SEPT. 17, 1948-SEPT. 11, 2003

Farewell: Henry Winkler pays tribute to John Ritter

I met John at ABC’s 25th anniversary party in 1978. When he walked into a room, his utter Johnness just filled it up, every corner, every crevice. It was a life force, a joy, an energy that made you think ”My God, how does he maintain it?” He was so gigantic, smart, and perceptive. And so funny. There was so much funny in him that it was almost like his body couldn’t contain it.

John carried a satchel with him everywhere, with two or three novels, newspapers probably dating back to 1910 that he was sure he’d get around to reading sometime, and enough loose change to make a house payment. He was always on a search, looking for an answer, not carefree like so many people think. His was not a soul that skipped through the world. He was duty-bound — a quality that made him an incredible dad and husband.

I have a picture in my office of the two of us together, and right after his death I was so happy that I had it. But I didn’t realize that the loneliness gets worse as you get further away from the event. I talk to the picture now. I walk by and say, ”So, where did you go?” I think about calling John, and then I realize that I can’t. Now I want to turn that picture around. It’s difficult. There’s too much finality to all of this. John really was one of a kind — it’s not like anybody else will be able to fill the hole that he left. (Ritter died of an aortic dissection in Burbank.)