Former Mayor Jerry Ryan-RIP

After a long struggle with cancer my good friend Jerry passed away this morning. He served Maplewood and its citizens well. He cared greatly. I hate being the bearer of bad news but thought people should know.


That's such terrible news. He was a great Maplewoodian.


This is sad news. Words escape me.


Sad news indeed. RIP.


I just found this out.  I'm so sad.  He was a wonderful person and he seemed to enjoy life so much.  He was a terrific mayor also. 


I had heard recently that Jerry knew his time was short. Good man. Good story teller. Shared quite a few laughs over pints and poker hands. He devoted SO much time to Maplewood. Sucks that he's gone.


I had just seen this a little while ago. Very sad news. Jerry was a good man, who loved Maplewood and who did a lot to make it even better. My condolences to his family. He will be missed by many of us. I wish his time here had been longer.


I knew Jerry as a poker buddy, drinking partner, co-star, occasional

political opponent, political mentor and friend. He was a good man. He

will be missed. RIP


Terrible news, I didn't realize he was battling cancer.

He was a good person and clearly loved Maplewood.  I remember him campaigning door-to-door with Vic DeLuca when we first moved here.   Rest in peace, Jerry.


RIP.  Deepest condolences to Deb and family.


I got to see him one last time last week. I didn't know how bad it was until I saw him.

This sucks.


Sad news indeed.


So very sorry to hear this sad news. 


So sad.  No idea he was ill.  RIP Jerry and thanks.


I'm shocked to hear of Jerry's death, not having known he was battling cancer. I will always remember Jerry for his heartwarming sense of humor. He was able to make jokes about every situation, it seemed. Even when he told me of friction between Maplewood residents and the township committee on which he served, how the residents didn't understand what serving entailed, he was able to make jokes. I think it serves as a model for how to continue in what you think is right even when there is adversity.

My first encounter with Jerry was over email. He was reporting to my department about something that wasn't working right in the computer systems. He coined the word "gefurgled" and in the moment said he would continue using the word. Later that day, I introduced myself to him to investigate the gefurglement.
My job was as a system administrator, serving the Research arm of Bell Labs. Jerry was one of my department's clients. He decided that we system administrators deserved special titles of our own, so he called all of us Dude. He consistently greeted us with, "Dude?" When there was a large gathering of system administrators in the hall, he pronounced it a dudefest.

In around 2000, when I learned that Jerry would be playing in a local theater production, I decided to attend. I was living in Edison, NJ. I traveled to Maplewood where the play was. I arrived early and ate dinner alone at Arturo's Osteria, sitting in the window, admiring the picturesque view of Maplewood. I thought to myself that I might one day like to live in Maplewood. That came true a few years later, and I owe some of that inspiration to Jerry.

Jerry liked sharing his funny anecdotes. He said that he had made arrangements to take his sons to a stadium game and for whatever reason, he would not be taking his daughter. So he told his sons that they could all do "guy things." One of his sons said, "Like fart!"

Jerry proclaimed funny things loudly in the halls at Bell Labs. One cold winter day, he walked into my aisle saying loudly, "It's so cold I could break a window with my nipples." My aisle had nice offices with big windows. Jerry proclaimed, "Man, these offices don't suck much."

I owe Jerry gratitude for his help with my advocacy for bicycles. My friend Ellen and I had co-founded the South Orange Maplewood Bicycle Coalition. We wanted the town to pass a Complete Streets resolution to make the town more bike friendly and encouraging. I told him of my idea over a beer at a local bar. His advice to me was (1) better to make a proposal that doesn't cost the town money, which was easy enough, and (2) make it so the committee members think that my proposal is their idea. With that, the town passed the resolution, and South Orange quickly followed suit.

I'm sure I'll have more memories of Jerry as I recall them with colleagues and old neighbors. Jerry was like that.

Tom Reingold

High Falls, NY


Jerry was one of a kind with a wonderful sense of humor, he will be missed.


Gerard William (Jerry) Ryan

May 21, 1961-May 27, 2020

Jerry Ryan passed away this morning at his home in Maplewood, New Jersey, after a valiant three-year battle with cancer. He was 59.

