A gentleman, kind, caring, very generous, driven to do the best he could, direct, upstanding, outspoken, resilient and committed were just some of the words used to describe the late Dr Bill Ryan at his funeral on Monday.
More than 400 people bid farewell to long-time Nowra doctor at St Michael’s Catholic Church in Nowra.
Wonderful eulogies were presented by sons Mark and Frank encapsulating a career which spanned more than 50 years, while daughters Denise (Jones) and Marianne (Desmond) both performed readings as did a number of his grandchildren.
Born in Nowra in 1930, William Philip Ryan attended St Michaels Catholic School and Nowra High School before going to Saint Ignatius' College, Riverview.
Graduating in 1948 he rowed in the first eight, hurdled at GPS athletics, debated in the first and played second row in the first XV.
He attended the University of Sydney studying medicine, while residing at St John’s College.
He was awarded a University Blue in 1951 for rowing after winning at varsity.
He taught us many life lessons - Never lie; always vote for yourself if you were the best person for the job; listen to others and respect their views but be confident in yours especially if you know they are right; if you are going to do something, do it to the best of your ability; always see there are two sides to any argument.Mark Ryan
Dr Bill graduated in 1955 and undertook his residency year at Lewisham and then at St Margaret's to study obstetrics. Something he would later need.
He married Patricia Standish, of Casino in 1957 after a whirlwind romance of eight years.
The couple moved to Nowra to work in Dr Bill’s father, Dr Frank Ryan’s practice.
And as their son Mark said “have been here ever since”.
After the death of his father in 1962 Dr Bill took on the role of government medical officer, performing over 1000 autopsies in the local area.
“He had a strong association with the local police force, was a fellow of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and became president of the World Police Medical Officers’ Association in 1999,” Mark said.
“Along with Mum, he organised the World Police Medical Officers’ annual conference in Sydney in 2002.
“In his role as government medical officer he spoke at international conferences presenting cases often from the local area.
“He was a well respected forensic physician.”
We are sending Dad off after a jam packed life of 87 years. I can’t be sad, just proud.Mark Ryan
In 2000 along with Dr Pat he was awarded an OAM for services to medicine and and forensic science.
“It was quite unusual, they received the awards as a couple. Like so much of their careers, they did it together,” Mark said.
Dr Bill became heavily involved in organising visiting specialist care in the district. The list was endless.
“He was also encouraging and supportive of young specialists to set up in the area, including myself,” Mark said.
“Mum and Dad delivered more than 200 babies a year for over 30 years, their peak was 320 in one calendar year and they were on call at the local hospital.
“They established a fledgling blood bank service, and Dad was instrumental in assisting in establishing the local private hospital in the early ’80s, was chairman of the Medical Staff Council from 1976 to 1999 and the private hospital from ’81 to 2001.”
For a decade (1989-1999) Dr Bill was an observer of the local area hospital board, which entailed travelling to Wollongong for monthly meetings over many years with “no remuneration and often little thanks”.
“It was his way of doing a Don Chip and keeping them honest,” Mark said.
There is no such things as a bad red wine you just have to chose the right meal; steak is only cooked medium rare unless you were cooking for Mum, which was well done charcoal - their only disagreement in life.Mark Ryan on life lessons from his father Dr Bill Ryan
“Together with Mum he established the Shoalhaven Medical Association in 1968, with twice yearly lecture weekends for the local education of doctors and nurses, introducing Sydney specialists to facilitate future referrals and looking after the patients of the Shoalhaven.”
However, life wasn’t all about medicine. After his father’s death he joined the Shoalhaven Shire Council in 1962 and was elected Shire President in 1972. He was a member of the Noah’s Ark Committee and the foundation president of Shoalhaven Rugby Club.
“In Dad’s own words, they were blessed with four ‘wonderful children’, they have 18 grandchildren and one great grandchild,” Mark said.
“He was extremely proud of his children and grandchildren and was always involved in their lives.”
There have been many comments since Dr Bill's death two weeks ago.
“Say your rosary; sing loudly in church even if badly; applaud short sermons; polish your shoes daily; only a few human heads are beautiful enough to be bald; humor is the best medicine literally and above all love your family.Mark Ryan on life lessons from his father Dr Bill Ryan
“The loss of a tower - the last of the great man of Nowra. He achieved many things for the benefit of the town but always in a way you did not know about it. A man of integrity and passion and conviviality.”
Mark said he taught his children many life lessons - “Never lie; always vote for yourself if you were the best person for the job; listen to others and respect their views but be confident in yours especially if you know they are right; if you are going to do something, do it to the best of your ability; always see there are two sides to any argument.
“There is no such thing as a bad red wine you just have to chose the right meal; steak is only cooked medium rare unless you were cooking for Mum, which was well done charcoal - their only disagreement in life.
“Say your rosary; sing loudly in church even if badly; applaud short sermons; polish your shoes daily; only a few human heads are beautiful enough to be bald; humor is the best medicine literally and above all love your family.
“But Dad would never have been the man he was without Mum. They really were a team from beginning to end, all 67 years.
“We are sending Dad off after a jam packed life of 87 years. I can’t be sad, just proud.”
Frank Ryan said his father had had an “incredible life.”
“Since graduating in 1955, Dad took up the challenge of the medical profession, he did that 24/7 without hesitation.
Dad was many things - he was a gentleman, kind, caring, very generous, driven to do the best he could in everything he did. He was black and white, there was no grey.Frank Ryan
“Dad crammed packed a lot into his public life, he also crammed in a lot to his not so public family life.
“Dad was many things - he was a gentleman, kind, caring, very generous, driven to do the best he could in everything he did. He was black and white, there was no grey.
“He was direct, upstanding and outspoken, he was resilient, committed, he believed in taking the right option not the easy option.
“And more over he had the strength of his convictions.”
He said his father was very much “a traditional man and very much the old school upbringing.”
A Riverview Old Boy - the school motto was dare to do as much as you can - Dad certainly did.Frank Ryan
“He was traditional about emotion. Men do not show emotion. Men do not cry. Several of us have had to seek an exemption from that rule since the 21st of November,” he said.
“Our Dad was very traditional when it came to a welcome. Men shake hands.
“Several years ago when he went to shake my hand I pushed it aside and laid a big hug on him.
“There was a look of horror on his face. It took him by surprise. It was not the type of welcome he had grown up with. I hugged him hello ever since as has many family members.
He was direct, upstanding and outspoken, he was resilient, committed, he believed in taking the right option not the easy option.Frank Ryan
“I’m sure Dad liked it but right up to the end his first instinct was to stick his hand out to say hello.
“He was a Riverview Old Boy - the school motto was dare to do as much as you can - Dad certainly did.
“He was a leader, always willing to take the lead in any situation - he would be the spokesperson. If he believed in something there was no stopping him.”
He said his father was a “clever man with an amazing mind and attention to detail”.
“And he could call on any of this information at will,” he said.
“He was a teacher - he always taught us things. When you asked a question you weren’t just given the answer, you were given an explanation.
He had the strength of his convictions.Frank Ryan
“He was a man of integrity and taught us the importance of telling the truth. He didn’t lie.
“He did not suffer fools.
“He was a competitor - he loved a challenge.”
Following the service the cortege proceeded to the Shoalhaven Lawn Cemetery at Worrigee.