In Memory of

John "Jack" Dee Ryan

January 26, 1939 - February 17, 2021
From: Spencer, IA
John "Jack"  Dee Ryan

John "Jack" Dee Ryan

Born: January 26, 1939
Died: February 17, 2021
Age: 82

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     Jack Ryan, 82, passed away peacefully on Wednesday, February 17th after a hard fought battle with melanoma. 

   Jack was born in Creston, IA on January 26th, 1939 to Edward and Bernice Ryan. He grew up on the family farm outside of Lenox, where he also spent time with his grandmother, traveling by horse-and-buggy to deliver piano lessons. At a young age, Jack discovered, like his grandmother, he was blessed with the gift of perfect pitch. Growing up, Jack attended Lenox schools, where he was a successful multi-sport athlete, with baseball among the favorites, and talented musician who specialized in the trumpet. 

      Jack attended Northwest Missouri State University (“Go Bearcats!”) where he met the love of his life, Karen, playing in the band. Karen and Jack were married after Jack’s service in the United States Air Force, where he traveled the world and played in the Air Force band. 

 After their wedding on July 25th, Jack and Karen moved to Berthoud, CO, where, Jack liked to say, “Karen put me through school” while he completed his Master of Arts in Teaching with a focus on instrumental music at Colorado State University (“Go Rams!”). Our avid sports fan loved to watch CSU and NWMSU football, Notre Dame football and basketball, Dodgers baseball, Bears football, and of course, our Iowa teams in all sports. 

      After finishing his Master’s degree, Jack and Karen settled in Spencer, IA, where they devoted their lives to the school and community. Jack used his gifts for music and teaching to develop an award-winning band program and mentor countless students and All-State instrumentalists for over fifty years. Jack also found ways to continually give back to the community, serving the local school board, running for Iowa State Senate, playing bass in local gigs at the Lakes, volunteering for various service organizations, and playing echo taps for area servicemen and women. 

      Jack was preceded in death by his beloved wife, Karen, and parents, Edward and Bernice. He is survived by his sister, Gingi (Robert) Haag, nephews, Cory (Tiffany) Haag and Michael (Gina) Haag, niece Jaclyn (Ken) Easter, grandnieces Kayla, Michelle, Rowyn, and Cleo, and grandnephew, Elliot. 

      Jack’s gifts have inspired generations of musicians and teachers, of which his legacy is immortalized. In lieu of flowers, funeral expense donations are greatly appreciated. Monetary donations can be made to The Family of Jack Ryan and sent to 2814 Pinewood Avenue, Orient, IA 50858. 

Private Graveside Services will be held on Friday, March 13, 2021 at Riverside Cemetery in Spencer.

Military Services will conducted by the American Legion Glen Pedersen Post #1 and the Clay County Post #3159.
Riverside Cemetery
Spencer, Iowa


Friday, March 12, 2021 at 12:04 PM
“Jack and Karen had a significant impact on our lives; from Student Teacher to Vocal Music Teacher to helping us become part of the Spencer Community. That distinct chuckle / laugh, quick wit and those spontaneous Dairy Queen trips will be missed but remembered. Heaven's brass section just gained another great! Rest in peace and GO BEARS!

