Northeast Philadelphia lost a champion of the environment, an advocate of safe, clean neighborhoods and a lifelong animal lover on Friday when James J. “Jim” Ryan passed away following a sudden illness.
Perhaps best known for his longtime service as vice president of the Friends of Pennypack Park, Ryan, 70, was a Father Judge High School graduate, a Vietnam-era U.S. Navy veteran and a retired employee of the Federal Reserve Bank in Philadelphia. Ryan attended grade school at Resurrection of Our Lord Parish in Rhawnhurst and was a longtime Oxford Circle resident before settling in the Pennypack Woods community.
“All of my life, he was active in the community. Pennypack Park was his life. He was very devoted to the park and the Town Watch,” said Rosemary Mason, Ryan’s niece and goddaughter.
Ryan didn’t have children of his own, so he dedicated much of his free time to his many nieces and nephews.
“If your car broke down, he’s the one you’d call. If your dog got sick, he’s the one you’d ask for help,” Mason said. “He was my godfather and my favorite uncle. He was always there and he made you feel important.”
Ryan served numerous roles with the Friends of Pennypack Park. As vice president of public affairs, he was a primary liaison with elected officials and local police, having served on three of the four Police District Advisory Councils in the Northeast. He worked hard on the FOPP’s monthly cleanup days at various park locations and volunteered during the group’s recycling days at Lincoln High School.
According to Mason, Ryan was involved at Max Myers Playground and Town Watch activities during his years in Oxford Circle, and was a regular participant in Pennypack Woods association activities until his death. And he generally accompanied his commitment to purpose with some wry humor.
“He was the joker of the family, more of a wise Alec,” Mason said.
Outside of his volunteerism, Ryan enjoyed spending time with his longtime companion Kathy Scheiblein, visiting Wildwood, fishing and caring for his beloved dog Maggie. He is survived by sisters Marie Lamb and Bettyann Shea and many nieces, nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews. He was preceded in death by his sister Rosemary and brothers Michael and Thomas.
A viewing is scheduled for Saturday from 10 to 11 a.m. at St. Dominic’s Church, 8504 Frankford Ave., followed by a Mass celebration and burial at Resurrection Cemetery in Bensalem. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations may be made in Ryan’s name to Friends of Pennypack Park. ••