James Lowell (JR) Ryan

James Lowell (JR) Ryan

James Lowell (JR) Ryan

Hollywood, FL

James Lowell (JR) Ryan (97), of Hollywood, FL, passed away peacefully on May 12, 2024. He was born to Wallace and Lucille Ryan on September 10, 1926 in Chelsea, IA. He and his younger brother, Lyle, grew up on a farm near Hartwick, IA. It was here that his values and strong work ethic were instilled. Growing up, he enjoyed playing cards, hunting, fishing, and playing baseball and basketball, both of which he coached during his teaching career.

After high school, Lowell enlisted in the Navy and served as a radarman on the USS Hancock and the USS Chicago during World War II in the South Pacific. When he returned, he attended and graduated from Central College in Pella, IA with a degree in education. During this time he met and married Marjorie Van Zante, and together they raised five children. He expanded his love of sports, taking up golf (which he played well into his 80’s) and bowling (once scoring a 299 game).

Lowell taught Industrial Arts in several small Iowa school districts while continuing his education, pursuing his Masters and Educational Specialist Degrees from the University of Iowa. He almost always worked additional jobs during the summer including de-tasseling corn, mowing cemeteries and baseball fields, driving buses and even building and running an ice cream shop. He was Superintendent of Schools in Atkins, IA, before moving to Norway, IA, in 1963. All five of his children graduated from Norway, and his love for the town and school kept him there until his retirement in 1988. He supported staff and students by attending an untold number of extracurricular school activities and treasured the honor of crossing the tassel on the cap of every graduate. His leadership spanned broader than the school district. He was recognized by the Iowa High School Athletic Association for his long-standing service, and later served as president of the Chapala Country Club. He was an active member of the American Legion in both the US and Mexico.

In 1982 he married the love of his life, Donna Jensen, adding four more siblings to the family. In 1989 JR and Donna found their paradise near Chapala, Mexico, where they lived joyously for 19 years. They moved to Plantation, FL, in 2008, and he remained in the area until his death. JR will be remembered for his love for family, leadership, kindness, quick wit, sense of humor, and love of sports and ice cream.

JR is survived by his loving wife Donna, children Rick (Sarah) Ryan, Connie (Duane) Volden, Paula Ryan, Terry (Dave) Garvin, Julie (Joe) Woods, Bryan (Betty) Jensen, Jennifer (Tom) Gundlach, Scott (Kay) Jensen, Ann (Doug) Emery, and numerous grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his parents, brother Lyle Ryan, and son Jim (Paula) Ryan. A private family service will be held at a later date.

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