Lura Lynn Ryan
CHICAGO (AP) - Lura Lynn Ryan, the former Illinois first lady who spent the waning years of her life seeking freedom for imprisoned former Gov. George Ryan, quietly spent her final moments with her husband of 55 years at her side.

She died late Monday evening at Riverside Medical Center in Kankakee after a long bout with cancer, said Kankakee County Coroner Robert Gessner. She was 76.

Ryan had been released from his prison cell in Terre Haute, Ind., to spend several hours with her on Monday, one of four times since January the prison's warden has allowed the former governor to see his ailing wife, despite repeatedly denied requests from the courts.

"It was enormously important to him and to her," said Ryan attorney former Gov. Jim Thompson. "They've been together all their lives really."

Lura Lynn Ryan had been diagnosed with lung cancer and hospitalized last week because she was having trouble breathing. She was placed on a respirator last week and taken off it Monday night after it appeared nothing else could be done, Thompson said.

She was a steadfast supporter of the former governor, whom she had met in high school, and maintained that he had never done anything wrong during his lengthy political career.

They met as teenagers and had six children together, including a set of triplets. Friends described the couple as "nearly inseparable."

"If you could approach Lura Lynn, you were approaching George," said Tony Leone, a family friend and former aide to George Ryan. "She was always at his side."

The former governor, serving time on federal corruption charges, was quietly escorted from the Indiana prison to be with her four separate times about 130 miles away. The first was in January to the intensive care unit at a Kankakee hospital. He was let out when she began chemotherapy and again over the weekend when her health took a turn for the worse. Each visit lasted only a few hours, Thompson said.

Federal Bureau of Prisons spokesman Chris Burke declined to comment.

It was unclear if Lura Lynn recognized her husband in all the final visits, Thompson said. In the first she drifted in and out of sleep and struggled to speak while he was there. The secret visit was not revealed until two days later, when federal prosecutors mentioned it in a court filing arguing against a request by Ryan's lawyers to have him released on bail so he could spend more time with his dying wife.

During Monday's visit, family members believed Lura Lynn may have squeezed her husband's hand.

"She died peacefully not too long afterwards," Thompson said.

Court records show Ryan's attorneys petitioned an appellate court on Friday to allow Ryan to leave the prison and visit his wife in the hospital but the court denied the request. Ryan was convicted on federal corruption charges in 2006, and has served three years of a 6 1/2-year sentence for racketeering, conspiracy, tax fraud and making false statements to the FBI.

Lura Lynn Lowe grew up in the Kankakee County village of Aroma Park where her family, originally from Germany, had lived since 1834. Her father owned one of the nation's first hybrid seed companies.

She moved to Kankakee for high school. She and the former governor met in a high school English class. Together, they have five daughters, one son and more than a dozen grandchildren.

Family friends and public officials called her a devoted mother, wife and grandmother who was gracious to everyone she met.

Illinois State Treasurer Dan Rutherford called her death a "tremendous loss."

"Public service requires sacrifice and dedication from not only elected officials, but also their spouses," Rutherford said in a statement. "Lura Lynn was a constant supporter, encourager and counselor to former Governor George Ryan for many years. She was a warm and caring friend to me and countless others."

Lura Lynn Ryan had no idea when they got married that her husband would go into politics. He started life as a Kankakee drug store owner. But his brother was mayor and she started to think her husband might run for office when he helped a friend who was running for the county board and seemed to have a flair for politics.

The climb was steady, from a seat in the General Assembly to lieutenant governor to secretary of state and finally the governorship - reaching the pinnacle of both state government and Illinois' Republican establishment. She spoke admiringly of the mansion in Springfield - her official home for four years - and co-wrote a book on it called, "At Home with Illinois Governors: A Social History of the Illinois Executive Mansion, 1855-2003."

Prosecutors say the road to the top for George Ryan was marred by corruption. But she focused on the positive, including Ryan's unprecedented commuting of all 156 inmates on Illinois' death row before l eaving office in 2003, and his efforts to curb drunken driving.

She made it a priority to participate in charitable causes, such as a program to influence teenagers to avoid drug and alcohol abuse.

