Lura Lynn Ryan, wife of jailed former Illinois governor, dies at 76

June 28, 2011

Lura Lynn Ryan, the former Illinois first lady who spent the waning years of her life seeking freedom for her imprisoned husband, former governor George Ryan, died June 27 at a hospital in Kankakee, Ill. She was 76.

She had lung cancer and had been hospitalized for apparent complications from chemotherapy.

Mrs. Ryan was a steadfast supporter of her husband and maintained that he had never done anything wrong during his lengthy political career. They had been married for 55 years.

The former governor, who was convicted on federal corruption charges in 2006, was quietly escorted from his prison cell in Terre Haute, Ind., to be at her hospital bedside for two hours in January. She had been hospitalized earlier in the day and, according to his lawyer, drifted in and out of sleep and struggled to speak while he was there, although she recognized him.

The secret visit was not revealed until two days later, when federal prosecutors mentioned it in a court filing arguing against a request by his lawyers to have him released on bail so he could spend more time with his dying wife. The former governor has served three years of a 61 / 2-year sentence for racketeering, conspiracy, tax fraud and making false statements to the FBI.

Lura Lynn Lowe grew up in the Kankakee County village of Aroma Park, where her family, originally from Germany, had lived since 1834. Her father owned one of the nation’s first hybrid seed companies.

She and George Ryan met in high school English class in Kankakee. Together, they have five daughters, one son and more than a dozen grandchildren.

— Associated Press