July 23, 1976 — September 1, 2019

An Incredible Will to Survive and Thrive

Ryan with parents, Debbie and Doug Reitmeyer.

On the morning of September 1, 2019, the world lost a young man who lit up every room he ever entered and brought a smile to the face of every person he ever met. Ryan Reitmeyer was an awesome and valued friend to hundreds, and he inspired thousands that knew of his challenges and how he so positively dealt with them every moment of his life.

Ryan had an incredible drive to succeed.  Barely surviving a 2005 boating accident that left him with a severe traumatic brain injury (TBI), he overcame inconceivable odds with the help of his family, friends, caretakers, medical experts and the use of advanced technologies from researchers around the world. A native Texan, he went on to live a vibrant, inspiring, activity-filled life for more than fourteen years.

Although Ryan suffered a fatal aneurysm and ultimately passed away at Seton Williamson County Medical Center on September 1st, his legacy lives on through his having proven the value of miraculous innovations that aided in his recovery. Several of these innovations are now providing hope and help for other TBI sufferers, including returning war veterans.

He was just forty-three.

Ryan’s will to not only survive but thrive characterized his life. He had an incredible ability to connect with people, a love of friends, good times and life on Lake Travis. One had only to visit his website to see hundreds of photos of Ryan, family and friends frolicking on weekends in and around Austin.

Quick to smile or sing a song

According to his maternal uncle, Jim Jones, Ryan was “a remarkable person, never afraid to walk into a group of strangers and say, ‘Hi I’m Ryan Reitmeyer’ and start a conversation.” His uncle said he was “quick to give a smile or sing a song.”

One of two sons, Ryan was born on July 23, 1976 in Killeen, TX to Doug Reitmeyer, a Federal Construction Business Owner, and Debbie Reitmeyer, a home designer. Ryan and older brother Sean, a rambunctious, competitive duo, were close from the start. Both were active in the Austin Youth Hockey League and avid water and snow skiers.

Ryan teasing brother Sean, with a young Nick, Sean’s son, overseeing things.

Sean said his brother was his best friend.  “He was loyal, passionate, adventurous and loving,” Sean said.  “I will be grateful for the time that we spent together in our adolescent years, as well as adulthood.  He was a gem; a true Godsend.”

Due to his father’s wide-ranging federal contracts, Ryan attended several high schools before skipping his last year, earning his GED, and attending Texas State Technical School. He bought his first home in Bryan-College Station, where he worked for a Toyota dealership before returning to Austin, where his knack for sales got him recruited by Dell Computer Corp. Devoting nights and weekends to studying the real estate market, he quickly became a successful real estate agent, honing his sales skills with extracurricular courses, including Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People; Karrass’ Effective Negotiating, and Tony Robbins’ Unleash the Power Within.

Ryan was non-denominational but enjoyed attending area churches with friends and family. He also relished going to local concerts and sporting events and possibly topping them off at Rudy’s BBQ or Mighty Fine Burgers. He was a member of a local charitable organization, the “Cannibals”—legendary for throwing terrific parties that raised sizable amounts of money for good causes.

At 5-feet-7 and meticulously groomed, Ryan rejected criticism, condemnation and complaining of any sort. He treated every moment as a gift, every person he met as a cherished friend for life. He was always positive, cheerful and possessed a quick wit that often astounded those around him.

“Relax about it”

He had a favorite catch phrase anytime he observed anyone in a funk. “Relax about it.” He would say it with a big grin that would crack everyone up.

Nicholas Reitmeyer, Ryan’s nephew, recalls spending Saturday mornings at Ryan’s house when he was young. “We’d lay in bed and watch cartoons, and he always gave me cereal my dad wouldn’t allow me to eat. It was a really fun time.”

(L to R) Ryan and Josh Wiseman.

One of Ryan’s closest friends, Josh Wiseman recalls how “vibrant and fun” he was, his sense of adventure and curiosity. The two met in the mid-1980s, when Ryan moved in next door to Josh in Spicewood at Bull Creek in Austin.