"As my children grew older and I could be with him (Ryan), I kind of took up my little causes," she said. "And I think we did make a difference."

She also championed early development of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield and promoted literacy programs.

Ryan was convicted in 2006 of steering state contracts and leases to political insiders while he was secretary of state and then governor for one term. He received vacations and gifts in return.

He also was accused of stopping an investigation into secretary of state employees accepting bribes in exchange for truck driver's licenses.

In 2000, Lura Lynn Ryan was pulled into the licenses-for-bribes scandal when a woman claimed she'd handed her a letter in 1998 detailing corruption at a truck licensing facility.

The alleged hand-off happened at an event nine months before George Ryan was elected governor, and the former first lady said she didn't remember the letter or the woman. Lura Lynn Ryan grew increasingly frail during her final years, appearing at her husband's court appearances with an oxygen tank.

Friends, who remembered her as strong-willed and a trusted advisor, said Tuesday that the family pulled together closer in the past years.

"The rollercoaster life of any politician can kind of break families apart, it did just the opposite," Leone said. "It united that family. They were unbelievable strong."

Funeral services were being arranged by Schreffler Funeral Homes in Kankakee. A funeral home spokesman said details hadn't been finalized but services would be private at the family's request.

Thompson said a public memorial may be held at a later date.

Copyright © 2011 The Associated Press
Published by The Bryan-College Station Eagle on Jun. 28, 2011.
No memorial events are currently scheduled.
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100 Entries
My prayers to your entire family & great appreciation for your helping other in recovery. I am 1 of 7 who stuck it out to stay clean & sober for 16 yrs now. You are a blessing & an angel to your family as well as many others. I was really happy your precious husband was with you & will keep him & your family in prayer. God has you in his kingdom & you are at perfect peace.
Carolyn Ellis
July 4, 2011
My sincere condolences to the Ryan family. It is hard to lose someone close to us.
But please know that God does not forget our loved ones or us as we have to cope with this loss. We are encouraged to throw all our anxieties upon him because he cares for you".
1 Pet 5:7)
July 4, 2011
i was glad to hear the gov,was let out to spend the last few hours with his dear wife. no matter what he was acused of that was the human thing to do.
jim horman
July 4, 2011
Mrs. Ryan and the Governor were extremely kind to me in the years I lived in Springfield. My husband's family was friendly with yours. We are very saddened by the loss of this dear and generous lady. May God comfort all of you.
Karen Brown and Bradford Coash
July 2, 2011
May it comfort you to know that "the God of all comfort", as well as others, care about your feelings at this time.
July 2, 2011
July 2, 2011
To the Ryan Family,May your loved one rest in peace and may god bless her as well as your family. Again your family have my condolences.
Marie Jacques
July 1, 2011
Mrs. Ryan was a gracious and wonderful human being. In my career as a news photographer, I worked with her several times and found her to be one of the most gracious people I ever dealt with. Thank you, sincerely, to her family for sharing her with all of us for so many years.
My deepest sympathies to you in your loss.
Kathie Grazis
kathie grazis
July 1, 2011
My condolences to the family of Mrs. Ryan. I'll never forget the day she took time out of busy schedule to show me around the Mansion, while I was there for a luncheon. Her gentle smile and extra touch was a touching memory that I'll always remember. May God Bless you Mrs Ryan.
T Miller
June 30, 2011
Mrs. Rayan was very Godly person. I never met her in person, but people with a good heart you only have to hear them speak or just see them and you know that she is a very love person. God bless the family. Louis, Gary,Ind.
Louis Adair Jr.
June 30, 2011
R.I.P I loved to see you with Mr Ryan you were so cute together and I am so glad they allowed him to be with you at the end .God Bless the family I am praying for all of you I know she is gonna be missed.
Pam Taylor
June 30, 2011
My Condolences to the family of Lura L Rayan. I find comfort in the promise God made in The Holy Writings John 5:28,29 May it prove to be of Comfort to your family also.
D Wright
June 30, 2011
My favorite time with Mrs. Ryan was when I served as a member of the Future for Kids Advisory Committee that she chaired. She cared a lot about Illinois children and did much to improve the quality of their lives.
Roger Weissberg
June 30, 2011
I wish to express my deepest sympathy to the family on the loss of Lura Lynn. I was always warmly welcomed in her home and was treated like a member of the family. There has hardly been a day that I haven't thought of the times past and said a prayer for the Governor and his family. Lura Lynn was truly a remarkable woman and will be greatly missed.
John Zumstein
June 30, 2011
May a part of Lura Lynn live on in all of you! A very classy lady till the end. My thoughts and prayers are with you all.
N. Nettles
June 30, 2011
My thoughts and prayers are with the Ryan family. It was an honor to serve on her Futures for Kids Advisory Committee and to know such a wonderful woman. She leaves a legacy of caring and making a difference for children and families in Illinois. May memories of her good works and kindness bring comfort to those who held her dear.
Ann Nerad
June 30, 2011
my prayers are with the ryan family, my deepest sympathy to george and the family.
dennis depillo
June 30, 2011
June 30, 2011
Dear Ryan Family, Owen and I would like to express our sorrow at your loss of Lura Lynn. She was a beautiful lady and she will be missed by all who knew her. George, a love like yours comes along once in a blue moon. We hope that will be a comfort.
Teri & Owen Pulver
June 29, 2011
I didn't know you Mrs. Ryan. But I was a dear fan of you and husband
Gov. Ryan. My deepest sympathy go out to you and your family.A sad friend
June 29, 2011
Take comfort in knowing that now you have a special guardian angel to watch over you.
Peggy Blunk
June 29, 2011
I experienced Mrs. Ryan's commitment to family heritage and the people of Illinois through our mutual association with the Illinois Quilt Research Project and the Illinois Association of Museums. To know her is to love her! My prayers are with the family at this time.
Cheryl Kennedy
June 29, 2011
Our deepest sympathy to the entire Ryan Family. May God be with you during this time. Celebrate her life and all she represented.
The Smith Family
June 29, 2011
Our deepest condolences to the Ryan family. May the peace of God be with the entire family during this time. May George Ryan find the peace that he needs for the lost of his best friend.
The Banks Family ....Chicago Illinois
June 29, 2011
Governor Ryan and Family,
Our heartfelt sympathies are with you during this time of sorrow. May the love Lura Lynn had for each of you brighten your thoughts and enrich your memories of this special woman. We are all better individuals for having known Lura Lynn.
Bob & Bev Plowright
June 29, 2011
We are truly blessed to have had the pleasure of knowing the Ryan family for many years. My heartfelt and deepest sympathy on the passing of an extraodinary women. May she rest in peace. Thinking of all of you.

