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Ryan loved playing roles

June 15, 2008|By MARLO BARNHART

Editor's note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail publishes "A Life Remembered." This continuing series takes a look back - through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others - at a member of the community who died recently. Today's "A Life Remembered" is about Warren Douglas Ryan Jr., who died June 3 at the age of 39. His obituary was published in the June 7 edition of The Herald-Mail.

Like a character in the 1947 movie "Miracle on 34th Street," Warren Douglas Ryan Jr. didn't need any padding when he dressed up as Santa Claus.

W.D., as he was known to family and friends, also had no shortage of heart when he read the letters to Santa on a local television station one Christmas.

"Everyone always said he was so outgoing and such a great storyteller," said his wife, Frances, who met her future husband in 1996 through their shared activities with the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA).

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Frances, who is from Salisbury, Md., was attending an SCA event in Pennsylvania that drew more than 10,000 members of the international society dedicated to preserving ancient traditions.

"I was in the kitchen doing dishes when I first saw him," she said. "I noticed his eyes ... he had great eyes."

Through their association with the society, W.D. earned the title of The Honorable Lord Adam of Erin, and Frances was The Honorable Lady Lucrezia di Francesca.

Two years later, they met again. This time, W.D. was baking bread and Frances was polishing silver, again at a society function. She came to Hagerstown with him for Thanksgiving dinner and never went home.

The couple were married in a civil ceremony that December, Frances said. The next summer, the couple had a "society" wedding in all of their traditional finery.

For the next nine years, the couple lived in Hagerstown. W.D. was employed by Citicorp for 13 years, and for a while, Frances worked there, too, only on a different shift.

Growing up the youngest of three children, W.D. was described by his mother as a good child.

"He obeyed me and respected me," Eva Ryan said.

Eva remembered that as a youth, W.D. often would go to the homes of friends to play Dungeons and Dragons - an early hint of his love of role-playing.

"I always told him to be home by midnight," Eva said. One time, he lost track of time, was driving home after midnight and was struck by a drunken driver.

Eva said he learned that lesson well, and even after he and Frances were married, they rarely were out late at night.

In high school and junior college, W.D. performed in a number of plays.

"He was Captain Hook in 'Peter Pan' while he was still in high school," Eva said. "All the kids would squeal when he came on stage."

Just 39 when he died on June 3, W.D.'s health began to decline because of a blood infection. He managed to travel to Mississippi in March for an SCA re-enactment, and he continued to work until April.

"He was tired a lot and his legs hurt, but he never grumbled, even when he felt bad," Frances said.

W.D. made wine at home, and was a musician and blacksmith. He even crafted his own armor for his society events.

"There are two unfinished helmets at the house, and he had just restrapped his armor," Frances said.

On Saturday, members of the Highland Foorde gathered at the Jonathan Hager House at City Park in Hagerstown for the annual Renaissance Festival.

Late in the afternoon, a solemn ceremony was planned where W.D.'s shield, armor and helmet would be paraded during a memorial to their fallen comrade - The Honorable Lord Adam of Erin.

Frances said an award was to be presented posthumously for W.D.'s devotion to the society and his fellow members.

This Saturday, a memorial service in honor of W.D. will be at 2 p.m. at the Wilson Ruritan, Frances said. A covered dish meal is planned, then society members will gather to tell stories and celebrate W.D.'s life.

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