Ryan to talk about family's contributions to city
The Arizona Republic
Mar. 24, 2007

 Edythe Jensen

James Ryan grew up as the oldest son of Chandler's first optometrist and worked summer jobs in farm fields.

The experience - and taking Spanish classes at Chandler High School - kept him out of the Vietnam War and likely saved his life, said Ryan, a lawyer.

He will tell the story Tuesday at the Chandler Museum as part of a series of family history talks sponsored by the Chandler Historical Society. "I was drafted in 1971 and was going to be sent to Vietnam," said Ryan, 56. Before he was deployed, he took the Army Language Aptitude Test. His high score in Spanish persuaded the military not to send him to Vietnam and to give him a national security assignment instead. "It saved my life," he said.

Working summer jobs in farm fields beside workers who spoke only Spanish helped him refine language skills taught in high school, he said.

As part of his talk, Ryan, who still lives in the city, will share his late parents' contributions to Chandler since they arrived there as newlyweds in 1949.

Dr. Joseph Ryan was the city's only optometrist until 1970, was president of the Chandler Chamber of Commerce during the 1950s and led the drive to start Chandler Community Hospital. Pat Ryan reared 11 children, served on the hospital auxiliary and was president of the Chandler Service Club.

Joseph died in 1982 at 60. Pat was 70 when she died in 2000.