Scott & Nancy Pedrucci
and Family (Lynda Ladley's Daughter)
June 29, 2011
Thank you to whomever was responsible for Mr. Ryan to be at his wife's side. 55 years of marriage, you don't see many loves like that anymore. Today, she soars with angels.
Lynnette Terrien
June 29, 2011
Sad to hear about Mrs. Ryan. Sounds like she was a strong woman. Good thing she and the Governor were in the same English class. Sympathies to him and his family.
Steven Joos
June 29, 2011
My family lived next door to Sis Lowe( LuraLynn's mother) LuraLynn would sometimes babysit my sister and I. We were candle girls in her wedding. She was a wonderful lady, my condolences to her family.
Meg Hopkins-Styck
June 29, 2011
Sounds like a heck-uv-va lady! I mourn your loss. God Bless.
June 29, 2011
Mrs. Ryan was indeed a kind and gracious woman. She was refreshingly down-to-earth and unaffected by her influencial role as Illinois First Lady. My sincere condolences to her family and friends.
Amy Parry
June 29, 2011
Heartfelt sympathy to the Ryan family for the loss of this gracious and beautiful woman. May your faith and memories sustain you in your time of sorrow.
Kim & Tim Curry
June 29, 2011
God has promised that there will be and end to sickness and death and that he will bring death to nothing. (Isaiah 26:19) You have my deepest condolences.
L. P.
June 29, 2011
Dear George and Family,
My thoughts and prayers are with you. I am going to miss my dear friend very much. God bless each of you. I send my love.
Shirley Madigan
June 29, 2011
June 29, 2011
My heartfelt condolences to the Ryan family on the loss of this great first Lady. Most peoples who met your mom could do nothing but love the whole family. May god bless George Ryan and all family members we will miss her too.
Carl Brown
June 29, 2011
On behalf of Prevention First, I offer my deepest condolensces to the Ryan family. We are honored to have our library named after her in recognition of her great passion to keep kids drug free. She was a strong advocate and ambassador for Prevention First and the substance abuse prevention field in Illinois. She was grace, dignity, class and kindness personified. We will miss her greatly.
Karel Homrig
June 29, 2011
My heartfelt condolences to the Ryan family on their loss. May the "God of comfort" be with you during this time.
June 29, 2011
Lura Lynn Ryan was a beautiful person. Illinois is a better place because of her. God bless her and her family.

