I first met George Ryan, in 1975 when I was a baby teacher/coach at Bishop McNamara in Kankakee - a Chicago 18th Ward Democrat in Republican Land. In Fact Mimi Shapiro asked me to run for City Clerk as a Democrat - I figured what the hell -good way to learn the town. George’s brother Tom was the Mayor. The GOP slated Gene Glenzinski for City Clerk and the Dad of one my wrestlers and a better man never pulled on socks.
The Race was a blast and we had frequent ‘debates’ and run-ins with the Machine. George Ryan was a lovely guy. One day while walking to work, up Brookmont from my apartment in White City near Washington Park. I saw guys replacing Democratic signs that had been knocked down. I asked one of the guys ‘What gives?’ He said, ‘ George said to get them back up. You guys are gonna get waxed anyway.’ Laughed my butt off.
The Democratic slate was slaughtered, in fact I got the most votes -novelty votes for the kid, I imagine.
George Ryan was present wherever anyone from Kankakee, especially his political opponents, were in a jam or suffering. I saw George Ryan at St. Mary's Hospital visiting dying relatives of people who hated him politically. George Ryan had time for everyone. He was the reason why the Kankakee GOP was so successful and it was because he genuinely cared for people. The only person nicer than George Ryan is his bride Lura Lynn. That woman was everywhere!
I never once voted for George Ryan. Oh Hell, I'm a Party Democrat . . . I was anyway. I backed candidates who wouldn't give a penny to starving blind man . . .they would enact Programs for Hungry Blind and Indigent . . .once elected.
I have met George Ryan at many wakes and weddings, in Kankakee and Joliet. He is a very nice man. I’d buy the man a steak any day, at Ken’s in my neighborhood, or Krapil’s, or Franconello’s or some such homey place reminiscent of Kings Court and Town and Country in Kankakee, if he’d allow me. George Ryan did not seem to match Gibson’s or Tavern on Rush or the other news-ghoul & hustler eateries. These other fore mentioned places are where George Ryan’s people eat.
The type of people who go to Ken’s and other neighborhood dining spots are the people George Ryan connected to - not political allies, hangers-on or opportunists, but people like Ryan himself. I witnessed quite a few of George Ryan’s many acts of kindness to people who could never do any political boon for anyone - let alone George Ryan - too numerous to catalog. He treated Joe Blow from the docks at Tenney Sales on 5th Ave. in Kankakee like he was a Sam Zell with an ink wet contribution check.
Conversely, I have followed the words of many familiar voices in print that have universally called for a mighty punishment on George Ryan - most of the people writing those words seem like people that I can do without. John Kass and Tom Roeser are the only two valid voices of anti-Ryan sentiment in my opinion - there are others to be sure, mostly regular folks and I respect their feelings.
However, there are many more, mostly media creatures. who are stone hypocrites -DuPage GOP ‘almost weres and fatuous Polka Partners like Judy Topinka who could not get snug enough in George’s back pockets when he was flush with clout and now stomp on his crippled limbs.
It seemed to me that Ryan’s Judge and Federal Prosecutors were going to get George Ryan come Hell, Highwater, or the lady with the blindfold. and they did - the voices in print ( paper and electronic) - sock-puppets or anonymous back-shooters for the most part - howl in genuine agony that George Ryan has the same rights as other citizens. ‘The quicker he is in jail the happier I’ll be’ read one such post, or ‘Ryan can rot in Hell’. Must be a lovely people . . . to avoid.