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R. John Ryan Jr.

October 21, 1951 ~ September 30, 2023 (age 71) 71 Years Old

R. John Ryan Jr. Obituary

NEW SALEM- R. John Ryan, Jr. of New Salem, Massachusetts, died September 30, 2023, age 71, from complications of Progressive Supranuclear Palsy.

Born in Calais, Maine to Ralph John Ryan, Sr., and Marie Rose (McCurdy) Ryan, John grew up in Woodland, Maine and graduated from Woodland High School in 1970. He was active in the Boy Scouts of America, achieving the rank of Eagle Scout and other scouting awards.

John graduated from Bates College, Lewiston, Maine, in 1974, studied art at Kent State University, and earned a M.B.A from Suffolk University. A job in the 1970s CETA (Comprehensive Employment and Training Act) program with Maine’s City of Calais Economic Development Department launched a long career in community development. He moved to Massachusetts in 1977 to work for the Franklin County Commissioners, first as Economic Development Director, then Planning Director. In 1981 he became Greenfield’s Town Planner and was involved in numerous revitalization projects, among them streetscape improvements to Main Street, establishment of the Greenfield Industrial Park as well as conversion of the vacant Millers Falls Tool plant into the Mill House apartments. He also worked in economic development for the Dukakis Administration, Westfield 2000, and the Franklin County Community Development Corporation. In 1997, John established his own business, Breezeway Farm Consulting, which specializes in municipal grant writing and administration for cities and towns throughout Massachusetts.

John loved to travel and spent three semesters of his Bates years in Paris and Edinburgh, exploring much of Europe. Later adventures included more travel to Europe and the Caribbean. In 1991, the purchase of Breezeway Farm in New Salem – which included a horse, harness, and buggy – began John’s involvement in the world of carriage driving. He traveled New England with his Morgan horse Shadrack to participate in driving horse endurance and carriage competitions. John donated his professional skills as a longtime volunteer for the Town of New Salem, where he served on the Finance and Capital Improvements Committees, as the town’s representative to several committees of the Franklin Regional Council of Governments, and as Treasurer of the Friends of the New Salem Public Library. He chaired Building Committees for renovations of the New Salem Academy Building, Public Library, and Swift River School.

John also enjoyed participating in theater, acting in and constructing sets for numerous productions at Bates as well as the Dorothy Johnson/Andy Lichtenberg musicals produced at New Salem’s 1794 Meetinghouse. He was proud to call himself a good Democrat, having served for many years as a member of the New Salem Democratic Town Committee, actively campaigning and attending state conventions.

John was predeceased by his parents and sister Betsy Dechene. He is survived by his wife of 42 years, Linda Overing, as well as siblings Deborah Ringer, Kathryn Oakes, Marilyn Sprague, Patrick Ryan, and Bryce Ryan as well as numerous nieces and nephews.

A Memorial Service will be held on November 4, 1 pm, at Swift River School, 201Wendell Road, New Salem, with a reception to follow. The school space can accommodate those who wish to socially distance.

 Memorial gifts in John’s name may be made to the Friends of the New Salem Public Library, at P.O. Box 5, in New Salem, MA 01355,

Witty’s Funeral Home, 158 South Main Street, Orange, MA 01364 is directing the arrangements.

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Celebration of Life
November 4, 2023

1:00 PM
Swift River School
201 Wendell Road
New Salem, MA 01355


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