Richland County says goodbye to deputy

nophillips@thestate.comDecember 5, 2013 

Richland County Sheriff’s Deputy Mark Ryan was remembered Thursday as a meticulous person who paid attention to small details in every aspect of his life.

Ryan, 55, was known around the sheriff’s department for his organizational skills and consistent thinking of new ideas. When he had an idea, he would research it and then prepare a presentation organized in a binder, Sheriff Leon Lott said. And there would be good ideas in those binders, he said.

“No one loved putting on that uniform more than Mark did,” Lott said.

Ryan died Sunday after a three-year battle with lung cancer, a disease that struck even though Ryan did not smoke and did not have a family history of cancer. He was a single father to three daughters, two of whom are adults and one who is in her teens.

The memorial service at Thompson Funeral Home was filled with law enforcement officers. Ryan had worked at the sheriff’s department for eight years, most recently as an investigator in the victims’ services unit. He worked as often as possible even when undergoing chemotherapy. Earlier this year, Ryan was recognized for running into a burning building to save residents. Afterward, he was treated for smoke inhalation.

Michael Ryan, the deputy’s brother, told stories of their childhood, praising his brother’s mechanical skills but making jokes about projects that went awry. As a young man, Deputy Ryan rigged a Volkswagen Beetle’s headlights so he could flip a switch and make them wink at girls.

He once put racing slicks on a Pontiac Firebird, but he melted the tires in the driveway while burning rubber to show off for his brothers, Michael Ryan said.

In raising his daughters, Ryan put the same whole-hearted, meticulous efforts into parenting. He helped with everything from Girl Scouts to building sets for plays at Irmo High School, Michael Ryan said.

“He couldn’t be just any den mother,” Michael Ryan said of the Girl Scout troop. “He took it upon himself to organize the ‘women of law enforcement’ day.”

That event brought everything from firefighters to FBI agents to helicopters to the Girl Scouts.

Michael Ryan thanked the sheriff’s department for becoming a second family for his brother and nieces.

“He truly found home,” the brother said. “He was a better person here. He was a happier person here. He loved what he did and he worked very hard at it.”

Reach Phillips at (803) 771-8307.

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