MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A final farewell for Don Ryce, the father of Jimmy Ryce whose abduction and death gripped the nation almost three decades ago, was held in Kendall on Wednesday afternoon.
Family and friends gathered for his funeral and burial.
The 76-year-old died of natural causes last week at his home in Vero Beach.
Don Ryce’s name is forever linked to the son he lost tragically 25 years ago.
Jimmy, the 9-year-old boy who was kidnapped, raped, and murdered near their Redland home
His son Ted said, “While it’s a sad day to see him leave us, he’s left a legacy with the Jimmy Ryce Center.”
As Ted buried his father next to Jimmy and Claudine, Don’s wife of 26 years, the legacy was crystal clear as a dozen bloodhounds and their handlers circled the grave.
“When something happens we get stuck in our pain, but he found meaning in loss,” said Ted.
The Jimmy Ryce Center has donated more than 600 bloodhounds to help police departments search for missing persons.
“He and Claudine would say every time a bloodhound finds a child it’s as if Jimmy is giving a hug,” said Terri Lynn of the Jimmy Ryce Center.
Don Ryce spoke to CBS4 about the inspiration for the bloodhounds a month before he died.
“That would have saved our own child, he was a mile away. No one knew where he was.”
Jimmy’s remains were found after a three-month search. His kidnapper was convicted and sentenced to death.
Pat Diaz was the lead investigator.
“Next to the day we found Jimmy’s bag, this is the second hardest day, but he’s at peace. He’s with his family.”
After Jimmy’s death, the Ryce s fought to change laws to protect children from predators.
In 2009, Claudine died suddenly of a heart attack.
Don’s daughter Martha, forever scarred by Jimmy s death, took her own life in 2013.
Somehow Don Ryce always found a way to move from the sadness to purpose and giving back.
“It’s all about learning to connect with others, moving past what you’ve been through and being present in the moment again,” said Ted.