Dedicated. Generous. Witty. Tireless, Enthusiastic. Kind. Those are words that first came to mind when friends and colleagues were asked to describe John Ryan, who led the Venice Area Chamber of Commerce since 1999. Ryan, 59, died from an apparent heart attack Aug. 12 after mowing his lawn. Under Ryan’s leadership, the Venice chamber grew to 1,100 members, supported a thriving downtown and formed a young professionals group, among many accomplishments. A memorial service is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday (Aug. 19) at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church.
Ryan’s friends shared the following remembrances:
“John was a true Venice guy. I’d be hard-pressed to say there was anyone who knew more about the community or cared more about it. He was always available at a moment’s notice to help out, whether it be as a master of ceremonies or whatever. He literally touched thousands of lives and made a difference in thousands of lives.”—Evan Duke, chairman of Venice Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors
“John was a person who didn't always give you an answer; instead he gave you questions and allowed you to think it out. When you got stuck, he would be there with his hand out, not asking for anything, but to help you over the hump.”—Mayor John Holic, city of Venice
“John had a wonderful sense of humor. I remember we were at a Venice football game one night and it was unseasonably cold. I was wearing a jacket and a hat. I asked John what he thought of my hat and he replied, ‘Makes you look just like Elmer Fudd.’ I’ll always remember seeing how red he turned after saying it, but I loved it.”—Maggie Dahl, former chamber president and City Council member
“I’ve known John since the fourth grade when we were in elementary school. We both married our high school sweethearts. He just loved this community so much. I can’t recall ever going to a Venice High School football game without seeing John and his wife Anne. It seemed like if there was an event in Venice, John was either there and, more often, played a role in making it happen. He was so intelligent and witty. People just gravitated to him. Not having him there will be painfully obvious and a real hole for Venice.”—Jim Clinch, Roberts Insurance Group
“I first met John when he was 6 months old, when his family moved to Venice in 1958. John’s personality was a perfect fit for the Chamber and all its events: He was a planner; enjoyed people; always had a smile on his face; and was witty, funny and quick on his feet. He was famously told by one of our Venice High School guidance counselors that he was liable to have a hard time in life because he was ‘too social.’ John would thoroughly disagree with me saying this, but in truth, the Venice Chamber will never be the same without him. John Ryan loved Venice. For many people from nearby communities, he was who they thought of when they thought of Venice. John embodied everything that makes Venice the wonderful place it is to live. In short, John was Venice.”—Jeff Boone, attorney