Vale Leith Ryder

Leith Ryder, a Past President of the Congregational Union in WA, passed away peacefully on Sunday 7 March.

Leith was born in September 1920 in Bunbury, the eldest of four children. The family attended the Congregational Church in Bunbury. As a toddler he was attracted to musical performances, especially brass bands. At the age of ten he started learning the piano and as a teenager he was attracted to the pipe organ. He acquired a book on how to play the organ and proceeded to teach himself. In later life, he was aided by several church organists.

In 1943, on Friday 13th, he married Lois Crawford in Trinity Church, the same place that his parents had also been married. After discharge from the army in December of that year, Leith was actively involved in church life at the North Perth Congregational Church. He was involved as a choir member, an organist and a Congregational Youth Fellowship ‘Pilots’ leader.

From 1949 until 1954 Leith was the chief chemist at Wundowie. It was here Leith, Lois and family attended the local church when there was a visiting minister. In 1954 the family moved to Greenmount while Leith was working in the Government Chemist Laboratories.

Early in 1956, the family moved to Melbourne and became involved in the church life at Collins St Independent Congregational Church, now known as St Michael’s. Leith was the deputy organist, a bass in the choir, Choirmaster, Sunday school Teacher and Superintendent. The church had their own camp site and during Sunday School camps Leith would have the walls of the meeting/dining room covered with handwritten hymns and songs for the Sunday School children to learn. Often, they were modern tunes to older hymns, or brand-new hymns. He also arranged Sunday School concerts in the church hall for the congregation to attend with predominantly musical items, and once a presentation of the Pilgrim’s Progress.

At home he played the piano very frequently – playing a wide variety of music. Lois and Leith both learnt the recorder and would play trios with Jennifer included. He also loved gardening – transforming a very boring block of land to one of colour and productivity. Leith worked with ICI in Melbourne, first at the Yarraville factory and then at ICI house

In 1968, the family returned to Perth with Leith still working for ICI, first in the city and then at North Fremantle. He held a small Christian fellowship group when at North Fremantle. He was the Senior Sales Manager and a member of the Oil and Colour Chemists Association. He, Lois and the family, which now included four daughters, attended Trinity Church where his parents had been involved since about 1895. Again, he was actively involved in many aspects of church life with his usual combination of both music, service and study. He was deputy organist, choir member, deacon, Sunday School organiser and served on the Trust for the Trinity buildings.

Leith was President of Congregational Union from 1975-76 and in this role, he was involved in visiting various churches in the WA. Prior to Union, Leith was a member of the Uniting Church structure planning group. He was also involved in chairing at least one of the meetings held prior to Union that was held at Scotch College. In preparation for the opening ceremony in Perth, he liaised with young people to create the correct intensity and colour of paint for the large banners that they carried through the Perth Entertainment Centre during the ceremony. Leith was one of the Western Australian delegates to the first and second Assembly meetings. He was also a member of the Pastoral Relations Committee for the Perth Presbytery.

In 1980, Leith retired from ICI and Lois and he spent about fifteen months travelling overseas in Europe. They spent twelve of those months house-sitting in the UK and attended the local church. On their return they made the decision to transfer their membership to their local church. This was All Saints Floreat Uniting Church. They became involved in various groups in this congregation, making many friends. Leith was Chair of the Parish Council at Floreat in 1983-1984.

In 1991, Leith and Lois made the decision to sell their Floreat home and moved to Mount Claremont. They continued worshiping at Floreat, still being involved with music and other groups at Floreat. They spent an enjoyable 24 years there, however with Lois’ failing health, they moved to St Louis Estate in Claremont in 2015. Lois died in 2017 and Leith continued living at St Louis for another year. With dementia creeping in, Leith moved to Mont Clare in Claremont. He enjoyed many of the activities offered to the residents and particularly liked playing the piano – improvising very gentle music at all times and wandering around the garden.

Leith died peacefully at Mont Clare on 7 March 2021. He left four daughters and their husbands, nine grandchildren and ten great grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at All Saints Floreat Uniting Church on Friday 30 April, 2.00pm.

Jennifer Ligtermoet

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