PORT TOWNSEND — Lonny Ritter, whose Port Townsend restaurants drew celebrities and politicians, has died in Thailand.
Ritter was found dead in his condominium in Hua Hin, Thailand, after neighbors became concerned that they had not seen him around, said John Sheehan, a longtime friend.
When neighbors alerted the condominium owner about their fears, he broke down the door and found Ritter’s body, Sheehan was told.
Ritter was 67.
Ritter died sometime between May 5, when he made a phone call, and Monday morning, when Sheehan received a 3 a.m. call from the embassy about the death.
Originally from Los Angeles, Ritter was born on Dec. 20, 1942, the son of a produce broker and a mother who was passionate about cooking.
He moved to Port Townsend with his first wife and two children in 1971, where he set up and managed the first restaurant at Point Hudson.
He then worked as a chef at Discovery Bay Lodge and at the Harbormaster in Port Ludlow before opening his own restaurant, The Lido, in the old De Leo building across from the Boat Haven in 1979.
That was the year “An Office and a Gentleman,” was being filmed in Port Townsend, and the cast ate at his restaurant every night for three months, Ritter said in a 2003 interview.
The Lido also became a destination for Seattle celebrities, as did his namesake restaurant, Lonny’s, which Ritter opened in 1994, also in the Boat Haven.
Among the guests who have eaten at Lonny’s are Al and Tipper Gore, who flew into Port Townsend in 2002 to celebrate Tipper’s 54th birthday with friends.
In the 2003 interview, Ritter said he originally pursued a career as an artist, teaching art at a Lake Tahoe college, and then was part owner of a Los Angeles art gallery.
He helped design the kitchen of The Timber House in Quilcene, he said.
After closing The Lido, he moved to the West End, where he operated the restaurant at Sol Duc Hot Springs.
When he returned to Port Townsend to open Lonny’s, he chose a location that would provide parking for locals, whom he considered the basis of his business.
“Visitors are just the cream on the top,” Ritter said in the interview.
Retired to Thailand
After he sold Lonny’s, he retired to Thailand.
Sheehan, former owner of Dogs Afoot in Port Townsend, also has a condominium in the same complex where Ritter lived. He is married to Sai Sheehan, the sister of Jiap Ritter, Ritter’s second and now former wife.
Sheehan said he and another old friend, Overton Berry, will get together with Ritter’s son from his first marriage, Jordan Rubin, to plan a suitable memorial.
“He was a prince,” Sheehan said.
Besides Rubin, who lives in Seattle, Ritter is survived by a daughter in Austin, Texas, and her children, Sheehan said.
________Port Townsend/Jefferson County reporter-columnist Jennifer Jackson can be reached at email@example.com.