Mary Jacqueline West Ryon, 90, passed away after a long fight with dementia on September 3, 2022, at her home at The Village in Gainesville, Florida. Mary was born on September 5, 1931, in Quincy, Florida and was the daughter of the late Arthur Lowell West and Janet Elizabeth MacGowan West of Tallahassee, Florida. Mary grew up in Tallahassee, except for a few years when the family moved to Key West, circa 1936, while the State of Florida employed Mr West to design auto bridges from Flagler’s railroad bridges which were destroyed by the Labor Day hurricane of 1935. Mary graduated from Florida State University in 1952 with a degree in Home Economics, a degree she utilized all her life. Mary was a proud member of Kappa Delta Sorority at Florida State, as was her mother.
She met her future husband, Dr William Eugene Ryon, III, in Panama City, Florida. They married on January 9, 1954, just before he transferred from Tyndall AFB to USAF Air Force Hospital Wimpole Park, near Cambridge, England. Mary and Gene remained married for sixty-eight years.
Their eldest child, Rebecca, was born there in March 1955. After returning home, they lived in Asheville, North Carolina (Dr Ryon’s hometown) for eight years, after which they moved (with four children) to Chapel Hill, North Carolina, for two years while Dr Ryon earned his master’s degree in pediatric dentistry. Their youngest child, Sarah, was born in Chapel Hill. From there, the family moved to Winter Haven, Florida, where Dr Ryon and his brother, a pediatrician, opened the Ryon Pediatric Clinic.
Mary’s greatest joy was her children, whom she adored her whole life. The family remember well how she made all their dress clothes during their formative years. They drew lots of attention when they went anywhere. She even made two of her daughters’ wedding dresses. She was known for her ability to cook and entertain large (or small) dinner parties. She was also an award-winning impressionist oil painter.
After all her children were in college, she decided to be a nurse and enrolled in the Polk College nursing program. She had only one course to take to get her R.N. but had to drop out because of a breast cancer diagnosis. After treatment and recovery, she decided to build a beach cottage on a small building lot in Panama City Beach, Florida. She drew the plans, selected a builder and oversaw the construction. The family and friends enjoyed that beach cottage for years. Mary was a very talented girl scout leader and 4H leader and was able to take as many as thirty scouts camping on weekends.
She was also instrumental in starting two Anglican Churches, St. Mary’s in Winter Haven and All Saints’ Anglican Church in Gainesville. By attending a synod in Dallas, she was able to help secure a priest for All Saints’ Church, Fr. John Leasure. In 1998 she met a man walking an in-training guide dog and soon became a Southeastern Guide Dog puppy trainer and was able to keep one of them, Gerdie, who also died earlier this year.
Mary was preceded in death by her parents and two of her brothers, Alexander (Sandy) West and his wife Margaret Lewis West, her twin Lawrence (Larry)West, her sister-in-law Nancy Bendel Ryon, her brother-in-law, Dr Alden Billings Ryon, and her son-in-law Steven Ray Riedy.
Mary is survived by her husband, Gene, and their five children: Rebecca Ryon Riedy, Kevin Eugene Ryon (Trudy), Mary Lucy Ryon Ling (David), Heather Ryon Kennedy (Harry), and Sarah Ryon Brassel. Mary’s grandchildren are Adam Gates (Anne), Abigail Gates Crouse (Allen), Meghan Gates Fulton (Daniel), Nicole Riedy Albert (Tony), Justin Riedy (Kelly), Alexander Ryon Ling (Ellen), Sarah Ling Roick (Chris), Rebecca Ling Reed (Josh), Ryon Alexander Kennedy, Caroline Kennedy Hoggard (John), Rebecca Anne Kennedy, Christopher Alexander Brassel and William Alden Brassel. In addition, Mary is survived by seven great-grandchildren. She is also survived by her brother, Richard Lowell West (Joan), Larry’s widow Connie West, her sister-in-law Martha Brice Ryon and her brother-in-law Dr Dale Sanford Ryon.
A memorial service for Mary will be held at Milam Funeral Home at 311 South Main Street, Gainesville, at 2 PM on September 11, 2022. A family burial service will be held at the MacGowan/West family burial section of the Eastern Cemetery in Quincy, Florida, at a date to be determined later. In place of flowers, memorial donations may be made to All Saints’ Anglican Church, P.O. Box 357744, Gainesville, FL 32635 or any other charity of your choice.