“I wasn’t a confident kid growing up socially, but Ryan showed me something to aspire to with his outgoing personality,” Josh said.  “Ryan was a people person.  He could entertain a room full of successful adults as well as his peers. He just had a maturity about him that I learned from.  He was a fantastic hockey player and great athlete.  He was fearless, passionate and kind.”

(L to R) Josh Wiseman, Kristy Veranes, and Ryan. Girl at right unknown.

Josh particularly recalls Ryan’s 16th birthday.  “This confident kid just knew how to connect with the girls (and people in general) and I was amazed.”  The Reitmeyers rented a celebration billboard and a limo for Ryan and his friends to cruise around Austin for the day.

One of Josh’s favorite photos of that night is the group standing in front of the billboard that said: “Ryan Reitmeyer – Best of the Best! Happy Birthday Super Stud!  You are the Greatest!”  Josh added, “He was a super stud!”

Families became one

Ernie and Linda Veranes quickly bonded with the Reitmeyers about forty-five years ago when they lived across the street from one another in Harker Heights, TX. “We met an extraordinary family with two young children,” Ernie said. “This family became our own and still is.” The Veranes’ daughter, Kristy, became one of Ryan’s buddies.

One of Linda Veranes’ favorite memories is when Ryan was two years old. Hearing a child’s laugh from the kitchen, she and Ryan’s mom, Debbie, rushed in to discover that Ryan had climbed up onto the counter and opened a bag of flour. He was scooping it out and flinging it into the air, saying, “It’s snowing, it’s snowing”. Linda also remembered all our trips to Florida with Ryan for Summer’s [the Veranes’ granddaughter] beauty pageants, and our trip to Disney World. I have a lifetime of memories, and I love each one.”

Ryan with his Aunt Rhonda.

Ryan’s aunt, Rhonda Clark, recalls her devastation after hearing about her nephew’s accident and asking “Why, why, why?”

Eventually, when Ryan began to improve, she thought she understood that the boating calamity was “simply to show that miracles happen. He was one,” Rhonda said.

“My nephew Ryan was like unwrapping a gift from God every day,” Rhonda (shown left) added. “He was happy, smiling, loving, joyful and mischievous—all in one! Ryan amazed me with his love for people and life.”

Ryan’s grandmother, Darlene Reitmeyer, said her grandson was especially close to his late grandfather, Doug’s dad, Wayne. Just recently, Ryan asked Darlene, “Grandma, do you remember the story about the leaky boat that Grandpa and I rented to go fishing?”

Ryan, his grandmother Darlene and Doug.

That he recalled, after his brain injury, that long-ago fishing event—when the boat started to sink and they had to furiously bail out water as they rowed back to shore—warmed her heart.

One of his caretakers, Scott Larson, recalls how he and Ryan always greeted each other with a high five, and then a low five. “He would always want to redo it if we did not connect on the bottom end.”

After lunch, the two would play several rounds of 21. But Ryan “would always beg to play one more game—especially if he was losing,” Scott said.

He also said that anyone who has ever driven with Ryan in the passenger seat can attest to his always knowing a “better way”, a different route. “We had a great time together,” Scott went on. “We were like brothers from another mother.”

“He made my day brighter!”

Another caretaker, Fabiana Fericelli (shown below with Ryan and pals), expressed her amazement with how “happy and positive” Ryan was. A couple of weeks after she started spending a lot of time with him , she asked Doug, “Is Ryan always this much fun and happy?”

Doug said, “Yes, 100% of the time.”

“He always found joy in the simple things,” Fabiana said, “and would always say something encouraging to make you feel better, things like, ‘You are wonderful, you rock, you look great, I’m happy to see you!’”

She especially remembers a day feeling depressed as she went to see Ryan. “That night we watched Saturday Night Fever and danced to all the disco songs. He made my day brighter!” she said. “When we watched Bohemian Rhapsody at the theater, we sang all the Queen hits out loud” Fabiana said. “Everyone was looking at us, but we were having so much fun that we didn’t care. I was always amazed that sometimes Ryan would not remember what he did the day before but he knew every single word of the songs he liked.”