Democrat- Laura Padron
June 29, 2011
My heart goes out to the entire Ryan family on the loss of your wife and mother. She was a wonderful woman who I had the great pleasure or knowing. The people of Illinois owe her a tremendous debt for her work and inspiration. With her class and grace she was the first among all First Ladies.
Ken and Mari Jo Hanson
June 29, 2011
Illinois is better for having Lura Lynn Ryan as Illinois first Lady. She was an advocate for the Executive Mansion the Governor's residence. She helped raise money for restoration and maintenance for the beautiful historic home. Lura Lynn did a great job working on the Abrahm Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum's Foundation. She was a wonderful mother and Grand Mother and loyal wife to Governor Ryan. May God take her to heaven and bless all the family members as they deal with this loss. Jerry and Mary White, Springfield, IL
June 29, 2011
"My deepest sorrow and condolences on the loss of your dear loved one. The scriptures assures us that our Heavenly Father "is near to those that are broken at heart and those who are crushed in spirit he saves." May you memories bring you a measure of comfort at this time. (Alabama).
June 29, 2011
Lura is in a much nicer place than this one. She is free from all the pain, agony and suffering she was exposed to in this life, and will be celebrated with all her friends, and relatives that have preceded her. What better a person than Lura to meet all of those who would follow her in their time to lead them around when they meet with her in her new realm.

May God Bless Lura Lynn Ryan.
Carla McHugh-Bourgeois
June 29, 2011
thank you, thank you, thank you Mrs Ryan.
Wesley Cook
June 29, 2011
My prayers are with the family. Great Lady.
John Heyer
June 29, 2011
I am sorry for the loss of your mom and grandmother, it's sad the last few years have been such a struggle. Keep your memories close.
June 29, 2011
May the God of all comfort be with the Ryan family at this time of grief and your fond memories bring you comfort. 2Cor.1;2-4
June 29, 2011
To the family of Lura Lynn Ryan, you have my deepest sympathy for the loss of your beloved one. Our heavenly Father is with you, and He will revive your spirit and crush heart-Isaiah 57:15. (Erma L. Davis, Park Forest, IL.)
June 29, 2011
May God bless you and your family in this time of sorrow.
June 29, 2011
Please accept our family's sympathy in this time of loss. Mrs. Ryan was a gracious and lovely First Lady, and we are sure she was a gracious and loving wife and mother.

Paul and Roma Larson
Roma Larson
June 28, 2011
R.I.P. Lura Lynn Ryan
Joseph Weiss
June 28, 2011
To the Ryan Family,

My heart goes out to you and each of you are in my thoughts and prayers.

Lura Lynn was an amazing person, wife, mother and grandmother, as well as friend to so many.

She was an inspiration. In your difficult loss, know Lura Lynn will live on in our hearts and minds through her extraordinary good works and a life lead, and shared, with passion and compassion.

I was truly blessed by my time with her.

