Sunday, January 12, 2014

Taps For USCGA Grad From Memphis

John Richard Ryland(December 14,1945 - December 04, 2013)
December 17, 1945 - December 4, 2013
December 17, 1945 - December 4, 2013

The news of the deaths of my classmates from CGA'68 effected me tremendously, but none as much as the news of the passing of Johnnie Ryland. His passing struck a sensitive nerve. It hit home more so than the news of anyone else; even, Ray Wilcox, and he had saved my life along with M Blue Livesey in June 1964 at the Connecticut College swimming pool.

Johnnie Ryland was special to me. He was unique. We had a relationship that I did not have with any other human being on the planet Earth. We knew each other from 1963 when we were interviewing for the Coast Guard Academy Class of 1968. The interviews were run out of the same office in Memphis, Tennessee.

This does not seem strange today, but back then all the schools in Tennessee were segregated under a strict code of Jim Crow Laws. I attended Woodstock High School, also called Shelby County Training School. It was out in the boondocks. And John attended Christian Brothers High School in down town Memphis.

John had a car and I did not. I cannot remember if we were interviewed by the same Coast Guard Commander, or whether we finished at the same time. The fact of the matter is that we were leaving at the same time, and John offered to drive me back to my school. This was highly unusual and quite a surprise. We kept in contact after that.

John was offered a "Principal" Appointment initially and I was given an "Alternate" appointment. I would only receive a Principal Appointment if some one above me on the List declined his appointment. Then the Dean of Admissions would go down the List until some one else accepted. On the day before I was scheduled to graduate from high school, I received a telegram offering me a Principal Appointment. I was excited.

There were four high school graduates from Memphis that were offered Principal Appointments to the USCGA that year; John Ryland, Clifford King, James Smith and, myself, London Steverson. We were all booked on the same American Air Lines flight out of Memphis for New London, Connecticut. I met the other two cadet appointees for the first time at the airport. I believe that Clifford King is the only one who did not graduate and retire from active duty as a commissioned Coast Guard officer.

John Ryland and I were roommates for the first two weeks of Swab Summer. After that we were assigned new roommates.

We hitch-hiked across Florida, Alabama and Georgia on our first leave home in 1964. This was at the height of the Civil Rights Movement. We experienced some scary moments up close and personal on that hiking trip. We flew "space available" on a military hop to Florida. I think it was Jacksonville, Florida. We decided to hitch hike from there to Memphis. That was not the smartest decision to make at that time. We thought we were invincible and could do anything; so, we braved it. I was young and dumb. I would not do that today. One person who picked us up could have passed for The Imperial Wizzard of the KKK. In my bones I believe he was a member. John sat in the front seat next to the driver, and I sat in the back. He talked to John as if I was not even in the car. The driver told John, "Yes, our Governor (George Wallace) he's going to fix this here nigger problem." Some time later when John and I were discussing how scary that ride was through Alabama, John said guy must have assumed that I was a dark Italian. We were joking, of course.

We made it home in one piece. I flew back to the Academy on a military hop from the U S Naval and Marine Corps Air Technical Training Center at Millington, Tennessee.

(Obituary Published in The Seattle Times)
John Richard Ryland. In his home, with his wife and children praying him through his transition, John

passed on to his new home on December 4, 2013. The son of Jesse J. and Mary Jane Ryland, John was

born on December 17, 1945 in Jacksonville, Florida where his father was stationed in the Navy. John

graduated in 1964 from the Christian Brothers High School in Memphis, Tennessee and from the United

States Coast Guard Academy in 1968
. He served in the Coast Guard for 22 years before retiring with the

rank of Commander. John then joined the Port of Seattle as a Civil Engineer where he enjoyed his job and

his coworkers immensely.

John loved life and lived it fully with integrity and purpose, vigor, generosity, and a wonderful sense of

humor. He responded with enthusiasm and an emphatic "yes" each time God put it on his heart to reach

out to others using his God given gifts, talents and abilities. Some of these "yeses" included 28 years as a foster parent, providing

a home for immigrants, cooking meals and providing financial assistance for the care of persons without homes, reading books on

tapes for college students who were blind, assisting with facility maintenance at church, and proclaiming God's Word at Mass.

John is survived by Martha, his wife of 44 years, his brother Michael Ryland of Memphis TN, his children Patrick Morris Ryland of

Kent, WA, Stephen David Ryland of Renton, WA, and Theresa Ryland Warfield of Kent WA, and his grandchildren; Isaiah Michael

Ryland, Jamie Gabriel Warfield, Virginia Marita Warfield, James Ronin Ryland, Sean Magnus Ryland, Michael Xavier Ryland, and

David Ezekiel Ryland.

A Mass celebrating John's life was held December 13 at Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Kent followed by interment at St. Patrick's

Catholic Cemetery in Kent. The family requests that remembrances be made to St. Martin de Porres shelter in Seattle or to

Catholic Community Services.

Published in The Seattle Times from Jan. 4 to Jan. 5, 2014



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