Marguerite L. Ryan, 95; volunteer and traveler

Marguerite L. Ryan
Marguerite L. Ryan
Posted: December 11, 2012

Marguerite L. Ryan, 95, a volunteer and traveler with an insatiable spirit of adventure, died following a series of strokes Friday, Dec. 7, at the home of her son and daughter-in-law in Havertown.

In her late 80s, Mrs. Ryan set off with her daughter on a cross-country trip to go fly fishing in Oregon. The two drove out and back in a "low-model car" without radio or air-conditioning, her family said.

"She did some of the driving, but the rest of us wished she wouldn't," said her daughter Frances. No word on whether Mrs. Ryan caught a fish.

Born in 1917, she grew up in West Philadelphia and Ardmore, graduating from West Catholic High School for Girls and in 1939 from Rosemont College, where she earned a bachelor's degree in biology.

She became certified as a medical technician and worked at Hahnemann Hospital briefly, but was open to new possibilities. In the summer of 1945, one found her.

Visiting Atlantic City Hospital, where returning World War II veterans were recovering, she met Joseph A. Ryan Sr., who had been severely injured in France. Despite his wounds and her engagement to another man, he swept her off her feet; they married in December 1945.

They raised seven children in Haverford, in a house built by Ryan, a general contractor and later manager of the Dorchester and the Savoy, both on Rittenhouse Square. He died in 1984.

The Ryans' sixth child, Rosemary, was disabled. Mrs. Ryan nursed her until Rosemary died in 1971.

Mrs. Ryan then turned her attention to the underserved. She befriended Asian families she met through volunteer work with the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

She read to the blind, and helped out in soup kitchens and homeless shelters. She was thrilled to meet Blessed Teresa of Calcutta during her 1984 visit to Norristown.

With her two sisters, she set up CAK Services, a foundation aimed at helping staff and buying books for several Catholic School libraries in West Philadelphia in the 1970s.

In 1978, at 61, Mrs. Ryan earned a master's degree in library science from Drexel University. She worked in the libraries of Villanova University and St. John Neumann Parish School.

Mrs. Ryan's life was filled with adventure. She told about visiting Cuba before she married, and the flights she logged in a single-engine plane piloted by a woman who was a volunteer Air Force flier.

"They used to just go flying after work," her daughter said.

In later years, she traveled to Paris; Germany; East Berlin, before the fall of communism; and Northern Ireland. Until last year, she traveled to California, Georgia and Maryland, where her daughters lived.

"She was the oldest person in the airport and she wouldn't take a wheelchair," her daughter said.

Mrs. Ryan was a voracious reader, and loved going to museums. She lived in Haverford, Rosemont, and, for the last 18 months in an addition son Joseph A. and wife Nancy built onto their Havertown home.

Surviving in addition to her son and daughter are four other daughters, Christine R. Viola, Mary Ann Norbom, Marguerite L., and Kathleen R. Prebble; two sisters; 12 grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.

A Funeral Mass will be celebrated at 11 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 11, at Our Mother of Good Counsel Church, 31 Pennswood Rd., Bryn Mawr. Interment is in Calvary Cemetery.

Donations may be made to Project HOME, Development Dept., 1515 Fairmount Ave., Philadelphia 19130.


Contact Bonnie L. Cook at 215-854-2611 or bcook@phillynews.com.

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