Barbara Anne Haddad Ryan, a longtime journalist who wrote for The Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News, died on Thursday at her North Carolina home. She was 83.
Ryan went to work for The Post in 1962 after graduating with honors from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Among the stories she worked on in Colorado was the March 30, 1981, attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan by John Hinckley in Washington, D.C. Hinckley’s family lived in Evergreen at the time and Ryan had just interviewed a family member for a different story when news of the assassination attempt broke, said Anne Ryan, her daughter.
“My mom connected the dots and it was off to the races gathering additional details,” Anne Ryan said.
In 2014, Anne Ryan penned a short, thankful note to her mother inside a birthday card. “You’re the best mom in the world. And the best role model in the universe. Thank you. I love you with everything. Happy birthday, Annie,” the note concluded.
Of Lebanese heritage, Barbara Anne Haddad was born on Dec. 18, 1937, in Akron, Ohio. She graduated from Swarthmore College, near Philadelphia, and then went on to Columbia. On Nov. 25, 1967, she married Vincent Ryan in Denver. They later divorced. He preceded her in death in 2003.
Ryan lived in Denver for about 30 years where she raised a family and had a career in journalism. A talented features writer, she covered an array of topics at The Post, including art, architecture, music and television. Ryan also penned editorial opinion pieces.
“She was one of the smartest, wittiest people ever to work at The Denver Post,” said Fred Brown, a former longtime political editor for the newspaper. “She lent a note of refinement to the old City Room, in those days something of a disreputable place still redolent of tobacco and bourbon fumes.”
Industrious, Ryan served as the acting journalism chair at Metropolitan State College in Denver, she was executive director of the Denver Chamber Orchestra for a short stint, and she worked in public relations for the Colorado School of Mines. She volunteered for the Denver Art Museum and the Children’s Museum of Denver.
“She was a brilliant person, very funny and she talked so fast that you really had to put your ears on speed dial,” said Virginia Culver, a longtime religion writer at The Post. “She liked to move the conversation, mostly news and politics, along. It wasn’t casual conversation.”
Leaving Colorado in the early 1990s, Ryan moved back to Philadelphia where she became the associate vice president of her alma mater, Swarthmore College, from 1992 to 2000. She finished her career at Phi Beta Kappa, the academic honor society, in Washington, D.C., as its national public relations director from 2000 to 2005.
She retired, returning to Denver for a few years, before moving to Cary, N.C., where she enjoyed being a grand mother and remaining active in community affairs and social justice.
She is survived by two daughters, Anne Ryan and Jennifer Pillay; Jennifer and her husband ,Poobie Pillay, are parents to her grandchild, Cheralise Pillay.
Ryan was a member of the Montview Boulevard Presbyterian Church in Denver. She died of complications from a stroke.
A memorial service will be held on Nov. 6 at the Western Boulevard Presbyterian Church, Raleigh, N.C. The family requests that donations be made in her honor to a charity of the donor’s choice.
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