Francis G. "Frank" Ryan

Error message

  • Notice: Undefined index: taxonomy_term in similarterms_taxonomy_node_get_terms() (line 518 of /home/middleton/www/www/sites/all/modules/similarterms/similarterms.module).
  • Notice: Undefined offset: 0 in similarterms_list() (line 221 of /home/middleton/www/www/sites/all/modules/similarterms/similarterms.module).
  • Notice: Undefined offset: 1 in similarterms_list() (line 222 of /home/middleton/www/www/sites/all/modules/similarterms/similarterms.module).
admin's picture

MIDDLETON–Francis G. ("Frank") Ryan Jr., died unexpectedly on April 10, 2020 of cardiac arrest.  Born and raised in Chicago, Frank graduated from Sullivan High School in 1954 and enlisted in the United States Army in 1955 where he served nearly three years.

He graduated from Marquette University in 1962 and married Claire McMahon, a teacher at Marquette, in New York City later that year.

Hired by United Press International (UPI), Frank spent two years in their Milwaukee Bureau and transferred to Madison in 1966. As Bureau Chief and political reporter, he covered the Governor's Office and State Legislature, news stories of a tumultuous era, and sports. Frank's twice weekly commentaries appeared in newspapers statewide, and he wrote for Madison Magazine.

He left UPI in 1985 and served as Press Secretary and speech writer in the Wisconsin Office of Attorney General.  He later edited the newsletter "AFSCME Reports" for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Union in Wisconsin from 1991-1998 before retiring.

In 1998, the Wisconsin Newspaper Association recognized "the exceptional contribution Mr. Ryan made to journalism in Wisconsin and the United States over a period of more than two decades." A former publisher of The Madison Capital Times referred to him as "a tough veteran of the profession who has earned the respect of anyone who has been around long enough to spot a phony."

He was President of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) of Wisconsin for several years. He was grateful for his almost five decades of sobriety, those he met along that pathway, and for the many other pro-people causes he pursued relentlessly and with unique passion.

Frank considered the 52 years he spent in his home on Cooper Avenue in Middleton a “great run.” It was there that he and Claire raised their six children and celebrated their grandchildren together. It was there that he planted the trees that still stand, and then treated each as a piece of art. It was there, in his kitchen, that he invented (“Satyr Soup”), perfected (“French Hamburgers”), regressed (liver and onions ala Frank) and fed the masses. It was there that he taught the neighborhood how to play the games he brought with him from the streets of Chicago, like peggy bounce out and lineball. From there, he reached out to the broader community often, and memorably as a youth baseball coach whose outfield shift entertained and worked to perfection all at the same time. And from there, he enjoyed extended walks into the evening with Claire, bike rides, home movies, summer vacations on Lake Jordan with his many nieces and nephews, a long trip west, and a satisfying retirement that brought more quiet time, which he never fully understood or desired.

Frank greatly valued lifelong buddies from his Rogers Park neighborhood in Chicago and former colleagues in the Capitol Press Corps, as well as friends in the Avenue lunch group.  He will always be remembered for his ability to lighten a moment. 

He was preceded in death by his wife of 44 years, Claire McMahon Ryan, and is survived by their six children:  John (Julie Lochmann) of Pewaukee, Daniel (Megan Devore) of LaCrosse, Thomas (Karen Kucera) of Middleton, James (Sandy Hilton) of Monroe, Terry (Jo Anne) of Wausau, and Sheila (Marc Wiehl) of St. Croix Falls, 10 grandchildren (Madison, Zachary, Bennett, Leo, Emmet, Natalie, Rachel, Ross, John and Alise); and his sister Kathleen Corcoran of Minnesota.

Frank is also survived by his loving partner Susan Spahn, her children Peter, Josh, Lizzie and Sarah and grandchildren Gracie, Jack, Hayden, and Owen. He lives on in their hearts as "Frank the Tank" and "FrankPa."

Frank was interred at the Farley Center Natural Path Sanctuary in Verona. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the burial was private, and plans for a celebration of Frank’s life are hoped for, but uncertain.

In lieu of flowers, any remembrances may be made in his name to NAMI of Wisconsin or the Fitchburg Serenity Club.

And walk among long dappled grass,

And pluck till time and times are done

The silver apples of the moon,

The golden apples of the sun. 

                                ~ W. B. Yeats

Rate this article: 
Average: 3.6 (5 votes)