Ritter was one of the few male role models on TV during my formative years in the 70's who was both masculine and sensitive. His character, Jack Tripper, on Three's Company was the guy women wanted to date and men wanted to be buddies with. Jack was my introduction to the word "gay".
Ritter's characters were almost always tender, sympathetic and comforting. This is especially true of the character he played in his final film, Sling Blade. I like to think that those were Ritter's characteristics as well. He seemed like one of the nice ones, one of the good guys.
He was 55.