On the line from Dublin, Gerry Ryan's dear friend New York hotelier john FitzPatrick sounded deeply shocked.

"We just can't believe it," he said. " Gerry was so full of life, so full of energy and commitment--now suddenly it is all gone."

FitzPatrick was recalling as so many did yesterday, one of the greats of Irish broadcasting, Gerry Ryan, who died tragically young, apparently of a heart attack, at age 53.

His death practically brought Ireland to a standstill. There are hundreds of thousands of Irish who depended on Ryan for their daily fix of gossip, pointed commentary and standing up for the little guy.

He was beloved , irreverent, a cheeky chappie and he changed Irish media forever

He was feared if you were in power and had done something wrong.

If Gerry Ryan got on your case you had reason to flee.

If you can imagine an Irish Howard Stern, who was not as nasty as racy, who skewered so many sacred cows, who kept a nation abreast of every major, fad, frolic and fantasy over the past few decades, then you have a sense of Gerry Ryan.

He was one of those who poked prodded and pushed Ireland into the modern era, who smartened up the art of media commentary and who, behind it all , had a helping hand for so many in need.

You might actually know him if you fly to Ireland on Aer Lingus. he's the guy who fronts the UNICEF ad asking you to donate spare change to help needy children all over the world.

That was just one charity that Ryan committed to wholeheartedly. He was a fixture on the charity circuit.

John Fitz and I were reminiscing about his many trips to New York especially one back in 2000 when he came to FitzPatrick's Hotel to attend a fundraiser for then President Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary.

The word to describe Ryan is cheeky, and he certainly was that night, tweaking both the president and the first lady, yet in such a way that no one was offended.

Now he is gone and a star in the Irish sky has dimmed forever.

He will be sorely missed on this side of the Atlantic too.

May he rest in peace.