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Lura Lynn Ryan: ‘He won’t be home for Christmas’

LurLynn Ryan | Jean Lachat/Sun-Times

Lura Lynn Ryan | Jean Lachat/Sun-Times

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Updated: April 19, 2011 5:09AM

It’s a no!

She’s frail, pale and in pain.

But she says she is resigned to God’s will.

“I can’t change things, but I can hope things will change,” said Lura Lynn Ryan, whose husband — ex-Gov. George Ryan — had just lost his bid for freedom to help his cancer stricken wife.

In an exclusive Sun-Times interview Tuesday in her Kankakee home, Mrs. Ryan told Sneed: “I can’t control what is happening. Only God can. But I have to trust he’ll come home soon.”

Mrs. Ryan, who is tethered to oxygen due to incurable pulmonary fibrosis and was recently diagnosed with lung cancer, said: “I was never much of a picker-upper.

“But George was, and he joked with me last week about whether I planned to pick up everything before he got home.

“I told him I needed him to come home and help me clean up, but I guess he won’t be home for Christmas now.

“And he doesn’t want us visiting him at the prison at Christmas — he wants all of our six kids to be home with their children.”

Resting in a chair in their living room while struggling for air and relief from pain, Mrs. Ryan sat in front of the Christmas tree and tried to be upbeat about U.S. District Court Rebecca Pallmeyer’s decision to keep her husband behind bars.

“I haven’t cried and I’m not going to now,” Mrs. Ryan told Sneed earlier in the day.

“It’s the way George and I have always handled things. I just have to believe he will come home.”

On Tuesday, the press gathered outside the Ryan home while Lura Lynn prepared for a trip to the hospital — and what was to be her first radiation treatment.

“If George were home, I can tell you the Christmas tree would be different. It would be a real one....and it would be too big for the living room.

“George would get in the car and drive to every Christmas tree lot until he found the largest tree,” she said.

“Then he’d plop this gigantic tree on the porch and we’d have to cut it in half in order for it to fit in the living room.

“This tree couldn’t hold a candle to the size of George’s trees. Most of the decorations are still in a box — but most of them were made by me.”

Dressed in the clothes she was to wear to a Kankakee hospital, she said she talked to George after learning he wouldn’t be released. “He seemed upbeat. He said it wasn’t over. We still had hope.”

The Ryans’ son, Homer, who pleaded with the press to stop calling his mother so she could get some rest—but urged them to help free his father from jail, told Sneed his father’s reaction to Judge Pallmeyer’s ruling was disbelief.

“He kept saying: ‘I don’t believe it. I just can’t believe it.’”

Mrs. Ryan then displayed the oldest ornament on the tree, a green globe which once belonged to her great grandmother. “I keep it on the back of the tree because it is so old and not very pretty. But it’s been with us forever.”

Lura Lynn Ryan, who has been married to her childhood sweetheart for 54 years, hopes the rest of her life will include her husband at her side—and not just the nightly 6 p.m. call from prison.

“Ours was a high school romance,” she recalled. “And I met George for the first time in our freshman 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,” she said.

“But he’s always in my heart.”

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