Gretchen Ryan

Gretchen Ann Ryan passed away at the age of 85 on Sunday, April 19, 2020, losing a battle with lung cancer.

Gretchen was born to Alice (Pearson) Cox and Joseph Cox on Feb. 3, 1935. She was raised in Fort Collins, Colorado, and graduated from Fort Collins High School. She attended Colorado State University, where she met Jim Ryan, the love of her life. They were married on June 13, 1954, and graduated in 1956. Their daughter, Melanie, was born shortly afterwards.

Gretchen supported Jim's career as a bomber pilot in the Air Force through her participation in Officers' Wives' Club and volunteer activities on each base. Jim was transferred to Grand Forks AFB in 1970 and retired from the Air Force in 1976. Both Gretchen and Jim attended graduate school at UND, after which Jim taught accounting at the University of Mary while Gretchen worked at the North Dakota State Tax Department. She first was an administrative officer and later became the director of management planning and personnel. While working there, she received her master's degree in public administration. In 2001, Jim and Gretchen retired and moved to McAllen, Texas. Jim died in 2002 and Gretchen stayed in McAllen until she moved to Grand Forks in 2010.

Gretchen had many hobbies. She was a gourmet cook and an accomplished seamstress, could knit and crochet beautifully, and was an expert horsewoman. A music lover, Gretchen was a fantastic keyboardist who played accordion, piano, and church organ. She was a terrific bridge player and taught a beginning bridge class. North Dakota football and hockey teams (both men's and women's) never had a prouder fan.

Gretchen also loved to travel. When stationed at Bitburg AFB in Germany, she, Jim, and Melanie visited nearly every European country. After Jim's death, Gretchen continued to travel, exploring Ireland; snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef; riding a camel in Australia; eating gelato in San Gimignano, Italy; white-water rafting in Alaska; and tromping all over the Kremlin.

More than hobbies and traveling, Gretchen loved her family. Her younger sister Katie grew up to be her dearest friend. Gretchen was almost ridiculously proud of her daughter, Melanie, and her grandchildren, Allison and Michael. She considered being a grandmother to be a great privilege, so she was thrilled when Allison married in 2018, giving her a second grandson and two great-grandsons.

Gretchen was preceded in death by her soulmate, Jim, and will be missed by her daughter, Melanie (Bob) Jensen, Grand Forks; granddaughter, Allison Hetland (Chris Henderson), Grand Forks; grandson, Michael Hetland, Grand Forks; sister, Katie Marley, Saluda, North Carolina; great-grandsons, Liam and Landon Henderson, Grand Forks; and her many friends.

A celebration of Gretchen's life will be held when social distancing is relaxed. Should you wish to do so, please donate in Gretchen's memory to Turtle Mountain Animal Rescue, Circle of Friends Humane Society, Altru Hospice, or any other charity that is special to you.

An online guestbook may be signed at Amundson Funeral Home 2975 S. 42nd St. Grand Forks.

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Published by The Bismarck Tribune on Apr. 26, 2020.
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Funeral services provided by:
Amundson Funeral Home
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