I asked my friend and former colleague Penny Pullen to jot down some thoughts about Lura Lynn Ryan. She was gracious enough to do so.
We have lost a great lady in Lura Lynn Ryan, former First Lady of Illinois, who passed away this week after a lengthy struggle with chronic lung diseases and finally cancer.
Mrs. Ryan was well known to most who knew her husband George, as she was frequently at his side, not only during his business and local government careers in Kankakee but also during his lengthy tenure in the Illinois House and his service as Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State and ultimately Governor.
Their deep, abiding love serves as a model for their six children and for all who have counted the Ryans as friends.
In a sense, Lura Lynn was the last First Lady Illinois has known, since Gov. Quinn is divorced and Patti Blagojevich maintained her life in Chicago while her husband commuted back and forth between home and Springfield.
Not only did the Ryans live in the Governor’s Mansion near the Capitol in Springfield; Lura Lynn supervised the restoration of the Mansion and in 2003 co-authored a book on the then 148-year history of the home which Illinois citizens provide for the state’s chief executive.
She devoted herself to a passion she shared with her husband in seeking to rescue young people from addictions, chairing and actively coordinating a campaign among professional Chicago role-model athletes called Sports Teams Organized to Prevent Substance Abuse (STOP-Substance Abuse).
Most of all, she was George’s cherished wife and partner, and her heroic court appearances to seek mercy for her husband and plead for their reunion before her death may have melted – toward her, at least – even the most bitter attackers of the imprisoned former Governor.
Her passing before his release is tragic to those of us who have loved her.
And we pray for strength for her husband and all their family. Hers is indeed a great loss.
When George would host dinners at his Springfield home, I would often end up talking to Lura Lynn. I remember admiring her gold earring jackets. She showed me where to get them and a duplicate set ended up a gift for my wife.
Lura Lynn also spearheaded the publication of a book about the work of Illinois artisans. When I got to buy cut crystal from Kurt Strobach in Crystal Lake, I see a copy of that, plus a gracious letter about the quality of his work from the former First Lady.