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updated: 12/2/2012 5:36 PM

John 'Jack' Ryan loved Geneva, volunteering

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  • John "Jack" Ryan, shown with his wife Martha, was a former Geneva alderman, firefighter and longtime community supporter. He died Thursday at 78.

    John "Jack" Ryan, shown with his wife Martha, was a former Geneva alderman, firefighter and longtime community supporter. He died Thursday at 78.
    Photo Courtesy of Malone Funeral Home


John "Jack" Ryan was a businessman, a proud father and one of Geneva's biggest fans.

The 78-year-old former owner of Ryan Automotive, chairman of the Geneva Chamber of Commerce board of directors and Geneva Fire Department on-call paramedic died Thursday after years of failing health.

Ryan lived in St. Charles since the mid-1990s but spent the majority of his life as an involved member of the Geneva community. And for Joan Froehlich, Ryan's daughter, his love for the city was a major part of his identity.

"He was always volunteering for the Lions Club, like for Swedish Days," Froehlich said. "He dressed up in the Lions costume in the 100-degree heat and roller skated through the parade."

He also donated his time organizing several Chamber festivals each year and running the board meetings during his 8-year tenure as chairman. He was a passionate advocate for small business owners, having been one for more than 30 years.

Jean Gaines, president of the Geneva Chamber of Commerce, said Ryan was involved in every event in town, always giving freely of his time.

"He was always joking and laughing and friendly, and people liked him a lot," Gaines said.

That sense of humor -- and his distinct laugh -- marked Ryan's time with the Geneva Fire Department, where he served as a paid on-call emergency medical technician and then paramedic for more than 25 years.

Ryan started with the fire department in 1967, according to Fire Chief Steve Olson, once his oldest sons were already mostly grown. Though he was older than many of the new recruits, Olson said Ryan was always incredibly active and had no trouble keeping up with firefighters 20 years his junior.

When the fire department purchased a mid-sized engine in the late 1970s, specially equipped for emergency medical services and extrication and rescue, it was dedicated to Ryan. The engine was just taken out of service but the plaque has been rededicated under a tree at Fire Station 1.

"The younger guys didn't have an opportunity to meet him," Olson said. "I think it's important that guys like Jack are remembered."

Ryan's service also extended to the Delnor Foundation Board and the St. Peter School Board, where his children went to elementary school. He was a longtime supporter of Geneva High School athletics, even after his kids graduated. And he served as an alderman for a few years before resigning in 1996 when he moved to St. Charles.

Ryan is survived by his second wife, Martha, as well as five of his adult children and two of Martha's daughters. He was preceded in death by his first wife Mary Ann and three of his children.

Funeral prayers will be held at 9 a.m. Dec. 4 at Malone Funeral Home, 324 E. State St., in Geneva, before a mass is celebrated at 10 a.m. at St. John Neumann Catholic Church, 2900 E. Main St., in St. Charles.

Visiting hours will be from 3 to 8 p.m. Dec. 3 at the funeral home. The family is requesting donations to the Geneva Lions Club or St. John Neumann Catholic Church in lieu of flowers.

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