With love and sympathy,

Matthew Bettenhausen
June 28, 2011
I am glad you were with her . And god bless the Ryan family for there loss.. Mark Carraro Harvey Il
June 28, 2011
So sorry for you loss Im glad Ryan was able to spend her last moments with her may she REST IN PEACE my prayers go out to her family
cheryl Harold
June 28, 2011
My thoughts and prayers are with you.
Daniel Porch
June 28, 2011
We offer our sympathy during this sad time--Mrs. Ryan will be missed by her beloved family and by the citizens of Illinois. May you know God's love in a special way in the days to come.
Pam Pugh, Chicago
June 28, 2011
To The Ryan Family: You are in our thoughts and our prayers.
But Not Forgotten
I think no matter where you stray,
That I shall go with you a way.
Though you may wander sweeter lands,
You will not forget my hands,
Nor yet the way I held my head
Nor the tremulous things I said.
You will still see me, small and white
And smiling, in the secret night,
And feel my arms about you when
The day comes fluttering back again.
I think, no matter where you be,
You'll hold me in your memory
And keep my image there without me,
By telling later loves about me.
God Bless,
Kimtraila Williams
Kimtraila Williams
June 28, 2011
May God bless you and your family in this time of sorrow.
Yolanda Washington
June 28, 2011
I am so sorry to hear this. I am glad Mr Ryan was able to be there with her. Sympathy to George and his family.
Mary Wood
June 28, 2011
To the Ryan Family:
You have my deepest sympathies. Illinois has lost one of our greatest first ladies. May God bless you and keep you in your time of loss.
Jacqueline Thomas
June 28, 2011
My heartfelt condolences to the family on the loss of an amazingly strong woman. May the words found at John 5:28,29 give you a measure of comfort and hope during this difficult time.
June 28, 2011
Iam saddened beyond words at the passing of a lovely lady who did so much for others. Rest in Peace, Mrs. Ryan

Judith Labowitz
Judith Labowitz
June 28, 2011
The Ryan family will be in our families thoughts and prayers as they deal with the loss of Mrs. Ryan.
June 28, 2011
My sympathy to the Ryan Family. I am oiginally from K3 and knew the family through the drug store. It is never easy at this time. Please know that thoughts and prayers are with you during your time of loss. Please God, George has the proper time to grieve his loss. Suzanne Fitzgerald San Jose California
June 28, 2011
To George and the entire Ryan family, you have my deepest sympathies.
Larry Haremski
June 28, 2011
Our Deepest Condolences to the Ryan Family.
Miriam & Carl Camacho
June 28, 2011
RIP Mrs. Ryan
June 28, 2011
Our sympathies go out to your family. She was a great first lady for Illinois. We are glad she is finally at peace.
Henry & Leslie Broman
June 28, 2011
Bob and I have lost a special friend. I am so glad that I got to see Lura Lynn in January and let her meet my little granddaughter. It was a special time and was a typical frigid IL. day. As she held my hand, in the hospital, she said "You are cold." And I said "Well, it is freezing outside." Lura Lynn said "Well, I am glad I am in here." We had to laugh, because she was in ICU.
Amy Newtson
June 28, 2011
My thoughts and prayers go out to the Ryan family. Lura, you were a great inspiration to many wonderful people. May you rest in peace now.
June 28, 2011
I am so sorry to hear of your passing. My thoughts and prayers are with all of you. May you rest in peace Lura Lynn.
Patty Hunter
June 28, 2011
I feel great sorrow for the Ryan family. Governor Ryan, my heart goes out to you and may you be blessed with strenth to move forward. Though I dont personally know you or your wonderful wife, I pray that you will be ok. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family at this time.
Danielle Ray
June 28, 2011
my god be with you and your family george ryan.
roschely Ortiz
June 28, 2011
Jeanette and family - I am so sorry to hear about your mother's passing. She was a very sweet lady. I will keep you all in my thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.
Jennifer Julius
June 28, 2011
May your hearts soon be filled with wonderful memories of joyful times together as you celebrate a life well lived.
June 28, 2011
Lura Lynn was a great Lady.

My deepest sympathies to the family.
Dr. Gary P. Miller
June 28, 2011
My sympathy for the family of Lura Lynn.May God bless and keep you in your time of sorrow.

