Catharine Johann Ryan wasn't the type to brag about the 14 people she saved while flying helicopters for the U.S. Coast Guard. Or what it was like being one of the few women aviators for the service.
"Quiet," her mother, Ann DeMott of Sayville, said, describing her. "And humble."
Ryan, who was also known as "Katie," was born in Manhattan on July 6, 1981. She grew up immersed in sports, playing basketball, soccer and volleyball while at Bayport-Blue Point High School. She attended the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn., where she received a bachelor of science degree in management in 2003.
"What she liked about the Coast Guard Academy was that it's a humanitarian service rather than a defense service," DeMott said.
Ryan served in Hawaii and Guam before she was selected to train as a helicopter pilot at Naval Air Station Pensacola -- influenced, in part, by her father, Arte Johann, of Bayport, who flew helicopters for the NYPD, DeMott said.
She was stationed at U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point in Kapolei, Hawaii, and lived with her husband, Kyle Ryan, whom she first met while they both served in Guam.
When not flying an MH-65C helicopter for the Coast Guard, Ryan enjoyed scuba diving, planting pineapples, tending her avocado trees, and playing volleyball, her mother said. Ryan had played on the All-Navy Volleyball team seven times, and was named the Coast Guard's elite female athlete of 2005.
She approached cancer with the same determination that she lent to other pursuits, DeMott said.
"She always maintained a positive demeanor -- 'I'm not denying the illness, but I am going to approach this positively,' " DeMott said.
In addition to her mother, father and husband, Ryan is survived by sister Heather Johann and brother Artie Johann, both of Los Angeles; brother Eric Johann of Bayport; grandmother Connie Hoernel of Babylon; and stepfather Gene DeMott of Sayville.
Ryan was buried last month at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu. Her family will host a celebration of her life in Sayville on Jan. 19, 2013.