Richard Ross: Help After Losing Wife and Child
After Richard Ross’s young wife, Lorrie, died unexpectedly in the summer of 1960, he changed the direction of his life to raise their 8-month-old son, Tony.
Abandoning a promising career in entertainment law, Richard took a job as a deputy district attorney to have more time with Tony—who was named Anthony Darrow after trial lawyer Clarence Darrow, who in the 1890’s and early twentieth century defended many unpopular defendants and social causes.
Tony grew into an intelligent, creative and charismatic young man who wrote for his high school newspaper and served a summer internship as a reporter at a local TV station. But in 1979, during Tony’s sophomore year at Wesleyan University, after breaking up with his high school sweetheart, Tony did not return to school after spring break and stopped communicating with friends and family back home.
After three months of frantic searching, Richard learned that Tony had taken his own life in a remote section of a state park in South Carolina.
“I had raised Tony by myself, put my career choices second to being a good dad at a time before there was such a thing as single fathers,” Richard says. “When Tony took his own life, I was devastated. A beautiful child was dead, Lorrie’s legacy was gone, and I had lost my identity as a father.”
Richard then went back to school, earning a Master in Fine Arts degree in printmaking and then a doctorate in clinical psychology. After a short time as a practicing therapist, he became a Hearing Referee in the Mental Health Department of Los Angeles Superior Court.
Richard had chosen not to join a grief support group, but his clinical interest in Survivors After Suicide led him to meet Dr. Norman Farberow, the psychologist who co-founded what is now the Didi Hirsch Suicide Prevention Center. Dr. Farberow persuaded Richard to join one of the Survivors After Suicide groups that he facilitated.
“Being with other survivors was the most meaningful thing I did to help me cope with this loss,” says Richard, who subsequently became a co-leader for survivor groups and a dedicated donor to suicide prevention causes. “The support I got in those survivor groups and what I learned there helped me heal the most.”
Now retired, Richard spends his time traveling and pursuing his passion for photography. When he turned 80, he honored Tony’s memory by providing Didi Hirsch with a significant charitable gift annuity that will help us continue to provide suicide prevention and support services in the future.
“I care deeply about the services Didi Hirsch provides and wanted to support the Suicide Prevention Center as well as the Survivors After Suicide program,” Richard says. “The gift was a chance to do good for something I feel strongly about, and at the same time, it provides me with a reliable income at this stage of my life.”