On July 3, we lost a code statesman in John Ed Ryan. Not everyone had the opportunity to meet or know John Ed, but for those of us who did, he was a true treasure of a man.
John Ed was a friend to all. He loved the code profession and dedicated his life to it. I met him in the late 1970s when I was a young engineer just getting started in the profession. Already an elder statesman, John Ed represented the wood industry. He had a lifetime of experiences that he shared with everyone.
What I learned right away was that everyone in the code profession liked one another. John Ed would fight fiercely during the public hearings for his point of view. Someone else would argue fiercely against his point of view. Then later, I saw the two of them talking, laughing and having a good time. John Ed often told me: “We fight on the floor for our points of view, but if we can’t be friends afterwards, there is no sense in being in this profession. We all are working for the same thing - protection of public health, safety and welfare.”
That really struck me, because there were times I disagreed with John Ed on issues. Yet he would present his point of view in a gentlemanly manner. I could argue my point of view, yet we would remain close friends.
A Classy MentorThe one thing that I really admired about John Ed is how he took all the young people under his wing. He was always the professor, yet he was also your biggest fan. He wanted you to succeed in the profession.
When I went to work for BOCA, we became even closer friends. I would see John Ed at all of the important inspectors meetings. He was always lending a helping hand. Seeing him behind the scenes and witnessing all that he did made me admire him that much more.
When I would meet John Ed at various meetings in the Northeast, he would always introduce me to the movers and shakers. He wanted me to know all of the important people. His introductions were always such that he made me feel important. He always built me up - but he did that to everyone. That was the type of gentleman John Ed was. He knew everyone and everyone knew him. Plus, everyone respected and admired him.
There were times at code-adoption meetings that I observed John Ed supporting the adoption of the new code. One time I went up to him and asked why if he lost a major code change in the last hearing, was he supporting the code adoption? His response was that we fight on the code floor and then we support the adoption of that code, as is. This was how strongly he supported the code profession.
More John Eds NeededWith the current strategy of fighting the adoption of the 2009 International Residential Code because of the mandatory fire sprinkler requirements, we need more John Ed Ryans present. I can imagine John Ed telling the politicians to just adopt the code without amendments. He would tell all those opposed to the mandatory sprinkler requirements to fight their issue on the code-change floor.
In one of our final conversations, John Ed told me he supported the mandatory sprinkler requirements, which was a surprise because it was an issue we always disagreed on. His comment to me was the time had come and, furthermore, sprinklers are now a lot cheaper to install, so it was no longer a big deal.
I can’t tell you how good that made me feel knowing that the person I loved and respected in this profession supported such an important issue. I remember saying, “Thank you.” His response was, “No, thank you for all that you have done.” That was so like John Ed to pass on accolades.
John Ed The HistorianJohn Ed also was a great historian of codes. He knew every part of the code profession. He also knew the origins of code requirements. Whenever I was stuck, I knew I could call him or ask him and he would have the answer.
The staff of BOCA used to have a pool at every code hearing on how long it would take John Ed to mention the 1950s in his testimony on a code change. Many of the staff’s young whippersnappers didn’t care to hear about the old days. They wanted to hear testimony on the latest state-of-the-art stuff.
It never did take John Ed long to mention the 1950s. But if you listened to him, he was educating you on the code and the code process. This was the early 1980s and the 1950s seemed so long ago to those of us on the staff. Many of us were born in the 1950s.
Today when I testify, I have found myself mentioning the 1980s. Every time that comes out of my mouth, I stop and think of John Ed as I am testifying. He was right in that we must know where we came from so we don’t repeat the mistakes we have made in the past. As he taught, history in the code profession is important.
I often wonder if the staffs of the code bodies take a pool on how long it will take me to mention the 1980s at a hearing.
John Ed retired many years ago, but his mind was still sharp. I always enjoyed seeing him at the code hearings. We would always find time to talk and discuss what was going on in the business. I still looked for John Ed’s support on various issues. How could you not respect the opinion of the master?
For many years, John Ed took excellent care of his loving wife, Frances. When she died, John Ed knew that God had taken her to a better place. Now John Ed gets to join Frances again.
God bless you, John Ed. Thank you for all your years and dedication to the profession and to your fellow man. You will be missed at the code hearings.
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