Dr Ron Lee
By Margaret Lee
PSYCHOTHERAPIST Ron Lee was writing, teaching, supervising and treating patients until six months before he died at home in The Gurdies in April 2019, aged 89.
At the time he died, he was working on a book encapsulating his 50 years of treating patients in Australia and the US. The overarching theme of his practice was to understand pathological narcissism and how to treat it.
Ron was born in Melbourne on February 9 1930. He came to psychotherapy via a circuitous route. In his teens he worked as an instrument technician for TAA at Essendon Airport before going back to school at the age of 20 to complete his schooling and train for the Methodist ministry.
He was ordained as a minister in 1956 and first sent to Rosebery and Zeehan, in Tasmania, then a rotating ministry at the Edithvale, Chelsea and Seaford churches in Melbourne.
In 1959, his interest in pastoral psychotherapy took him to the US where he practised as a minister for four years. He obtained his Master of Divinity at Garret Theological Seminary in Illinois and his PhD at North-Western University Chicago.
In 1979 he left the ministry of the church and began practising as a psychotherapist in Chicago, working there until 1993.
During his long and distinguished career in the US, Ron was sustained by a vision of home and in 1994, after 32 years away, he returned to Australia.
He decided to set down roots on the Bass Coast and in 1998 bought an acre lot at The Gurdies. At the age of 70, he set about building his own mud brick, passive solar home as an owner builder. His father had been a carpenter and he had basic skills. He subcontracted some work and did much of it himself with the help of family members.
Once established, he set about getting the services badly needed in his small community.
In 2004, he wrote many letters to set up a mail run into the Woodland Close community.
In 2005, Ron and Barrie Stewart wrote repeatedly to the council until a fire track was built to the dam behind properties in Woodland Close.
In 2006, he again began petitioning and writing to federal MP Greg Hunt to request that Telstra provide ADSL to the community. Again, his campaign was successful.
Soon afterwards, U3A came to Bass Coast, with Sheila Moore at the helm. In 2011 and 2012, Ron taught a psychology class at Corinella Community Centre, beginning with a 10-week series on his new book Special Positive experiences, from Narcissism to WEACH . (WEACH is short for Wisdom, Empathy, Acceptance, Creativity and Humour. The students Ron taught at year 10 level created it and these are the pointers for mature narcissism or a healthy self.)
After the U3A course, he continued teaching from home for another 12 months using lectures created for a wider audience, now part of an online, worldwide teaching program.
He never retired but continued working, teaching, supervising and mentoring young psychiatrists in Melbourne and Hong Kong.
Last September Ron and I set out for the trip of a lifetime to the UK and Europe. Our trip naturally included three conferences. Ron was the major speaker at the Self Psychology Conference in Hong Kong at the end of October.
He fell ill shortly after our return from Hong Kong and, after a six month illness, died peacefully at home in The Gurdies on April 1 2019.
A memorial service for family, friends and colleagues was held at St Hilda’s College, Parkville, on April 13 2019 to celebrate the extraordinary life and career of this quiet achiever.
A couple of weeks later, local friends gathered at a winery to pay tribute to his amazing life. Boonwurrung custodian and Ron’s good friend Steve Parker held a smoking ceremony to honour his indigenous heritage. Ron was remembered where he felt at home and is now at peace with family and fellow elders.
Margaret Lee was Ron Lee’s wife. Ron’s writing is available at https://empathink.com.au/papers.html