Born and raised on “the rock,” Staten Island, New York, Jerry graduated from Monsignor Farrell High School in 1979. He then attended The Cooper Union in New York City, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering (Class of 1983) as well as preferential status at McSorley’s Ale House. After moving to Maplewood, NJ, in 1985, he earned a master’s degree in Computer Science in 1987 from Rutgers University. He was completing his doctoral dissertation at New Jersey Institute of Technology when he passed.

Jerry had a genius for friendship. At Cooper Union, he made many lifelong friends, including the “eight guys,” a group of classmates with whom he enjoyed an annual ski trip for more than 25 years. Other long-term friends included members of the Strollers, Maplewood’s community theatre company, with whom he enthusiastically “trod the boards” in productions ranging from A View from the Bridge to The Music Man in addition to serving on the Board of Directors.

Professionally, Jerry spent 15 years as a technical manager and research scientist at Bell Labs, followed by seven years at Avaya and nearly five at Motorola, where he managed the software component teams for some of the earliest Android products, including the Droid RAZR and Droid2Global. At the age of 50, he embarked on a second career as a senior lecturer at New Jersey Institute of Technology, where students consistently lauded him as one of the best lecturers at the school. During this time, he was also a major contributor, community leader, and chief software architect of the PALISADE open source privacy software in the NJIT Cybersecurity Research Center.

In addition to all of this, the bedrock of Jerry’s life was public service. In 1992, after a contentious election and legal fight, Jerry began his service on the Maplewood Township Committee, the youngest person ever to have been elected. Jerry served a total of 19 years on the Township Committee, including three years as Mayor from 1998 through 2000, again the youngest person to serve as Maplewood’s Mayor. Jerry also served 23 years on the Maplewood Planning Board, including five years as Board Chair, a position in which he was serving at the time of his death.

As Mayor, Jerry provided critical support for the establishment of the Springfield Avenue Partnership and the Community Coalition on Race. Among Jerry’s accomplishments in public life were the adoption of Maplewood’s Master Plan, the creation of the Maplewood Arts Council, the redevelopment of former industrial sites on Burnett and Springfield Avenues, the rehabilitation of the Burgdorff Center for the Performing Arts, and the conversion of the former Woman’s Club to The Woodland.

In a speech he gave in 2015, Jerry said, “It has been a blessing and joy to be given the opportunity to serve my neighbors, the people in the town that I live in. To have the support of your family and your friends and your party to be able to help you do this thing that you love doing — it really can’t be described.”

He added, “The really great thing about this job is that you get to meet every single interesting person in your community. Some people say nasty things about you. Some people say delightful things about you. But you are elected to serve them all.”

Jerry is survived by his wife, Deborah Gaines Ryan; his daughter, Christina Ryan Finley, and her husband, Patrick Finley; his sons, Luke Ryan and Mark Ryan; his three siblings and their spouses, Jo Anne Ryan Carroll and William Carroll, Denis Ryan and Cher Roessler, and Ellen Ryan Manger and Tony Manger; three stepchildren, Lila, Andre, and Aaron; over 200 beloved aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, and cousins; and a host of devoted friends.

Interment will be private. In lieu of flowers, Jerry has asked that donations be made in his memory to the following local charitable organizations: the Maplewood Strollers (thestrollers.org), Rent Party (rentpartylive.com), Achieve Foundation (achievefoundation.org), or CancerCare.org.

A memorial service of suitable size and joviality will be arranged as soon as possible. Meanwhile, please send condolences, along with your favorite Jerry stories, to Deborah at RememberingJerryRyan@gmail.com


I would rather have this at the Gate, but for now this is for Jerry. He and I shared a few pints over the years. 


I am shocked and very, very sad to read this.    

Back in the Reval Wars of 1999/2000 Jerry had to cast the deciding vote on the question of whether the new assessments should stand or be overturned.   In the days and weeks leading up to that vote there were hundreds of people who turned out to Town Hall to protest and it was pretty intense, and often ugly.   In order to provide transparency, Jerry did a lot of data analytics and he put a database online so that everyone could easily see comparables on their own block and across the whole town.

