Lura Lynn’s last moments with husband, former Gov. George Ryan
Michael sneed firstname.lastname@example.org June 28, 2011 9:26PM
11-5-2002 Governor George Ryan and his wife, Lura Lynn, watch election returns with friends and associates in a hotel suite at the Chicago Hyatt Regenecy Hotel on Tuesday evening. Michael Sneed reporting. (Photo by Richard A. Chapman/Sun-Times)
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Updated: October 4, 2011 12:35AM
There are things you will regret the rest of your life.
A big one got added to my list Tuesday: not visiting Lura Lynn Ryan before she died; an unpretentious, loving woman about whom I grew to care about deeply.
I had talked to Lura Lynn via phone two months ago on a day when her lung cancer wasn’t eating up all of her strength. A visit was discussed.
When I learned she had died Monday, I was hesitant to call her family because of my neglect . . . but I did.
“She was our rock, but she’s in a better place,” said her son, Homer, the youngest of her six children frenetically shuttling back and forth from home to hospital in the last days of their dying mother’s life.
“Dad and mom were together at the end,” Homer said. “That’s what she always wanted and waited for. She knew he was there. It was peaceful. It’s over now.”
Former Gov. George Ryan, who has been incarcerated at a federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind., was permitted to be at his wife’s deathbed at a Kankakee hospital Monday night.
“We were all there,” said Homer. “Dad was devastated. What can I say? I’m just glad her suffering is over.”
A compassionate prison warden has been credited with permitting Ryan to visit his desperately ill wife four times before she died, according to former Gov. Jim Thompson, who championed Ryan’s legal battle.
Ryan, who was able to spend six hours with his wife the day she died, will not be at the private family burial today.
“He will be there at a special memorial service for mom when he gets out of prison,” Homer said.
Ryan is scheduled to get out of prison on July 4, 2013.
The last time the Ryans saw each other was earlier this month, June 10 — the couple’s 55th wedding anniversary — when Mrs. Ryan visited her husband in prison.
Mrs. Ryan, who was constantly hooked up to an oxygen tank, was driven there by her family. “She was exhausted,” said a family source. “You just knew things were coming to an end.”
Suffering with dignity and grace awaiting the return of her husband, Lura Lynn was also perched by the phone each night for a chat with the man she had been with for 63 years.
Although Mrs. Ryan never complained about her deteriorating condition, which began with a diagnosis of pulmonary fibrosis shortly after her husband went to prison, she never gave up hope for her husband’s release and firmly believed in his innocence.
“I haven’t cried, and I’m not going to now,” Mrs. Ryan once told me. “It’s the way George and I have always handled things. I just have to believe he will come home.”
She fought hard for a presidential pardon and was overcome with gratitude when U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin made a plea to commute Ryan’s sentence.
Lura Lynn, who was raised on a farm, told me once that she met George for the first time in their freshman high school English class. “I knew when I saw him that he would be my husband. And I will never forget the time he took a bus to visit me. I lived a long way out of town. And our parting kiss took so long, George missed the bus and had to walk five miles back to town.
“The longest I was ever away from him was 10 months, when he was in Korea during the war. But he’s always in my heart.”
“She was a sweet lady,” said her son. “She was a fighter till the end. Her hair was just starting to come back. It was like a soft silk. My parents were devoted to each other and taught us a lot. I’m just glad she’s in a better place.
“Now let’s get Dad home.”