Dave Bettencourt, a former baseball captain at both Peabody High and the University of New Hampshire, summed up what Dr. James ‘Doc’ Ryan meant to so many.
“We need more Doc Ryan’s. He was an amazing man,” said Bettencourt. “Unfortunately, somebody like him doesn’t come along very often.”
There’s an excellent chance every Salem resident either knew, or knew of, Doc Ryan and/or his big family. The lifelong Salem resident, who passed away at age 83 late last week, was dedicated to the Witch City.
Ryan was a well-known dentist, school committee member, Parks and Recreation Commission member, mayoral candidate in 1999 and coach of the Post 23 Legion baseball team for over 40 years.
Ryan, who graduated from Salem High School and the College of the Holy Cross, was a Korean War veteran. He served as a Naval officer for four years, then went to Tufts University Dental School. He was the city’s dentist, visiting schools once a week to examine student’s teeth.
Ryan and his wife Ann had been married for over 59 years and had 14 children and 29 grandchildren. His athletic family kept Doc busy attending various games.
“I had all the Ryan kids in school except Jennifer (who attended Bishop Fenwick),” said former Salem High football coach Ken Perrone, who also taught in Salem for many years. “I was blessed to have all eight of Doc’s sons play for me, and from 1973 until my last year as coach (in 1994) I had a Ryan on my team every year, starting with Jimmy in ‘73 and ending with Patrick when we went to the Super Bowl in 1994. All of them were hard working kids who had a great love of the game, which was instilled by Doc. He was there at all the games — was my dentist for over 20 years.”