Gerald “Jerry” P. Ryan, 82, a resident of Winthrop, died Thursday morning, January 23, 2020, at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
Jerry was born in Boston on July 18, 1937, the son of Jeremiah F. and Helen A. (Waitkus) Ryan. Raised in South Boston and Dorchester, Jerry attended Boston Latin School and Boston College. At Boston College, he found his calling and eventually joined the Little Brothers of Jesus, a Catholic fraternity inspired by the teachings of Charles de Foucauld. As part of his time with the Little Brothers, he did studies in theology in Toulouse, France.
With the Little Brothers, he lived and worked in several countries, including France, England, Chile and Bolivia, seeking to share in the lives and work of the people there, particularly among the poor, as a significant part of his calling. In doing so, he experienced firsthand the political upheaval in Chile in the early 1970s.
In Bolivia, he met and married his wife, Nayda Madrid, before moving back to the Boston area in 1980 with Nayda and their only son, Steven. Upon returning to the area, he lived in Chelsea, until the family moved to Winthrop in 2004.
For more than 30 years, he worked at the New England Aquarium as a custodian, while also serving as the union shop steward for the custodians at the site, continuing his work as an advocate for others.
Jerry was also a prolific writer, with a primary focus on theology. His works appeared in several religious publications, including Commonweal and America magazine. Some of his work revolved around his involvement with St. Mary’s Russian Orthodox Church in Chelsea, writing about his acceptance into that church community while still a devout Catholic. He continued writing and doing translation work well after his retirement from the Aquarium, including a translation from French of a biography about St. Ignatius of Loyola by Pierre Emonet, S.J.
With family and friends, Jerry is remembered for his deep conversations about faith, with his many stories about his experiences in Europe and South America. He was also an avid follower of Boston College football and hockey, maintaining a deep bond with the college where he first developed the depth of his convictions.
Jerry was a devoted husband and a loving, involved father. He formed many strong friendships while with the Little Brothers, among the “old timers” at the New England Aquarium, and with many other people who came into his life.
Jerry is survived by his wife of 42 years, Nayda A. Ryan; his son, Steven M. Ryan, and his wife, Theresa Levy, of Charlestown; his brother, William F. Ryan, and his wife, Margaret, of Mashpee; his sister-in-law, Carol Ryan, of Norwood; his niece, Susan Shaloub, of Florida; and his nephew, Paul Ryan, of Connecticut.
Jerry was preceded in death by his parents and by his brother, James J. Ryan, of Norwood.
Visitation is from 5-8 p.m. at the Smith Funeral Home, 125 Washington Ave., Chelsea, on Tuesday, January 28. A funeral Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. at St. John the Evangelist Church, Winthrop, on Wednesday, January 29. For those attending the Funeral Mass, please meet directly to church. Services will conclude with interment at Holy Cross Cemetery, Malden.
In honor of his late mother and his late mother-in-law, donations may be made in Jerry’s memory to the Alzheimer’s Association at www.alz.org.
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