A handful of canoeing enthusiasts formed The North West Canoe Club on the 14th January 1975. Rita Van Ryt and her husband Jan, were part of that handful.
At the time of the Club formation everyone was working on building their own canoes. From the six people building canoes, it seems all worked together to assist each other, sort of like working bees. Jan and Rita joined the canoe club as it was a very social, friendly group of people. Their sons were involved through their teenage years and the annual Gregory Canoe Race became a family tradition. This tradition still continues with Robert, Mark and John still paddling. The Van Ryt grandsons have also competed in Gregory Canoe races at different times.
Upon Betty Jenje’s suggestion Rita was asked to take on the position of Treasurer of the Club. This duty she undertook for 10 years. Along with other activities such as time keeper and starter of the annual Gregory Canoe Race, fund raising and assisting with Club working bees and catering for the many social occasions held at the Canoe Club at Lake Moondarra.
Rita has participated in 7 Gregory Canoe races. Twice she paddled the entire race in a Canadian canoe and other times singularly or as a member of a team event. In 1993 Rita and Jan paddled in a Masters 3 Class of mixed TC2 and claimed a record which still stands today. Rita also paddled with Laurie Fray in 2008 at the age of 74 years. It was Rita’s suggestion to the Club to run the ½ Gregory Canoe races which was a welcomed event for the future of including women and juniors.
In 1991 Kevin Woodhouse and Rita were made life members of the North West Canoe Club. Rita was very happy to be acknowledged by the North West Canoe Club. Rita and her family will be camped at Check point 4, or as the family refers to it as “Jan’s Camp” this year to watch the 2016 Gregory Canoe Race.
Sadly, Jan Van Ryt passed away 17th April 2001 but Rita has continued to support the North West Canoe Club and encourage all paddlers by cheering them on from the river bank. Rita Van Ryt is a worthy life member recipient and an admirable “Matriarch of the River”.