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"MUI" 2003 Obituary


MUIR 

MUIR o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2003-01-02 published
Lee RYAN
By Tim RYAN Thursday, January 2, 2003, Page A18
Poet, television producer, conservationist. Born September 13, 1939, in Toronto. Died December 17 in Boise, Idaho, of Alzheimer's disease, aged 63.
Lee RYAN survived a crash-landing in the Namib Desert of Africa 17 years ago, but like more than four million others in North America, she couldn't survive the devastating effects of Alzheimer's disease. The mother of four -- an accomplished poet, television producer and African wildlife conservationist -- died 12 years after being diagnosed as an "early onset" victim of the disease that robs one's identity as it kills brain cells, slowly diminishing mind and body.
Lee was born Mary Leona MUIR in Toronto, daughter of Scottish/Irish immigrant parents. Her father Alex was yardmaster of the Canadian National Railway terminal in Toronto. Her mother, Mina O'GORMAN, a native of County Tyrone, Northern Ireland, raised Leona and three siblings; sister Sandy, brothers Michael and Gerard, all of whom still live in Canada.
Lee was educated at Loretto Abbey and obtained her Registered Nurse degree at St. Michael's Hospital College of Nursing in Toronto before marrying sportscaster Tim RYAN in 1961. They moved with children Kimberley, Kevin and Jay to Oakland, Calif., in 1967 as Mr. RYAN advanced his career in the U.S. Following the birth of their fourth child, Brendan, the family moved to Larchmont, New York, where they lived for the next 21 years.
While Mr. RYAN became a nationally known announcer with National Broadcasting Company, Columbia Broadcasting System and Fox before rejoining National Broadcasting Company Sports in 1998, Lee began her own television career, producing programs for the local cable access station in Westchester County. She became an accomplished fencer and tennis player and began to dabble in writing (her whimsical story about the family cat was published in the New York Times features section). But her life changed dramatically when she and Tim became trustees of the Save African Endangered Wildlife Foundation.
Through the 1980s, the RYANs joined a small group of New Yorkers assisting in the effort to save the black rhino, heavily poached in southern Africa. They spent one month a year working with researchers, wildlife experts and parks people in Zimbabwe, Zambia and Namibia.
Lee proved to be an intrepid safari traveller, confronting lions, elephants and Cape buffalo with a brave insouciance, armed only with a camera. Her love and respect for the animals and the environment inspired several of her poems, many of which are in a private publication The Gift of Lee.
But her most frightening African incident was with an airplane, not an animal. In 1985, Lee, Tim and three colleagues from the Foundation were flying by private aircraft from Johannesburg to a tiny camp in the desert of Namibia to meet with a rhino researcher. They ran out of daylight and the pilot was forced to land on the desert floor, miles short of the destination, on rocky terrain. The nose wheel of the six-passenger Cessna struck a rock and it nearly rolled over as it ground to a halt with another wheel collapsing and one wing digging into the ground.
The passengers escaped unhurt, but had to spend a night and day in the barren desert before finally making radio contact with a commercial airliner and effecting a rescue by police from a remote tin mine miles away.
The RYANs continued their travels to Africa for five more years, until Alzheimer's changed their lives forever. With the children off on their own, they moved to Sun Valley, Idaho, in 1991.
Three years later, Lee required nursing home care. Her final resting place, the Boise Samaritan Village, was a long away from her beloved Africa. She died peacefully, her husband at her side.
Tim RYAN was Lee RYAN's husband.

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