Preparing Boys for Life

John E. Ryan '76

John E. Ryan, of Rosement, Pa., a lawyer, family man, Sunday school teacher and history buff, died Monday, Aug. 9, at Bryn Mawr Hospital, the hospital in which he was born.

John suffered a stroke in 2018 and had multiple health problems, including diabetes. He spent the past 2 ½ years as a patient at Broomall Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Broomall, Pa. The COVID-19 pandemic kept him isolated, even from his family, for almost 16 months.

John was a former partner at Obermayer Rebmann Maxwell & Hippel, a large Philadelphia law firm. He specialized in corporate and real estate law. For almost two decades he served as solicitor for the Radnor Township Zoning Hearing Board, helping the board to deal with zoning and land-use issues.

With his father, Robert Ryan, also a Philadelphia lawyer, he co-authored a chapter entitled “Federal Constraints on Land Use Planning”  in the legal journal Pennsylvania Law and Practice.

After leaving Obermayer in 2015, John worked for a smaller firm in Devon and briefly had his own law practice. He was an advisor to SunCenter Studios, a film and television production facility in Horsham, Pa.

He was a member of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania bar associations, and was admitted to practice law in federal courts.

John went to Haverford School and then majored in history at Haverford College. He earned his law degree at the University of Chicago in 1983.

After law school, John became an associate attorney at Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll in Philadelphia. It was there that he met his wife, Kathie, who was a paralegal at the firm. They were married in 1990.

John joined Obermayer in 1987 and became a partner in 1994.

He was a history buff with a deep interest in ancient history – the Roman Empire, especially. He took Kathie on a wedding trip to Italy to explore ancient ruins. On a visit to the Circus Maximus in Rome, he was asked by a couple of American students if he knew much of anything about the place they were standing at the moment. Kathie recalls: “I went and sat down, because I knew he’d be talking for quite a while.”

He loved to look for fossils in woods, hills and streams, especially in the wilderness areas of Northern Pennsylvania, where his parents had a vacation home at Eagles Mere. Places where the rock had been broken up – strip mines and road cuts, in particular – were the best hunting grounds.   

John was active in Paoli Presbyterian Church, Paoli, Pa. He was a fourth-grade Sunday school teacher, and served on the mission and outreach committee. He was part of a team that on Friday afternoons served a meal and led a short worship service at CityTeam in Chester, which serves the homeless, the addicted and others in need.

He was a member of the Union League for many years.

Besides his wife, he is survived by a daughter, Christine, of Paoli, and a son, Matthew, of Moorestown, N.J. He had two brothers – David, of Media, Pa., and Arthur, of Austin, Texas – and nieces and nephews. His father and mother, Priscilla Travers Ryan, both died in 2019.

A memorial service, to be followed by a reception, will be held at Paoli Presbyterian Church, 225 South Valley Road, Paoli, at 11 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 16. His ashes will be interred in the church’s memorial garden.