In Memoriam: George Frisbie Ryan & Bruce Douglas Ryan
The rhododendron world has lost another of the stalwarts and significant contributors to the genus. George lost his battle to cancer January 25, 2004, at the age of 82. Born in Yakima, Washington, and reared on a fruit growing farm, George attended Yakima Junior College before entering Washington State College (WSC) in 1940. His education was interrupted by WWII when he entered the Armed Forces (September 1942) and was assigned as instructor of instrument flying on flight simulators. Sgt. Ryan received his honorable discharge in February 1946 and returned to WSC where he completed his BS degree in 1947 and married Beverly Riffe. They relocated to Los Angeles where George started work on his Ph.D. in horticulture at UCLA and Bruce, their only son, was born in 1950. After completing his Ph.D. in 1953, George was on the faculty of UCLA as an Assistant Professor until 1961 when he accepted a position at the citrus experiment station at the University of Florida. There he researched various methods of weed control and propagation techniques for nursery stock.
When an opportunity arose in 1967 to return to Washington, George and his family moved to Tacoma. He continued his work at the WSU Research & Extension Center in Puyallup in weed control in nurseries and highway plantings, growth regulator and nutrition effects on growth and flowering of rhododendrons and control of size and shape of other nursery stocks with growth regulators. George retired from WSU in 1983.
After returning to Washington, George became very involved in the Rhododendron Species Foundation and the Tacoma Chapter of ARS. His involvement predates even the 1973 planting of the original study garden at the RSF, as he was one of the hearty souls who helped in both its design and plant installations. George's interest arose from his involvement in the Tacoma Rhododendron Study Group and helped facilitate the species collection moving from Oregon to its present site in Federal Way. George has helped map native rhododendron populations in the Northwest as well as serving on the RSF board for six years and volunteering in the library, garden planning, research and horticulture committees. He tracked collection inventory, created the first maps of the garden and served as a docent guide to tour groups. George was also instrumental in the development, planting and caring for the Tacoma Chapter's Rhododendron Garden in Point Defiance Park in Tacoma.
Unfortunately, Bev and George lost their only son, Bruce, to cancer on January 22, 2004, in Tempe, Arizona. Bruce was a foremost research scientist and Associate Curator for the Lichen Herbarium at Arizona State University, from which he had received his Ph.D. Bruce's interest in science was nurtured and encouraged by his parents, and while living in Florida, he amassed a collection of seashells. While most would put their shells in a box or maybe on a shelf, Bruce identified, numbered and catalogued his extensive collection. Bruce was an artist of Northwest scenes but his study was of lichens. He became a well-known expert in North American lichenology. He contributed to the publication of a three volume set Lichen Flora of the Greater Sonoran Desert Region
. Both of these men will be missed by their many friends and acquaintances but most of all by Bev as the family survivor - our condolences to her.