle de Karen Ritchie comme une grande soeur qui nous a quittée hélas trop tôt.

    Guy Lang, Major
    Cmdt 2e GPRC

  • Kimberley MacDonald

    October 17, 2008 at 2:58 pm

    I would like very much to put together an ablum of photos of Karen Ritchie for her family.

    If you have any pictures at all, comments or condolences, can you please send them, in the “largest” format possible, to [email protected]

    Karen was a wonderful mentor and will be sorely, deeply and completely missed…

  • Mitch MacLeod

    October 17, 2008 at 4:24 pm

    I remember Karen as a keen first year cadet 1980-81 though did not really get to know her until a much later posting to Gagetown mid 90s. One very dedicated and driven lady. I later worked with her husband in 33 CBG HQ. What a shock to hear of this, and to those who are hurting as a result of this horrible accident, my deepest condolences. RIP.

    Mitch MacLeod (13139 – ’81)
    Ft McMurray, AB

  • Rob Greaves

    October 17, 2008 at 8:23 pm

    What a shock to see Karen’s photo on the front of the Ottawa Citizen. It has been such a long time since I saw her..back to RMC when our class graduated in 1984. I will always remember her smile.

    My deepest condolences to her family and the many people who were no doubt close to her in recent years.

    Rob Greaves (14438)
    Ottawa Police

  • Denis Thompson

    October 18, 2008 at 8:11 am

    Wow. I was stunned to learn of Karen’s death. I had the opportunity to rib her at the start of the Army 5Km run less than a month ago. She was characteristically upbeat and gave as good as she got. Splendid spirit and a real Army Officer with whom which I was honoured to soldier. Hold your head high as you march to the Pearly Gates, Karen, secure in the knowledge that you did your duty.

    Denis Thompson
    Commander Task Force Kandahar
    (Class of ’84)

  • LCol (Retd) Rene Bourassa

    October 19, 2008 at 6:55 am

    19 October 2008
    Lisboa, Portugal

    To Don and Karen’s family,

    It is with deepest regret that we have recently heard that our friend Karen had passed away. There are no words that can express the way we feel about your loss. Our paths have crossed many times in our military careers. The most recent was when she visited Dany in Afghanistan and when she became Comd 5 ASG and I was acting CO 5 Svc Bn.

    Our fondest memories of her are clearly when she attended our departure BBQ on 14 June 08 when she took time away from her crazy schedule to visit us. She was so keen to hear about our adventure, to visit each part of the catamaran, her eyes were wide open and she kept on asking questions, just like a little girl would do at school, I even felt that she would have liked to hide in one of the cabins and come along in our adventure.

    A text written by Dany on our website summarizes well why we left our military careers to circumnavigate the world on our catamaran:

    “Bref, nous voulons mordre dans la vie et profiter de chaque seconde pour ne pas passer à côté. La vie ne tient qu’à un fil et nous le voyons avec tous ces gens qui nous quittent subitement sans préavis, sans avoir eu le temps de profiter de la vie, de faire ce qu’ils aimaient ou de réaliser leurs rêves.”

    She has always been the type of women to “mordre dans la vie”, she has always taken advantage of every minute of her short life, but God there was so much more for her to do. She was and will remain for all of us an example to follow. So professional, so dedicated, while remaining so caring, so warm and friendly. No word can describe what a great woman she has been. Une “grande femme”!

    Her life was taken too quickly, but we know that from where she is right now she will be looking over our shoulders in every sailing adventure we undertake. Two days ago as we were sailing towards Lisboa, I was watching the sky and saw a shooting star and thought to myself that it was Karen flying away from Earth on her way to visit the Universe. Karen we wish you a good trip and will forever be thinking of you.

    Bon voyage!

    A member of your family, the EME family.
    LCol (Retd) René Bourassa
    Maj (Retd) Dany Giguère
    Thomas, Catherine, Nicolas and Antoine

  • Brigitte Trau

    October 19, 2008 at 12:24 pm

    To Don and all of Karen’s family and friends,

    I was struck with sadness when I was told of Karen’s tragic passing. My initial reaction was that of disbelief. How could a person with so much more to give and share leave us so suddenly?

    I first met Karen in 2001 during our Ottawa Area International Camp, “Odyssey 2001”. Her kindness and professionalism shined all around her. I had the opportunity to work with her again at the Guiding Mosaic Camp in Guelph in 2006 where she led our team with her strong leadership skills. I never passed an opportunity to work and play with her. I was always eager to listen to her sage advice. I had the highest regard and respect for her, not only as a woman but as a person. I once told Karen of the admiration I had for her and how she was a role model for me.

    She was dedicated and passionate, not only about life but about everything she took on.

    The Canadian Forces, Girl Guides of Canada, and our country have lost a great woman. I take comfort in knowing that she touched the lives of many women, young and not so young, and that they will continue Karen’s legacy.

    My deepest condolences to Don and all of Karen’s family and friends. Rest in peace Karen, and may the grace of God shine upon you. You will be greatly missed but never forgotten.

