At age 90, Bob Ryan has been practicing law in Alton for more than 60 years and still goes into work every day.
You know the moment you meet Bob Ryan that you are talking to someone special. Fit and trim. Articulate and direct. His personable manner rapidly engages you and makes you realize you are talking to someone capable and energetic.
What you may not realize quite as quickly is that Ryan is 90 years old. The principal of the Alton law firm he established in the early 1970s, he still goes into the office to work every day. In addition, Ryan is not only the model of a self-made businessman, he is a World War II veteran and military hero.
Born and raised in Alton, Ryan graduated from Marquette High School. He enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1943 and was a navigator on a B-17 bomber flying missions out of England. In May 1944 on his sixth bombing mission, his plane was shot down by Germans and he was taken captive. Ryan was a prisoner of war of the German Army for 11 months.
He talks of his experience frankly, neither bragging about nor avoiding the facts of the situation. When asked if, at that young age, he was scared, he explains, “There was always an element of apprehension about the situation because you knew there had to eventually be some climax to it and you did not know what that would be.”
He was held in a number of different camps during his captivity, being forced to walk to relocate from one camp to another in the winter. He notes conditions in the camps got worse as the war progressed and the Germans started losing.
“Food became short. Almost everything became hard to get,” he says.
Ryan was freed in April 1945 when General Patton’s 3rd Army liberated the camp. He was discharged from the service in late 1945 and returned to the area to go to school. He first went to Parks College to take classes in aeronautics, then went to Saint Louis University, where he earned his law degree.
He passed the Bar exam in 1953 and began practicing law with the local law firm of Green and Hoagland. Running his own law firm for over 60 years now, Ryan practices real estate law and works on trusts and estates. When asked why he continues to practice law at age 90, he laughs and replies, “I’m like a musician. I have to keep practicing to be good.”
When questioned about what is required to stay current in his profession, he explains there are seldom major changes regarding laws but rules and their tax consequences are constantly being “tinkered” with and he reads updates issued by the state regularly to keep current.
Ryan says he enjoys what he is doing. He notes that he is his own boss and observes he is fortunate.
“Not many people have the opportunity to work this long, even when they enjoy what they are doing.”
He attributes his longevity simply to having good genes and says he does not do anything particularly special to maintain his fitness.
Ryan and his wife, Jane, were married for 56 years before she passed away last year. He has two daughters and three granddaughters whom he sees regularly and notes his family as being his main personal interest.
Having been born and raised in Alton, Ryan has clearly maintained an interest in and a focus on the area his entire life. Still going strong both mentally and physically at age 90, Bob Ryan is proof you can pursue your goals well into your senior years.