Jean Chisholm Ryan

Jean Chisholm Ryan passed away with her family by her side on September 29, 2015.  To say she had spirit would be an understatement.  Wow, what a life this strong woman lived.  She was born October 26, 1924 in Dunvegan Ontario to Kenneth Chisholm and Catherine Mary MacKinnon, and moved to Flint, Michigan at the age of three.

She attended Flint Central High School where she graduated in 1942 having been elected President of the Student Body and Indian Princess two years in a row.  She was also selected as the DAR recipient for the state of Michigan.

After high school, Jean attended Central Michigan University (CMU) and graduated in 1947.  While at Central, “Scotty” was crowned CMU’s first homecoming queen in 1946 and has been honored by the university over the years for this title. She was also elected as the first female president of CMU’s Student Body.  She was quite honored to have beaten out classmate Robert Griffin who would later serve in the United States Senate for the State of Michigan.

After graduating from Central Michigan, Jean came to St. Joseph to teach physical education at St. Joseph High School.  It was here that she met another teacher and the love of her life, Mr. Patrick Ryan.  They were married for 58 glorious years before he passed in 2008 at the age of 90.  Together they were a couple who created a powerful, positive influence in people’s lives in the Twin Cities and made this world a better place to live.

When Jean Ryan arrived in St. Joe 68 years ago she took on the community by storm. To list all of her accomplishments would take up the whole back page, so we will shorten it and say that in her day she was the “civic queen of the community.”  Jean was a natural born leader and led the charge on many projects in her 90 plus years.  One of her proudest moments was in 1958, while President of the Woman’s Service League she was elected as Mrs. Twin Cities because of all of her service work.

Jean loved to teach.  After retiring from St. Joseph High School in the early 1950’s to raise a family she returned as the Director of the YWCA where she taught an entire generation to swim.  Her physical education teaching career then took her to Bard School in Benton Harbor, Gard School in St. Joseph and her final stop was at Blossomland Learning Center in Berrien Springs where her teaching techniques won state wide acclaim for progressive programming with special education students.

Jean lived a colorful life, which included her clothing.  Because she spent so many years in “gym clothes,” she became quite fashion forward in her older years.  She loved all her clothes, shoes and accessories and was very proud to enter a room and have people compliment her on her classy and flashy style.

We cannot finish this brief life story without mentioning her beloved “bridge game.”  Jean was a professional duplicate bridge player having received her gold life masters in 2012.  This achievement took her 40 plus years to achieve.  It was her highest honor. She loved competition and receiving her “gold” was a goal that kept her going for many years.  She continued to play bridge right up until one week prior to her death with a wonderful group who came to her every Wednesday at The Willows.  Her knack for cards never let her down.

Jean had a wonderful celebration in October 2014 when her family and friends celebrated her 90th birthday.  She exclaimed that this was one of the most special days of her life.

Jean had tremendous love for her children, grand children, great grandchildren and many surrogate children.  She is survived by her four children Shelley (Tim) Sunday, Packy (Miyako) Ryan, Mike Ryan and Ann (John) Donahue, 8 grandchildren, Rei, Patrick, Chisholm, Kingsley and Nick Ryan, Katie Ryan (Dan) Burt, Jack and Molly Donahue and great grandchildren Cameron and Monroe Burt. Jeans sister Joyce Chisholm and brother Keith Chisholm, niece Jill Thresher, great nephew Eric Thresher and nephew Craig Chisholm.

We say “Sail on Mom and dazzle them in heaven.”  From our heart to yours we end with your favorite closing, Mizpah, May the Lord watch between thee and me, while we are absent one from the other.  

Visitation will be at Starks & Menchinger Family Funeral Home on Sunday, October 18, 2015 from 5:00-7:00p.m.  Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at St. Joseph Catholic Church on Monday, October 19, 2015 at 11:30a.m. followed by lunch at the Rose Center.  Private burial will follow at Resurrection Cemetery.  Memorial donations in Jean’s name may be made to St. Joseph Public Schools foundations or Area 17 Special Olympics.  Those wishing to sign Jean’s Memory Book online may do so at