Some of his favorites, she said, were Bohemian Rhapsody, The Road Goes On Forever, Mac Davis’ Oh Lord It’s Hard to Be Humble.

“…very open to new ideas”

Ryan, nephew Nick, and parents at Atlantis.

One of his teachers, Donna Martin, who specializes in the Alexander Technique—a method of pain relief and improving posture and performance—was equally impressed with her student’s attitude.

“Ryan was always a delight to work with,” Donna said. “He was eager to learn, very open to new ideas, and had a wonderful sense of humor!  I never saw him in a bad mood. When we last spoke he was looking forward to future projects.”

Eventually, he re-learned to drive, worked hard to learn how to live on his own, and opted to return to college to further his education.

Two Facebook posts reflect what so many thought of Ryan.

Debbie Thornhill Fisher wrote that “Ryan was one of the happiest, fun-loving guys I’ve ever had the pleasure of getting to know. He was a breath of fresh air and loved to sing and dance.”

Another friend, Shellie Kelly, said she and Ryan “were friends from the moment we met.” He was “happiest, kindest, sweetest, most genuine person … one of my most cherished friends.”

Ernie Veranes marveled at how Ryan “lived life to the fullest. He got that from his dad, who was one of the most adventurous men I have ever met. Ryan believed in living. Even after that horrible accident and the months of recuperation, he still had the zest for life.”

(Photo below shows Ryan and parents celebrating nephew Nick’s graduation.)


Ryan is survived by his parents, Doug and Debbie Reitmeyer, and his aunt, Rhonda Clark, all of Leander, TX; brother Sean, and his grandmothers, Darlene Reitmeyer and JoAnn Derksen, of Cedar Park.

More about the challenges Ryan overcame are at www.BringingBackRyan.com.

For more information or questions about Ryan’s story, please contact Ryan’s father, Doug Reitmeyer, Phone/text 512-750-2677, or Email  .

NOTE: In honor of Ryan’s donating his healthy organs and tissues, the TOSA flag was raised by his parents and flown for 48 hours at Seton Wilco Hospital. Two people received new kidneys; two with no sight now see again; burn victims have new skin, and his bone marrow was donated to children recovering from cancer.

The family wishes to especially express their sincerest and deepest appreciation to all the friends and caretakers, including Fabiana Fericelli and Scott Larson; Alexander Technique trainers Donna Martin and Tami Bulmash; Yoga instructor Cindi Reaka; improv coach Andy Crouch; linguistics and acting trainer Maurice Ripke; Dr. Michael Merzenich and the Posit Science Team; Sharon Pollack and the Scientific Learning Team; Ryan’s teachers at ACC; the ICU staff at Brackenridge; the rehabilitation team at St. David’s and many others.

The family and friends set up a wonderful “Celebration of Ryan’s Life” on September 26, 2019 at the Hill Country Bible Church at 12124 RR 620, Austin, TX 78750.

Here is a link to the video Ryan’s brother created for the event:  https://www.dropbox.com/s/xq0bjg4x172bwyr/ryan3.mp4?dl=0

A final Goodbye from Ryan.


  1. Kathy Lowrie

    Was wonderful writing about Ryan! How inspiring he was. And to have parents who worked so hard to bring him back to a full, active life is a special miracle. I’m sure their experience and Ryan’s will help many TBI patients in the future.

  2. Bonnie Daybell

    This is an amazing story. Having survived a traumatic accident myself years ago, I am drawn to stories like Ryan’s. I did wish that the explanation of how Ryan was injured and what he went through was closer to the beginning of the article, perhaps starting with the paragraph “Relax About It”? I would also like to know the specifics of the accident. Prior to that I hurried through his life rather than enjoying the details of his loving family and amazing support group. I love that this story has been told. I wish I had met Ryan.

  3. Julia Larson

    What a wonderful story to read. How did the accident happen? Just so sad to lose Ryan after all his family did for him. But he must be looking down, an angel for other TBI sufferers. Thank you for sharing.

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