James Waldron Ryan

Birth Date: 
Saturday, May 19, 1928
Date of Passing: 
Thursday, January 7, 2021

James “Jimmy” Waldron Ryan was born on May 19, 1928, to Michael and Mary Waldron Ryan in Ashtabula, OH.  He passed away on January 7, 2021, in Fairview Hospital in Cleveland, OH. He is survived by his loving wife of 28 years, Shirley Snider Ryan also of Ashtabula.  He was raised with his sister Theresa and brothers Joseph and John.

Jim was graduated from Ashtabula High School in 1946 then later served his country for two years as a medic in the Korean War for the 24th Army Medical Battalion with the 24th Infantry Division.  He used the GI Bill and was graduated with a BA in Business Administration from Eastern Michigan University.  His career with Agrico Chemical Company, over 13 years, took him to Michigan, Maryland, and Ohio as a superintendent/manager.  In 1969, in a huge leap of faith, he and his previous wife, Carolyn “Lynne” Jessup Ryan, moved their family to Gatlinburg, TN, and opened “The Donut Friar” in The Village.  For the last 51 years, he and his family have delighted generations of customers with their famous donuts and cinnamon bread.  The Donut Friar is the second oldest continuously run food establishment operated by its original family in Sevier County, TN.

Jim enjoyed golf. He was a patron to the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, the Smoky Mountain Children’s Home, and the Pi Beta Phi Elementary School as well as many other individuals and institutions.  His generosity was legendary.  He was well known for instilling manners in local elementary school students; when they ordered donuts, he taught them to say, “May I please have“ and “Thank you.” He also donated his time and energy to Habitat for Humanity for over 25 years.  Jim enjoyed Notre Dame Football, was an avid collector of hand-crafted artistry from his travels around the world, and was quite the storyteller.  Jim was a life coach and a mentor to his employees, family members, and anyone that needed financial support and friendly encouragement.

Jim and Shirley completed numerous bike trips across Europe through International Bike Tours.  Shirley made 17 trips while Jim completed 20, the majority of those they enjoyed together.  They shared homes in Gatlinburg, TN, Wooster, OH, and Ft. Myers, FL, and cherished friends everywhere.

Along with his wife, Shirley, Jim is survived by five children Rick (Tommie) Ryan, Kevin (Cindy) Ryan, Kathleen (John) Greely, Thomas Ryan, and Peg (David) Pilgrim; step-children Cherie (Jerry) Henn, Brad (Anne) Foster, Matt Foster and Laura (Paul) Imperia; 9 grandchildren; 6 great-grandchildren; and his previous wife, Lynne Ryan.

James was preceded in death by his parents and siblings, Theresa, Joseph, John, and an infant brother Francis.

Jim will be interred at St. Joseph Cemetery in Ashtabula in a private ceremony. A celebration of life will be held at a future date.

McIntire, Bradham & Sleek Funeral Home, 216 E. Larwill St., Wooster, is assisting the family.

The family requests that in lieu of flowers, contributions may be directed to Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, 556 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN 37738.

Online condolences may be left for the family at www.mcintirebradhamsleek.com



Memorial Contributions: 

The family requests that in lieu of flowers, contributions may be directed to Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, 556 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN 37738.


A celebration of life will be held at a future date and Jim will be interred at St. Joseph Cemetery in Ashtabula in a private ceremony.


Uncle Jim was a wonderful person. I have loved and respected him since I was about 3 years old.(probably younger) His first wife, Lynn Ryan , is my mother’s sister. Their family came to visit us every summer during my youth. It was one of my favorite times. I joined in with that loving family and helped “babysit “ and led them to all of Gatlinburg’s splendors! Uncle Jim always made me feel proud and welcome. He wanted to be a caring father figure to many young people. He invited one of his cousins from Ireland to come and make donuts and he is now a renowned veterinarian in our area. He gave numerous young people from other countries a chance to work in our town. He loved being physically fit and wanted to inspire that in others. His business, “the Donut Friar “ in The Village is a Gatlinburg destination. His legacy lives on through his 5 children and many grandchildren and great grandchildren.Much love, Uncle Jim! RIP Also, one of his favorite things was telling good jokes and he was great at it!

I have referred to Mr Ryan as my adopted father since I began working for him and his family baking donuts at the Donut Friar in 1977. I baked beside Mr Ryan for 7 years. We started each morning at 4-5am. He would tell me a new joke each morning and then we would listen to book readings from a radio station in Ohio. My most clear memory while working with Mr Ryan is him saying (as we all decorated donuts)was "work and talk, work and talk". He was truly like a father to me. He chastised me for poor decisions and encouraged me to work hard. One day he told me to get in his car. I didn't know what he had in mind as we drove to Knoxville. He took me to the University of TN campus and walked me in to registration. He said"you are too smart to make donuts for ever. Mr Ryan told me he had gone back to school later in life and that I could do it too. He made me go upstairs in the Donut Friar after work to do my home work. He would proof read papers and give me suggestions. I can't begin to thank him for changing my life. I have been a nurse and manager in many areas of UT medical center for 32 years thanks to my adopted dad....Thank you for believing in me and guiding me to be the best I can be.

So sorry to hear of your Dad's passing, such a sweet man and the legacy he brought to The Village will never be forgotten. A trip with our grandchildren to The Donut Friar is a must, they say it is their favorite stop. Your family will be in our thoughts and prayers.

Dear Shirley,
I remember your visit to the farm with pleasure and I'm glad that I got to meet Jim. I am sorry for your loss and hope good memories will help comfort you.

Wow, so sorry to hear that our beloved "Mr. Ryan" is no longer with us. I worked at the Donut Friar and Nut Roaster in late 70's and early 80's. Mr. Ryan typically scheduled me to work evenings 3-11pm shift; he said 'it was to keep me out of trouble'. I was at Pi Phi & GP with Rick, Kevin, Kathleen, Tom & Peggy, before leaving for college & moving out of state for many years. We lost touch for those years. Being back in the area, the Donut Friar is a must visit whenever in Gatlinburg.
Mr. Ryan's wit and wisdom will be surely missed.

Gatlinburg loses a treasure in Jim Ryan. His zest for life was always evident and I was always a bit jealous of those fantastic bicycle trips that he was always taking to the most beautiful places. As one of the original shops, and the only one still being operated by the original family, the Donut Friar has been the very essence of The Village. Jim impacted many people and he will be missed.

Add new condolence

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.