- Denise and Loren Reit
Wednesday, February 24, 2021 at 2:57 PM
“I grew up with Jack and Karen as neighbors. Many evenings I could hear Jack practicing his trumpet and, when I was in the third grade, he convinced me to give it a try. Jack singlehandedly saved me from a lifetime of having to play the violin. For that, I am eternally grateful (but my Grandma Grace never forgave him). He helped raise a couple generations of musicians, including Jenny and me. More than a band leader, he was a leader. Marching to the cemetery each hot, steamy Memorial Day in those godawful wool band uniforms following all of the hot, steamy horses and whatnot developed character. It also was Jack's wee bit of revenge over those of us who would goof off during band. That's what he said, anyway. In later years, Jack and I would meet at the cemetery to watch Kurt's band march in. Jack Ryan is missed and will be missed by many. Our sincere sympathies to his family.”
- Steve and Jenny Rindsig
Monday, February 22, 2021 at 8:15 PM
“I was so sad to hear of Mr. Ryan’s passing. He was one of he kindest, most genuine people I have ever known. He had an infectiously positive outlook on life. I always appreciated not only his musical talents, but also how he was able to find the balance between discipline and letting us band kids get away with minor infractions. He was certainly “one of the good guys.” Spencer lost a good one. Godspeed, Mr. Ryan.”
- Kirk Johnson
Monday, February 22, 2021 at 11:38 AM
“I am grateful for having known and worked with Jack. We worked together in the schools of Spencer and played gigs together all over northwest Iowa. I enjoyed spending many evenings at his house watching bowl games! Thank you Jack for all you have shared with so many!”
- Dan Hatfield
Monday, February 22, 2021 at 7:47 AM
“Sending our condolences. Jack was an amazing, joy-filled man who 'shared the wealth' with his quick wit and kind heart. The world could use more Jack Ryans. ”
- Susan & Tim Christensen
Monday, February 22, 2021 at 7:47 AM
“Mr. Ryan was one of those special people that always worked to make others feel special. One of his favorite ways to do that, which somehow always managed to be surprising, was to remember a birthday with a story about a bird. "I was driving to the school when I noticed a little bird on the side of the road. And that little bird had a little note in its little beak. And that little note said that it was Scott's birthday today. Let's all sing happy birthday!" And then the entire Spencer High School Band would sing. He modeled that excellence can be fun, and the best example of that was the Pep Band. The music went far beyond the school fight song to include Tusk, Proud Mary, Gospel John, 25 Or 6 To 4, and Sweet Georgia Brown. I can still hear him playing the trumpet descant parts from the press box in the field house. And of course I remember when he played his trumpet at my wedding even though it was a frigid winter day at twenty-nine degrees below zero. He always put students first, and that was a great example for me when I started teaching. Thank you, Mr. Ryan!”
- Scott Woelber
Sunday, February 21, 2021 at 12:12 PM
“We are sorry for your loss of Jack. We had many good discussions and Jack was always fun to be with. We will miss him at the military functions . Our thoughts and prayers are with you. Mike and Mary Monroe”
- Mike & Mary Monroe
Saturday, February 20, 2021 at 10:30 AM
“I'm so sad to hear of Mr. Ryan's death. Under the definition of "a great guy", you'll see Jack's name. He helped me in many ways not only as his student, but also how to appreciate other people and be a caring human being. Beyond band, he took a sincere interest in my other activities and supported me in so many ways. I'm so very sorry he has passed on, but I am relieved his pain has ended and that he is now reunited with Karen. Rest in peace, my friend....”
Friday, February 19, 2021 at 7:14 PM
“Jack brought joy to many with his clear, crisp trumpet's song; I always enjoyed the fact that he shared his gifts so freely! To his friends and loved ones, my sincere sympathy. ”
- Marcia Steffen
Friday, February 19, 2021 at 3:07 PM
“So I was musically not, and going through the Spencer School system there were always two people you knew Jack and Karen. I was never a student of Jack but that never stop him from greeting you in the hall, stopping for chit chat, as he always took an interest in you and yours. Jack had the memory of elephant and the heart of a lion, and truly adored Karen. As life progressed Jack and I joined the school board at the same time, I really got to know Jack and Karen and seeing his absolute love for everyone and their wants and needs. In life we get the gift to know and learn about others as I watched and interacted with Jack, he was one never to shy away from a conversation or a chance to learn about others. I know my family is great full for knowing Jack and I am honored to have called Jack my friend, to Jack I say blow that horn.”
- The Joel Wassom Family
Friday, February 19, 2021 at 11:53 AM
“Mr. Ryan was one of my favorite teachers! No matter how many years have gone by, every time I saw him he always remembered me and remembered exactly what instrument I played. I will miss seeing him out and about and catching up with him. He will be greatly missed!”
- Jessica Rydell
Friday, February 19, 2021 at 9:45 AM
“deepest condolences from our family to yours ”
- Steve & Rhonda Essick
Friday, February 19, 2021 at 9:45 AM
“I'm so sad to hear of Mr. Ryan's passing. He was easily one of the most personable and fair-minded persons I have ever known. He was impossible to dislike. As much as I enjoyed his musical talents, I appreciated his willingness to let us kids "bend the rules" a bit when it wouldn't cause any harm. He was clearly "one of the good guys." Spencer has lost a great one. God speed, Mr. Ryan.”
- Kirk Johnson
Friday, February 19, 2021 at 9:45 AM
“First time I met Jack was in the mid 80's during one of the first flagfest events I drove the semi during the parade hauling the dixie land band along with another great from Spencer Joe Carroll. Jack you touched alot of hearts I will never forget you”
- Gary Hoefling
Thursday, February 18, 2021 at 4:03 PM
“Jack put the perfect touch on our wedding with his music, and at so many Easter celebrations at Trinity. He had a way with that trumpet! He will be missed. Keeping family and friends in our thoughts and prayers. ”
- Tami and Dale Kroll
Thursday, February 18, 2021 at 4:03 PM