In the end, Jerry voted to approve the Reval - and in the process he raised his own taxes by thousands of dollars.  He could have easily found an excuse to vote the other way...but Jerry was more concerned about fairness than anything else.    I was always struck by his amazing act of courage.

A lot of the things that are great about Maplewood today are tied directly to when Jerry won that election in 1992 ushering in an era of progressive views that are now deeply ingrained in the character of this town.  His legacy can be seen in virtually everything we do in this community.

May his memory surely be for a blessing.


sbenois said:

I am shocked and very, very sad to read this.    

Back in the Reval Wars of 1999/2000 Jerry had to cast the deciding vote on the question of whether the new assessments should stand or be overturned.   In the days and weeks leading up to that vote there were hundreds of people who turned out to Town Hall to protest and it was pretty intense, and often ugly.   In order to provide transparency, Jerry did a lot of data analytics and he put a database online so that everyone could easily see comparables on their own block and across the whole town.

In the end, Jerry voted to approve the Reval - and in the process he raised his own taxes by thousands of dollars.  He could have easily found an excuse to vote the other way...but Jerry was more concerned about fairness than anything else.    I was always struck by his amazing act of courage.

A lot of the things that are great about Maplewood today are tied directly to when Jerry won that election in 1992 ushering in an era of progressive views that are now deeply ingrained in the character of this town.  His legacy can be seen in virtually everything we do in this community.

May his memory surely be for a blessing.

During the Reval Wars, Jerry knew the law and knew what had to be done, despite what it cost him personally and politically. Others knew those things too, but pretended they didn't to capitalize on the anger and confusion.

RIP, Jerry.


I've just heard this and I'm so shocked and sad.  Jerry was the face and heart of Maplewood in the years our children were young together.  This is a real loss.  Far too much of an intrusion on the real world.  I'm so sorry.  Rest in pillows, my friend.


Jerry was one of the first people to make me feel welcome when my wife and I moved here in 2007. We met through doing shows with The Strollers. I have some absolutely gonna make you do a spit take memories with him, including one fateful night with the dark ale at McSorley's and a misbegotten after-hours subway ride in the wrong direction.

I'll miss him.


I still don’t have words for this beyond what I managed to get out rather quickly early this morning. 

Crushing and tragic.   Maplewood and Shaolin have lost one of their finest. 


I am going to miss this guy. He was a force of nature and a wonderful friend.

Love you, Jerry. 


ctrzaska said:

I still don’t have words for this beyond what I managed to get out rather quickly early this morning. 

Crushing and tragic.   Maplewood and Shaolin have lost one of their finest. 

 ctraska:

Remember the night in the Pub that we came up with the draft of the Maplewood elections ala It's A Wonderful Life? 


So sad to hear about Jerry's passing

May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of his hand. ...


Soul_29 said:

 ctraska:

Remember the night in the Pub that we came up with the draft of the Maplewood elections ala It's A Wonderful Life? 

Yes indeed.  Beyond hilarious.  Someone somewhere has the cast of characters on a placemat, I think.  For some reason I think I wound up as Harry Bailey. 


I first met Jerry and his very young children many years ago. He was in a runoff against Mayoy Grasmere in the early '90s and I was a very green PR guy offering my volunteer help, which he really didn't need with his amazing ability to know the issues, relate them patiently to even those with the most questions, and to move along with a smile and a "thank you for your time" when he got a "sorry I'm a Republican." He was even thin back then (no one ever believes me on this point). We became fast friends and spent many evenings out along with other regulars at local pubs after work, where Jerry would always have the best stories or be imparting some obscure knowledge about running a local government body (note how I differentiate those). He knew and was cordial if not effusively friendly with everyone. If he didn't take to someone it was a  rare occasion and only noted in a private sidesplittingly funny comment after they had left the scene. Now that Jerry has left the scene I have nothing but sadness and a wish for peace and condolences for Deborah, his and her families and friends, and all who had the privilege to know him. 

He once prophetically said to me--and probably others--that he loved Maplewood so much he would have to be carried out. Alas, too soon, my friend.



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