    Your friend,

    Brigitte Trau
    Guider and past Commissioner, Girl Guides of Canada – Ottawa
    Administrative Officer, Operations, Defence Construction Canada, Ottawa

  • JA Pedneault, capt ancien O Ops garnison St-Jean

    October 19, 2008 at 4:03 pm

    Étant en exercice en Alberta, c’est avec stupéfaction que j’ai appris avec tristesse le décès d’une grande dame, Col Karen Ritchie. elle fût une source de motivation et d’inspiration pour tous et chacun. elle était une femme dédiée à son travail et pour avoir travaillé dans son état-major, elle avait une facilité de mettre son personnel à l’aise et de se dépasser. elle sera regrettée par tous.

    J’offre mes condoléances à sa famille, ses proches et amis.


    Capt Alain Pedneault
    J35 PF

  • Lina Albon

    October 21, 2008 at 11:00 pm

    Dear Don and Family;

    There is no words to describe how you must all feel; I only met Karen 3 years ago and I do find this unconceivable. We were all anxious for Karen to get back to us in Ottawa in the very near future. She had plans for keeping all us alive, busy and at our bests. But destiny or something else has decided otherwise….

    Thanks Karen for the gift you have left us, I am convinced that some of us will have the same tremendous energy that you had to continue your outstanding work in every aspect. You accomplished your mission and we are very proud of you: “Repose en paix” .

    After I met with Karen’s immediate family (Barbara, John, Angie and Tracey)and exchanged a few words and tears with them last Sunday, I better understood why Karen was such a touching and caring person as they all share the same wonderful values. John as a proud father presented an excellent tribute to his lovely daughter during her celebration of life yesterday. Everything was done with such quality, taste and perfection as Karen would have liked it. Memories of this day will stay forever with me and I sincerely hope that Don and all members of both families that you will soon find consolation and peace and start feeling Karen’s energy surrounding you. “Bon Courage” I’ll thinking of you. Lina + family

  • John Ritchie

    October 27, 2008 at 8:01 am

    Karen is my daughter.
    I always knew that Karen was a very special young lady and I was very proud of all her accomplishments, or at least, as it now seems, those few accomplishments of which I was aware.
    It has been a highly emotional week since the tragedy, and now looking back over the celebration of her life, I realise that I was only aware of a small part of what made up Karen’s life, which she certainly lived fully.
    My family has been overwhelmed by the tributes that were provided in person by Karen’s colleagues, friends and acquaintances, who attended the visitations and the funeral service.
    We have also read all the wonderful postings that have been added to this site, and thank you for taking the time to open up your thoughts to the rest of us.
    Yesterday, Sunday, I spent about 2 hours reading through your various postings and my emotions were sent on a roller coaster ride. Some of you were able to attend the visitations and personally recounted your experiences, for which I and my family are also most grateful.
    To all of you who have posted comments, I wish you to know that they are deeply appreciated, throw new light on my understanding of Karen’s daily activities and special gifts, and serve to accentuate what a full life Karen enjoyed with her colleagues, friends, acquaintances and extended family.
    I would like to thank each of you personally for sharing your thoughts with us and with the world, in this way.
    Once again, thank you all for the content of your postings, your thoughts and expressions of sympathy.
    John Ritchie,
    [email protected]

  • Barbara Aaron

    October 31, 2008 at 3:35 pm

    As Karen’s mother, I too like her father thought she was indeed, something special.
    It has indeed been a very difficult time since that terrible day over two weeks ago. I want to add my sincere appreciation to all who have taken the time to post notices on this site, all of which have comforted both families. I had absolutely no conception of the scope of Karen’s influence on associates she met, even briefly. All of you who managed to come to the funeral and stopped to speak with us spoke of her unfailing dedication to the country she loved and to every person she met in her life. It has been a revelation to our family to understand just how much she actually managed to cram into each day of her very busy life, and still seek out individuals she knew needed her guiding hand.
    As a daughter she became my very special friend and we shared many happy times together
    including this Canada Day when I visited her for the celebrations. Canada Day with Karen on ‘the hill’ has to be experienced. It is a happy memory that will remain with me forever.
    Thank you to all who have emailed me personally,your kind words and thoughts will be forever with me during these difficult days.
    Barbara Aaron
    [email protected]

  • Andrew Stodart

    November 17, 2009 at 4:53 pm

    I came across the name Karen Ritchie today and, just our of curiosity, did a quick google. I was shocked and saddened to read of the tragic accident. I had not seen Karen for close to 30 years but she was someone I never forgot about. Her strength of character was something I strongly admired. While a very direct communicator she was also always encouraging and kind. You were always glad when she was around. I am sure that she is, and will always be, terribly missed by family and friends.

  • MWO (Retd) Len Wood, MMM, CD

    March 30, 2010 at 10:28 pm

    My wife brought to my attention, Col Ritchie’s passing, when she notice an article in the sports page of our local paper advising of the 2nd annual Col Ritchie Memorial Curling Bonspiel to be held in Pembroke in early Apr 2010. i was stunned by the news of her tragic death in 2008.

    I had the great privilege of serving under Karen’s command when she was the G4 at LFCAHQ Toronto in the late 90s. Col Ritchie was a true and fair leader, who ensured all her people received the best that she could offer. It is a tremendous loss to the CF and the EME Branch.

    Our belated condolences to Don and Col Ritchie’s family and friends.

    Len and Diane Wood
    Pembroke, ON
    [email protected]