John Richard Rittelmeyer

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John Richard Rittelmeyer, 63, of Cary, died October 28, 2019, at Transitions LifeCare, Raleigh, NC.

John was born in Jackson, MS, to Louis and Patricia Rittelmeyer, and raised in McLean, Virginia. He completed his undergraduate degree in psychology at Georgetown University, and law degree from the University of Mississippi. He clerked for Justice James Robertson, of the Mississippi Supreme Court, and was admitted to the US Supreme Court. He was in private practice with Hartzell and Whiteman, where he notably and successfully argued an appeal before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, saving his client from the death penalty.

The parent of a child with severe developmental disabilities, John found himself drawn to disability issues and served on the board of directors for Carolina Legal Assistance for more than ten years. He was instrumental in transitioning North Carolina’s federally-mandated Protection and Advocacy system (P&A) for people with disabilities out of state government and into Carolina Legal Assistance. John served as Director of Litigation of the new P&A, which was later renamed Disability Rights North Carolina, until his death. John was particularly proud of the class-action lawsuit that delayed the move of patients from Dorothea Dix Hospital in Raleigh to Central Regional Hospital in Butner, NC, until all remaining safety issues at the new hospital were resolved. John was selected as Tar Heel of the Week in 2008 in recognition of these efforts.

John loved birdwatching, tomato gardening, camping, the Durham Bulls, and riding his motorcycle with Bud. He faced life and death with grace and humor, surrounded by those who loved him. He was devoted to his wife, Jennifer, and their daughters: writer Helen Andrews, of whom he was endlessly proud, and Martha, whose memory he cherished. John and Jennifer are grateful for the support of his family, his friends, especially his colleagues at Disability Rights; the Thursday “brew pub” crowd; and his best friend, Bill Schlosser. John was preceded in death by his daughter, Martha. He is survived by his wife, Jennifer; his daughter Helen, (Tim); his brothers James,(Carol); Frederick, (Debra); Paul; Bill, (Young-Suk); Bob, (Doug); and numerous nieces and nephews.

Friends will gather for a Celebration of Life on November 9, 2019 from 1:00 – 3:00 PM at Brown- Wynne Funeral Home, Cary, N.C.

Online condolences may be made at

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to Disability Rights North Carolina, Or, KidsTogetherPlayground,


  • Celebration of Life

    Saturday, November 9, 2019


John Richard Rittelmeyer

have a memory or condolence to add?

Gsyle Ramsey Cooper

November 13, 2020

I don’t know what made me think of John tonight but I did. I am so sad to see this. I spent many work hours and many happy hours talking with Johnny. I loved this guy even though he smoked like a chimney. Jennifer, I still have a piece of your pottery. My condolences to you and the family.

Sandy Jarrell

October 3, 2020

I’m a little late, had no idea John had passed. I always enjoyed talking with him on his frequent visits to Nice Price- he was one of the good ones. Condolences. Sorry he’s gone.

Andrea Mensch

November 13, 2019

I knew John from our weekly gatherings at the brewpub and soon after meeting him I was impressed by this Renaissance man. Over the years, I realized that he was also a truly good person who through his example could teach all of us how to live life to its fullest. I am grateful for his friendship and I will never forget him. My thoughts are with you, Jennifer and Helen, and all of the many people who loved him.

Jim Barrett

November 12, 2019

Living in Asheville, I was unaware that John was sick, so I was as shocked as I was sad - that I didn't know. John was a colleague that so many of us looked up to because of his sense of justice and because he was such an effective and dedicated warrior for justice. Every once in a while he and I conferred about providing legal assistance to someone in the western part of the state. My condolences to the family and close friends and co-workers. John's contributions will be legendary. His shoes cannot be filled, but he inspired many of us to try.

Grace Stroud

November 10, 2019

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

You kept your promises. Sleep well, my friend.

Elaine Sayers

November 10, 2019

Mom and I are saddened to hear of John's passing. We will truly miss his wisdom and kind words. May God comfort you in this time of sorrow. If you need anything, we are right around the corner.
Elaine & Donna

D. Jones

November 9, 2019

My deepest condolences to you and your family. I will miss John, so much especially when I bit into a slice tomato. He took the time to share in detail with me the importance of understanding how to pick a ripe tomato, as well as understanding various types of tomatoes. For that I am truly grateful. I have be honored to be a part of the organization as a part of the Board over years, and enjoyed every opportunity to hear John gave a presentation. He gave us energy to be supportive to the cause, again I am grateful.
I will continue to embrace the hug I received from John on September 20th, 2019 ,it also came with a big smile we shared together.

Claude Weedon

November 4, 2019

To me, he is always Prince John! My sister Jen is his wife and I had the good fortune to spend a few days with them a few years ago at their home in Cary . He showed great compassion and love to me during my visit. He opened his house and heart. A wonderful and loving man, a real prince. For me, his enlightened attitude and embracing behavior could be a guide for others.

If there be another world after this one, I wish Prince John, Happy Trails. With gratitude and appreciation, Claude

Melissa Johnson

November 2, 2019

This is such sad news. John did so much great work in the world, while remaining such a down-to-earth and kind person. A quick phone call to John resulted in crucial help for a non-profit I was involved in; he offered that kind of help throughout the community and the state, quietly, all the time. Thinking of you, Jennifer.

Beverly Castelli

November 1, 2019

Dear Jennifer and Helen,
I am very sorry for your great loss. Having only know John for
short time, I remember how kind and loving he was to Martha.
A gentle man.
Jennifer, you've suffered a great loss in your life again. I don't know of many words that can help you. Your a very strong
woman, prayers go out to you in this time of sorrow.