“We were neighbors and friends of Jack and Karen's for over 40 years. There were many lively conversations about a great many things and shared our love for animals -- caring for the strays, birds, mother nature. We all tried to make a positive difference in their lives. After Karen passed, we grew closer to Jack and as neighbors we checked on each othes welfare and made sure all was well. Looking across the street at the Ryan house is very sad right now. Jack loved his home and in our hearts it will always be "the Ryan house". Our sympathy to the famly. ”
- Dr. Paul and Patricia Martin
Thursday, February 18, 2021 at 4:03 PM
“Band was the high light of my high school years due to Mr. Ryan. After 43 years I still have my trumpet and a love of all music. I think spent every study hall in the band room doing everything but studying. Thanks Jack for all your years at Spencer High and all the lives you touched.”
- Don Hypse
Thursday, February 18, 2021 at 4:03 PM
“Jack touched so many lives and I am blessed to have known him and worked with him these past 34 years. From school, to a musical pit or in the Municipal Band - Jack passed along his love of teaching and music. I will miss him and think of him often, especially every downbeat of municipal band - he won't be there in the back smiling and encouraging me along. It brings peace and a smile to know he is with his love, Karen. ”
- Janet Boyens
Thursday, February 18, 2021 at 4:02 PM
“I remember from 4th grade through 6th grade, Mr. Ryan was my private band teacher. He was such a joy to work with and it breaks my heart knowing he has passed away. I am so sorry for the family and am sending many prayers for everyone. Mr. Ryan had the biggest heart and was always joking and enjoying his life. Many many prayers to all. ”
- Sydney Brosnahan
Thursday, February 18, 2021 at 8:04 AM
“Jack always laughed when I referred to Karen as our “Grammar Queen”. I guess that made Jack our “Band King.” He spoke often and with great pride of his band students and their adult successes. It was ‘music to his ears’ to hear from former students, or to receive updates about then from their parents. His band students, wife Karen, and their favorite cat “Bix” were devoted to him. ”
- Jan Myers
Thursday, February 18, 2021 at 8:04 AM
“Jack was such a huge influence on so many music students. He passed on his love for instruments and dedication and perseverance as well. His heart led him to play taps for so many fallen soldiers, including our brother, who looked up to him. Rest in peace Jack.”
- Lance and Shirley Selzer
Thursday, February 18, 2021 at 8:04 AM
“Jack Ryan was a kind and gentle man with a great talent for teaching music to students of all ages and making them feel treasured and loved. My first encounter with him was when I was in Junior High and seriously damaged my oboe by mistake. The Jr. High band director required that I be the one to tell Mr. Ryan about the accident and apologize. Even though I was frightened about how he would react, he was very understanding and even allowed me to continue playing under his baton in High School concert band and marching band, as well as community band and summer band after I graduated. I pray God's comfort and peace for all of his family and friends. He will be missed, but never forgotten. RIP Jack and I'll see you again someday, directing God's great band in Heaven, with your beloved Karen by your side. ”
- Barb Jones
Thursday, February 18, 2021 at 8:04 AM
“Jack, a favorite memory is the last Ryan Reunion we had and your words of "It's great to be a Ryan." And now you are with Karen and I wish you both well.”
- Theresa Ryan Hocking
Thursday, February 18, 2021 at 8:04 AM
“If someone would ask me who as a teacher made the biggest impact on my life, I would unequivocally answer “my high school band director., Mr Ryan.” He was encouraging, the perfect mentor and improved my self esteem while teaching me to master the flute. I was “1st Chair” for most of my band years and that was solely because of his instruction and guidance. He was never harsh when I failed and so complimentary when I succeeded. My condolences on your loss of Jack. He was a talented “one of a kind” gentleman. Thank you Mr Ryan...for everything! ”
- Rochelle Lamport
Thursday, February 18, 2021 at 8:04 AM
“god bless and keep you and your family”
- John and Cathy Kirschbaum
Thursday, February 18, 2021 at 8:04 AM
“So sorry to hear of Jack's passing. Spent many years playing in the Spencer community band under his direction. Also, a fair number of Flag Fest parades and the Dick Baumann Big Band. He will be missed.”
- Rodney Shedenhelm
Thursday, February 18, 2021 at 8:03 AM
“Sympathy to family n friends,”
- Maureen Horsley
Thursday, February 18, 2021 at 8:03 AM
“Mr. Ryan was with out a doubt my favorite high school teacher. He was the type of teacher that could both inspire you to be better and still be able to let you know when you've gone astray. He was a kind man with a quick witt who could always make me smile. My deepest condolences to the family. I'll miss you Mr. Ryan”
- J.S.W. Duncan
Thursday, February 18, 2021 at 8:03 AM
Wednesday, February 17, 2021 at 4:35 PM
“I am truly saddened by the passing of one of the greatest men I have ever known next to my father. He always brought out the best in everyone around him, including me. A kind and gentle man that the world will feel the absence of. Prayers to the family and everyone else struggling with this huge loss. ”
- Scott Smith
Wednesday, February 17, 2021 at 4:06 PM
“So sorry to hear about Jack. I learned so much from him in band, he gave me a life long love of music. ”
- Linda Norgaard
Wednesday, February 17, 2021 at 4:06 PM
“Praying for the family ”
- Jessica elg
Wednesday, February 17, 2021 at 4:06 PM
“So very sorry to hear of Mr. Ryan's passing. I had him, in what I believe was his first year in Spencer schools. He came over to North school and gave lessons. I think I remember we were in a furnace room. Lol He was a great human being and fantastic teacher. R.I.P Jack.”
- Jan Rusk
Wednesday, February 17, 2021 at 4:06 PM
“Jack and I used to enjoy some great political debates when he would stop into my office to chat or at coffee. He played taps at both my Husband's and Brother's funerals. He played in Bands for many of our Arts on Grand events. He and Karen were lovers of animals and adopted several pets they gave a loving home to. Jack had a great spirit for the Spencer community and shared his talents generously. He will be greatly missed. ”
- Barbara Workman Schneider
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