Margie Ryan

Margie Ann Ryan, 94, of Madison, N.J., passed away in Concord, Mass., of natural causes on April 21.

Margie was born in Paton and was the eldest of 10 children. 

She was predeceased by her parents, John and Clara; and her husband, Robert S. Ryan. 

She is survived by her four children: Elizabeth (Ted), Robert (Priscilla), Joseph (Cheryl) and Kate (Tom); as well as 10 grandchildren: Grace, Clare, Abigail, Peter, William, Brent, Ben, John, Jim and Sophie; sister Darlene (Bill); and brothers Richard (Kay) and Bob (Nancy). 

Margie grew up on a farm in Iowa during the Depression and graduated as valedictorian from Paton High School in 1943.

After graduating, she worked in the local grocery store and used her savings to obtain a teaching certificate from Iowa State Teachers College (now University of Northern Iowa) in Cedar Falls. 

Upon graduating, she taught elementary school in Carroll before curiosity took her to Wyoming in 1952. She and her best friend were intrigued by a University of Wyoming brochure for program that stated, “Summer school where summer’s cool.”

After finishing school, she took a job as a teller in Casper, Wyo., and she met her husband, Robert, at a church dance. Their first date was at the Goose Egg restaurant in Casper, where Margie surprised and impressed her future husband by ordering roast duckling. They married in 1953, settling in Midwest, Wyo., where Robert was a petroleum engineer.

They started a family in 1954 and traveled throughout the western United States as work transfers required. In 1959, they relocated to Madison, N.J., where they lived in the same home for over 60 years. After marrying into the longtime Madison Ryan clan, Margie would become known for her generous hospitality and open-door policy. 

Margie was an attentive and loving mother staying at home for her children for many years. Once her children got older, she began to volunteer at the Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center.

She was a self-taught naturalist who was fascinated by the world around her; she had an extensive nature collection that included geologic specimens, bird feathers and animal bones which she tucked in various corners about her home. She wallpapered several rooms with National Geographic maps partly because “wallpaper was too expensive” but also because she thought they were beautiful reminders of trips. 

She later took paid positions at the Morris County Museum and the Outdoor Education Center, both of which she dearly loved. She taught programs for young children and conducted nighttime “owl walks” playing recorded owl calls into the night.

Margie also volunteered at the Madison schools, conducting nature programming as well as teaching CCD at the local parish. She regularly ran the pizza concession at the Green Village Road School’s annual fair. 

In later life, Margie and her husband traveled extensively throughout the United States and Europe. Their favorite mode of transportation was a series of enormous Oldsmobiles. Together they crisscrossed the country many dozens of times and could always tell a story about a tiny out of the way museum, quaint hotel or remote state park. Perhaps her favorite place in the world was Yellowstone National Park, which she visited many, many times.

Margie was an avid naturalist and worked diligently to cultivate the gardens around her home. A reader of nonfiction, favored topics were history, the natural world and adventure travel logs.

Margie loved to tell memorable stories about growing up on an Iowa farm. She talked about the electrification of the farm in 1939, getting indoor plumbing and helping her mother with cooking, baking and raising her younger siblings.

She loved her Iowa and New Jersey families and spent a great deal of time and energy preparing fantastic holiday meals. She was proud of all of her children and grandchildren and loved to brag about each of them. She will be greatly remembered and deeply missed. 

A memorial service will be held at St. Vincent’s Church in Madison, N.J., at a later time this year.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Outdoor Education Center in Chatham Twp., N.J. (

To share a remembrance in her online guestbook, please visit

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