Kate Rickerby tribute: Midwest Yellow Ribbon for Life chair dies of motor neurone disease

Jessica MoroneyMidwest Times
Kate Rickerby and Charmaine Green.
Camera IconKate Rickerby and Charmaine Green. Credit: Jon Solmundson/The Geraldton Guardian

A community-minded woman who strived to attract more suicide prevention support in the regions became instrumental in Midwest Yellow Ribbon for Life.

Kate Rickerby, 77, passed away on September 23 after years of tireless work in the Mid West. Kate was known for identifying a lack of resources for youth in times of crisis, and was renowned for listening without judgment.

Kate’s son Joe Rickerby said Kate began with accepting phone calls 24 hours a day and connecting people to services after losing a family member to suicide. He said Kate was a confidante for those in need at a time when there was little to no mental health awareness.

“I still recall as a teenager waking up in the middle of the night hearing mum listening to people in crisis, taking hours to hear them and without judgment helping them avert their crisis point,” he said.

Midwest Yellow Ribbon for Life was established in 1998 as a suicide prevention group and as the chairperson, Kate wore a yellow ribbon on her blouse to attract people’s curiosity. Before she knew it, the organisation offered school presentations and skills workshops for youth in the region.

“Mum had a nursing background which was not focused on the mental health space like it is today,” Mr Rickerby said.

“Her early nursing career began in the UK, however, she worked across the world including Zambia and Papua New Guinea before settling in WA working as the matron of Broome Hospital.”

Mr Rickerby said Kate was a pioneer of modern systems of mental health support, regardless of age, gender, race or religion, and always took time to listen to others.

Dave Clare, Marina Ricupero, Kate Rickerby and David Power of ATC Midwest take the gold for their commitment to mental health.
Camera IconDave Clare, Marina Ricupero, Kate Rickerby and David Power of ATC Midwest take the gold for their commitment to mental health. Credit: Supplied

Kate was also a life member of the Justice of Peace Association, working at the Greenough Regional Prison and the Geraldton Courthouse.

“She was always seeking positive change in whatever she was apart of,” Mr Rickerby said.

Brendin Flanigan said he’d met Kate 18 years ago, and she was a solace for people in times of crisis.

“Kate was a very caring and compassionate person and she had the ability to see beyond the barricades of getting things done,” he said.

Mr Flanigan said Kate never failed in her readiness to find solutions when suicide was a “rather under-the-carpet concept”.

“Kate had a tremendous propensity to see what could be done rather than the barriers stopping something from being done,” he said.

“She had a heart of gold and was always willing to give to others . . . Kate always made it known to everyone that there was help around the corner.”

Midwest Yellow Ribbon for Life co-ordinator Robyn Hunt met Kate in 2005, and described her as a great person who was caring of others who supported her during tough times.

“She was an extremely compassionate, loyal woman and very much a go getter. Nothing was an obstacle, she was a solution-focused person,” she said.

Ms Hunt said Kate had a strong dedication to networking with other community initiatives and bringing about positive change.

Kate and her husband Noel moved to Perth in March this year to be closer to family when symptoms of motor neurone disease presented.

Noel and Kate Rickerby from Geraldton.
Camera IconNoel and Kate Rickerby from Geraldton. Credit: Supplied

Noel visited her in hospital everyday — sometimes twice a day — and despite Kate’s difficulty with speech and eating, she never failed to lose her charisma and share laughs with visitors.

In a post to Facebook, her husband said Kate was on eagle’s wings in flight towards her next adventure.

“Kate’s selfless dedication to the Midwest community has touched the lives of so many, directly and indirectly, and is but a fraction of a life dedicated to those in need and will be greatly missed.”

The family would like to advise a small funeral will be held in Perth on Monday, October 10. To attend email venue-eels.0n@icloud.com.

Lifeline on 13 11 14

Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636

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