By Kristen Miller
COKATO, MN Months prior to his sudden death, Jim Ryan had been considered for the Chamber of Commerce annual Outstanding Citizen Award.
Cokato Chamber President Mona Strolberg is a member of Stockholm Lutheran Church, as was Ryan.
“I saw how much he has done for the community,” Strolberg commented. “Plus, he was a very sweet man.”
Ryan’s death at the age of 76 only confirmed to the chamber board that he was the best person for this year’s award.
During Tuesday’s recognition program, Cokato Chamber Treasurer Jarod Sebring stated that there are those few people who stand above the rest and exemplify what an outstanding citizen really is. Ryan was one of them.
“Jim was the shining example of what small-community people are like,” Sebring said.
Ryan’s wife of 51 years, MaryAnn, accepted the award during Tuesday’s luncheon, saying that her husband would’ve been very touched and honored to receive it.
Son Jon Ryan said his father was much too modest and would’ve said someone else was more deserving of the honor than he was.
Locally, Ryan served on several boards throughout the years, including the Wright County Fair Board and Crow River Insurance Board.
He also served two terms on the Cokato Historical Society Board, where he enjoyed driving the museum’s antique snowmobile in the annual Upper Midwest Model-T Snowmobile Rally, Sebring noted. Ryan was also a member of the American Legion Post 209 in Cokato.
Ryan was someone who could always be counted on to lend a hand.
“He was just very good at saying ‘yes’ to whatever needed to get done,” said Cokato Corn Carnival Chair Dorene Erickson, who added that he always had his shift at the corn stand, and was also willing to help out wherever else he was needed.
Since 1966, Ryan was a devoted member of Stockholm Lutheran Church, where he served in various roles including Sunday school superintendent, choir member, and on the church council.
“He was probably one of the most natural evangelists,” said Stockholm’s pastor, the Rev. Mark Little, who was also good friends with Ryan.
Little also recalled someone asking Ryan where his favorite place to go was, and Ryan answered, “Wherever people are.”
“I thought that was just a remarkable testament of who he was he just loved people,” Little said.
Ryan is also known for his love of tractors. He helped organize the first Stockholm Tractor Show, which is now in its seventh year. This was also a time to show off his collection of Massey-Harris tractors.
Bob Johnson, a member of Stockholm and friend of Ryan, said he “became a force to make [the tractor show] bigger and better,” sharing ideas at morning and afternoon coffee.
A farmer his entire life, Ryan and his family of five were nominated in 1992 for the Wright County Farm Family of the Year award.
As a person, Ryan “could strike up a conversation with anybody,” said his brother, Paul.
His daughter-in-law, Rita, said he was one of the kindest men she has ever met.
He was also a great dad and grandfather, said his daughter Marilyn Irvin.
“He always wanted to be involved, especially with my kids,” she said.
Ryan passed away Sept. 18 while doing what he loved to do farming.