Walt Ratterman, a “solar guy” to the core, died in the Jan 12th earthquake in Haiti. He was 57 years old. Walt, 1952-2010, from Washougal, Washington, US, is fondly remembered as a solar installation manager in Rwanda.
Dr. Paul Farmer, co-founder of Partners In Health (PIH), and a resident of Kigali, called Walt Ratterman “a visionary solar energy advocate who worked on PIH projects in Rwanda, Burundi, Lesotho, and Haiti.
Walt was at a meeting at the Hotel Montana in Port us Prince when the quake hit. It was hard yesterday to write to Walt’s son about his father’s death. Walt went to Haiti to solarize another PIH hospital.”
In 2006 and 2007, Ratterman was hired by the Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF.org) to manage the installation of solar electric systems at PIH health centers in the Rwanda’s Eastern Province villages of Kirehe, Mulindi, Rusumo, and Nyarubuye.
Ratterman trained a Rwanda crew of eight that included 27 year-old Jerome Uwinanaje, from Kigali at Rwinkwavu by the PIH hospital there.
“Walt worked harder than anyone I have ever known,” said Uwinanaje.
“He would have all us solar trainees up at 5:00 a.m, leaving the Rwinkwavu house at 6:30 a.m, start work at health centers like in Mulindi at 8:00 a.m, working all day, return to the house for dinner and then a two hour training session at night,” he added.
Uwimanaje attributes his skills to Ratterman. He said he is a competent, professional solar installer today at Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF), an NGO working in Rwanda and other parts of the world.
“The crew and I loved him for this. Walt and I were very close. He was a great mentor to me besides teaching me a great deal about solar power. I am a competent, professional solar installer today because of Walt’s inspiration,” the young Rwandan said.
According to SELF, in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti, Robert Freling, SELF’s Executive Director received devastating news—‘our colleague, Walt Ratterman, had been in the Hotel Montana in Port au Prince just six minutes before the quake hit, and had not been heard from since.’
Over the next four weeks, as rescue teams struggled to search the ruins of the once esteemed hotel, they hoped that somehow—against the odds—Walt had made it through. Sadly, on Monday, February 8, we learned with certainty of his death.
There are no words to express the depth of our sorrow at this tremendous loss…
“Walt was a true solar maestro. What I loved most about Walt was his indefatigable spirit, his mountain of compassion, and his relentless drive to make the world a better place by teaching people in Rwanda, and other countries, how to tap into and draw sustenance from the boundless energy of the sun,” Freling said.
Also, Jeff Lahl, SELF’s Project Direct concurs with Uwimanaje. Lahl worked closely with Ratterman while they installed solar in various health centres. He said, “Walt was probably the best installation manager I’ve ever seen in the field.”