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Elsie Ryan

May 17, 1929 May 15, 2020
Elsie Ryan
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Obituary for Elsie Ryan

Elsie Ryan passed away peacefully on May 15, 2020, after a lengthy illness, at age 90. 

Elsie was born on May 17, 1929, on a farm near Colo, Iowa, to William and Lila Schnur. After graduating from Colo High School, she went to Westmar College in LeMars to get her teaching degree, and then taught first graders in Grand Junction, State Center and Waterloo, Iowa.  She met Thomas L. Ryan when he served in the Army with her brother, Earl Schnur. Elsie and Tom stayed in touch during Tom’s tour of duty, were married in 1953, and lived in Waterloo for a short time.  In 1954, Tom and Elsie rented a farm near the Orleans Lutheran Church in Winneshiek County, and in 1958, they bought a farm southeast of Cresco, where they lived until she needed more care.  Throughout their marriage, Elsie was a full partner in the farming operation, in the field and on the farm, and she’ll also be remembered fondly for her cooking and baking, especially her pies. 

In addition to her work on the farm, Elsie was active in her church and community, teaching Sunday School; providing programs through Lutheran Church Women; serving on the boards for the Evans Memorial Home and the Cresco State Bank and the Iowa affiliate of the American Lung Association; and she volunteered throughout her life at local businesses, organizations and religious groups. She enjoyed serving as a substitute teacher in the Howard-Winneshiek school district until she was 70 years old.  She maintained a large butterfly garden outside of the Cresco Elementary/Junior High building, along with beautiful flower gardens at their farm home. For many years, she helped to organize the Cresco Santa’s Holiday Parade, including the placement of hundreds of luminaries in downtown Cresco, and enjoyed volunteering at the Cresco Chamber of Commerce.  She and Tom were able to travel across the country in their later years, and they organized several tours Alaska. 

She is survived her beloved husband, Tom; four children (Roger (Judy Twetten), of Cresco; Roxann, of Clive; Jean, of Decorah; and Jeff, of Cresco), along with four grandchildren (Michael Schmidt (Lauren McCarthy), of Clive; David Ryan of Arlington, VA; Kathryn Kruse (Kendall) of Huxley; and Sara Gehling of Decorah); and two great-grandchildren (Audrey and Emily Schmidt, of Clive).  She was preceded in death by her mother (Lila Baker Schnur), father (William Schnur), sister (Louise Wycoff) and brothers (Ralph, Raymond, Rusty and Earl Schnur). 

In her final years, Elsie participated in experimental trials for treatment of multiple myeloma, conducted by Gundersen Health Systems and Mayo Clinic.  She appreciated the high quality care provided by Dr. Wayne Bottner and other care providers at the Gundersen Clinic in LaCrosse, and Same Day Services at Winneshiek County Medical Center, and the Gundersen Medical Clinic in Decorah.  

She spent the last four months of her life at the Patty Elwood Center at Country Winds Manor in Cresco, and appreciated the assistance from the Howard County Hospice in helping to bridge the gap for the family when they were unable to visit her in person during the pandemic.  Special thanks to nurses Lori Matter, Vickie Grube and Kathy Grinhaug for their kindness and professional care in the last weeks of her life. 

Although Elsie loved to see old and new friends together, enjoying food and drink, a private ceremony and burial will be held because of the pandemic.   Elsie had a great sense of humor and a love of adventure.  Many in the family and the community have stories to tell that will keep her spirit alive in our hearts. When we can’t hold a gathering in person, please share your stories and fond memories with Tom and the family.

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