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North Hempstead Democratic chairman John Ryan dies at 69; remembered for his 'quiet leadership'

John Ryan, chairman of the North Hempstead Democratic

John Ryan, chairman of the North Hempstead Democratic Committee, died on Oct. 23 at age 69. The longtime Great Neck resident also was a financial adviser. Credit: Johnny Milano

John Ryan’s legacy is one of compassion, honesty and generosity.

The longtime Great Neck resident and North Hempstead Democratic Committee chairman served as a friend and mentor to many in the community.

Ryan died on Oct. 23, a day after turning 69, after a long battle with prostate cancer.

Every time he walked into a room, his peers said, he had a big smile on his face and displayed a sincerity that couldn’t be matched.

"He was probably the most thoughtful person that you’ll ever run into," said Nassau County Democratic chairman Jay Jacobs. "I think he’ll always be remembered for his decency, kindness, his quiet leadership and his ability to bring people together in a time where people were more prone to be torn apart."

Ryan was born on Oct. 22, 1952, and raised in Flushing, where he attended and graduated from Holy Cross High School in 1970. He earned both his bachelor’s and master’s in economics and finance from St. John’s University. He later earned another master’s degree in gerontology and a post-master’s thanatology certification.

Ryan met his wife, Stephanie, when he was 17 and she was 14. In 1976, they got married and three years later moved to Great Neck, where they raised their three daughters, Rebecca Edelstein of Glen Head; Megan Kanefsky of Port Washington; and Brittany Castillo of Glen Oaks.

"He was the best dad you’ll ever know," said Stephanie Ryan of Great Neck. "When my daughters wanted to go for prom gowns or wedding dresses or anything, they would ask John to take them. There was no denying them anything."

While he wore many hats as president, chairman and founder of different organizations, his wife said, his most cherished title was "Grandpa."

Ryan worked as a financial adviser in several Manhattan firms including Morgan Stanley, where he met his business partner, Peter Janowsky of Syosset, in the late 1990s. Janowsky recalled that his mother had just died, and he needed to take a personal day to clear her apartment and remove carpeting. To his surprise, Ryan showed up at the apartment the next day with a hammer.

"That’s how we became friends. I knew I had a friend for life," Janowsky said. "If John Ryan was in your life, you were lucky. If you were in his life, you were blessed."

They established the Ryan & Janowsky Financial Strategies Group in Jericho, which they managed for more than 20 years.

In 2016, Ryan was tapped by the North Hempstead Democrats to lead the town's party after its former chairman Gerard Terry resigned after Newsday reported on his tax incongruities. Terry served nearly 3 years in a federal prison after being convicted of tax evasion, as well as 6 months for state tax fraud.

"John was impeccable in his standards, morals and his honesty," said Steven Markowitz, vice chairman of the North Hempstead Democratic Committee and president of the Great Neck Democratic Club. "I think that’s what gave everyone confidence."

North Hempstead Supervisor Judi Bosworth, who supported Ryan’s bid for chairman, said in a statement that his contributions to the town were immeasurable.

"As a longtime host of the Project Independence and You radio show, John played an integral role in disseminating critical information to our residents," she said, referring to a town program for residents 60 and over. "John brought light into everyone’s life he touched. He was a cherished friend and will be sorely missed."

Ryan is survived by his wife, three daughters and six grandchildren, with a seventh expected in December.

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