Jim & Betty Shanks
June 28, 2011
My thoughts and prayers go out to the Ryan family. May God comfort you in your time of great sorrow.
Rita Hubbs
June 28, 2011
My heart and prayers go out to the entire Ryan clan. Lura Lynn Ryan was one of the kindest and sweetest women to serve as the First Lady of Illinois. We were blessed by knowing her and all that she did for others. May she rest in peace and let perpetual Light shine upon her.
Jim McDonough
June 28, 2011
Through high school, college, babies, hubby's careers, and being a great Mom you always were the same lovely friend. Rest in peace...till we meet again.
June 28, 2011
GOV RYAN sorry your loss SIR
June 28, 2011
George and Lura Lynn have been in my prayers for many years since I spent time with them in Florida. They were wonderful together and had long quiet talks in the pool each morning. Lura Lynn was definitely a gentle giant filled with compassion. I am truly blessed to have George and Lura Lynn touch my life.
Janet Dunn-Johnson
June 28, 2011
We were so sorry to hear of your loss. The thoughts of many are with you at this time of sorrow.
ellen and linda
June 28, 2011
My thoughts and prayers go out to the Ryan family, Lura Lynn sounded like a wonderful woman. I am glad that Mr Ryan was able to be with her in her final moments.
Tamala Ryan
June 28, 2011
Rest in peace Mrs. Ryan, and to the rest of the Ryan family, hold your heads up high, and say job well done sweet wife and mother!
Illinois Resident
June 28, 2011
You're in our prayers and may you be comforted knowing that she is at piece with our father and that we'll all be together someday.
Bob Piel (GA 1978-1991)
June 28, 2011
may she rest in peace i hope the ex gov get out for the service
kevin riley
June 28, 2011
May Mrs. Ryan rest in peace. And may light perpetual shine upon her as we all await Jesus' coming again in glory.
William Techau
June 28, 2011
RIP Mrs Ryan.
June 28, 2011
I am so glad I had the opportunity to meet Lura Lynn Rayn twice once at ONU movie screening and at the Illinois State Fair as a 4-H member. She will truly be missed. She was a birght, kind and friendly person. She truly loved to support youth and 4-H. My prayers are with George and the rest of the family. God Bless.
Cindy Pecka
June 28, 2011
God Bless my old Neighbor from Kankakee Riverview and the entire Ryan Clan.
Robert Burns
June 28, 2011
Our heartfelt and deepest sympathy on the passing of your mother. She rest in heaven where there is no more pain or heartache.
Candice Trees
June 28, 2011
Our sincere sympathy to Lura Lynn's family. She endured both health and personal problems with grace and dignity. May she find peace in heaven.
Steve & Sandy Kinchus
June 28, 2011
Losing a mother is hard; losing the strength behind a public figure is even harder. Sympathies to the Ryans. Rest in Peace, Mrs. Ryan, and thanks for all you did for the people of Illinois
Sara Henry
June 28, 2011
My thoughts and prayers are with the Ryan family today in hearing the passing of an extraordinary First Lady. May her soul rest in G-d's hands. Nicholas Limon (Normal, IL)
Nicholas Limon
June 28, 2011
May God Bless YOU
Bruce Wilson
June 28, 2011
To the entire George Ryan Family,
Some of the most memorable experiences we had was with the Ryan family. Lura Lynn was truly a whole lady in every sense of the word. The entire Weiner Family will never forget her.

Bernie, Libby & the rest of the Weiner's.
June 28, 2011
My wife and I have fond memories of the Ryans and their enjoyment of the state fair with their grandchildren.
bud and nadine ford
June 28, 2011
To George; your family and extended family. Lura Lynn was an amazing and memorable woman who was steadfast in all she did in promoting and serving the people of Illinois. She was gracious in her duties; loyal to those she loved and a wonderful person to meet. My prayers as well as those of my family are with you.
Brian Bernardoni
June 28, 2011
Heaven is awaiting an Angel! My prayers are with the Ryan Family, God will continue to bless and keep you. You are faithful and loyal family. Peace be with you all.
Cheryl Sims
June 28, 2011