Maplewood mourns Jerry Ryan’s death

Jerry Ryan

MAPLEWOOD, NJ — Maplewood lost a longtime resident and civil servant on May 27. Former Mayor and Committeeman Gerard “Jerry” Ryan, 59, died in his Maplewood home after succumbing to a three-year battle with cancer. 

Ryan was first elected to the Township Committee in 1992, ultimately serving 19 years as a committeeman; he was the youngest person ever to be elected to the committee. He was also the town’s youngest mayor, serving for three years from 1998 through 2000. On top of his elected service, Ryan served 23 years on the Maplewood Planning Board, including five years as board chairman, a position in which he was still serving at the time of his death. For a complete obituary, visit here.

“Jerry Ryan loved life and he was good at it. He was very smart, very funny and very friendly. Jerry had a big, bold personality — when you were in a room with him, you knew it and you enjoyed it. Chances are he made you laugh. His friends were many and devoted. He had political foes, but it was never personal with Jerry. In the end, his personality usually transcended politics,” former Mayor Fred Profeta told the News-Record. “I served with Jerry for many years on the Maplewood Planning Board and the Township Committee. He was always quick at analyzing the core aspects of the problem at hand and cutting to the chase. Much of what we value today in Maplewood we can trace to Jerry’s contributions — from his support for the arts, to the Community Coalition on Race, to the town’s special improvement districts. Jerry Ryan will be sorely missed. But his legacy, of deeds and character, will last.”

With 25 years of shared history, former Mayor and current Committeeman Vic DeLuca said he will remember Ryan for his welcoming attitude and willingness to tackle any issue for the good of Maplewood.

“Jerry Ryan made a positive difference in my life and in the lives of so many others. I met Jerry in 1995, and two years later we became political partners, running as Democrats for the Township Committee. I’ll never forget how supportive Jerry was of me and how willing he was to have a newbie join him on the ticket. Campaigning door-to-door, day-after-day allowed us to create a lasting bond and deepened our shared commitment to public service,” DeLuca told the News-Record. “I am proud to say that my first vote on the Township Committee was for Gerard W. Ryan as mayor of Maplewood. As mayor and then Planning Board chair, Jerry was a consistent and effective leader in guiding decisions that impacted the future of our community.

“Jerry loved Maplewood,” DeLuca continued. “Jerry gave his heart and soul to our town and its people. At 59 years of age, Jerry left us too early.

Former Deputy Mayor Kathleen Leventhal also fondly remembers Ryan’s role in her Maplewood political career.

“As a true Irishman, Jerry gave a long, good fight to cancer,” Leventhal told the News-Record. “As mayor, back in the ’90s, he appointed me to a volunteer committee. Fast-forward about a decade to find us running mates for the Township Committee. Jerry’s thoughtfulness about Maplewood’s issues was very respectful. Whether he agreed with you or not, he explained the whys and wherefores of his decision-making. Many times after a meeting, Jerry would share more in his funny, to-the-point way as we bent elbows together. Mayor Ryan passed from the rest of Maplewood much too soon.”

Current Mayor Frank McGehee recalled Ryan’s big heart, amazing wit, respect for others and contagious laugh.

“One of his last public acts is one that I will never forget. In March, to commemorate Women’s History Month, I asked Jerry if he would be able to come to the Township Committee meeting and read a proclamation which quoted his very own words the night he nominated our first woman mayor, Ellen Davenport,” McGehee said. “He was fighting his illness, but told me he would do his best. The night of the meeting, Jerry was not present initially. But as the moment of the proclamation approached, Jerry was there. He showed up and read his original words beautifully and from his heart. It was very moving for all who were in the chamber that evening.

“That is my last memory of Jerry — the ever-present person who embodied the essence of community service, especially to and for his beloved Maplewood. Whatever the ask, he was always there. Jerry will be missed very deeply, but his incomparable legacy will live on for generations to come.”

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