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Manassas Police Officer Mourned

Lieutenant Remembered For Dedication and Wit

By Tara Young
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 24, 2005; Page PW01

Some knew him as J.K., others as Jimmy, and still others just called him Jim.

But, by any name, Lt. James Keith Ryan of the Manassas City police was a man known for going beyond the call of duty and making everyone with whom he came in contact feel special and loved.

On Monday, family members and friends gathered at the Price Funeral Home chapel in Manassas and remembered Ryan, who died after losing control of his Isuzu Rodeo while driving south on Route 17 in Fauquier County on April 14. Virginia State Police said the sport-utility vehicle hit an embankment and overturned several times. The veteran police officer was ejected from the vehicle and killed.

Ryan, 46, a patrol division watch commander, became a sergeant in 2000 and was promoted to lieutenant in 2004.

"He was respected for both his knowledge of this city and his knowledge of law enforcement," Chief John J. Skinner said in an interview after the funeral.

Despite Ryan's demanding job, Skinner said, the officer managed to bring a smile to people with whom he worked.

"One of the things that I admired most and respected about Jim was his wit," Skinner said.

At the funeral, Eleanor Ryan told mourners that her son loved his job and the people with whom he worked.

"I couldn't have had a better son, a better baby, a better teenager or adult," said Ryan, adding that her son seemed to be born to become a police officer. "He was my right arm. He was always there for me. . . . He was always helping. He was always doing something. And he would always take charge."

Jim Ryan brought smiles to many faces when he spoke about his son's passion for the Rev. Billy Graham, bluegrass music and harmonicas. He said that his son had focused for a while on having a closer relationship with God and that one of his dreams was to meet Graham.

"He's with Jesus right now," Ryan said. "Probably up there playing his harmonica."

Because of his great love of music, it was only appropriate that the family play a song for him, said James Keith Ryan's daughters, Victoria and Valerie Ryan.

One of his daughters fondly remembered the first time she heard the song "Who Will Sing for Me?" She said her father played it for her on a trip to buy her mother, Sheri Ryan, a birthday gift.

It was her father's nature to play songs he liked over and over again. Before long, the daughter said, she, too, was singing the song. It was a song their father started singing for others who had died.

The girls said they wanted their father to know they were singing that song for him now.

The Rev. Tom Hayes of Little Fork Episcopal Church in Rixeyville, Va., said that shortly before the fatal crash, he had spoken and prayed with Ryan.

"He prayed for all you folks in uniform here; he prayed for his family," Hayes said. "Jimmy is in good hands. He's in God's hands."

© 2005 The Washington Post Company