Bill: missing our gentle friend

Published 10:40 am Friday, March 1, 2013

Because I deeply praised and trusted earth

and did not spread my secret wings in flight

but rooted in the stillness all my mind,

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the spring again has risen to my thirst,

the dancing spring of life, my own joy’s spring.

Because I never questioned how and when

but plunged my thought into each passing hour

as though its boundless goal lay hidden there,

no matter if I live in calm or storm,

the rounded moment shimmers in my mind,

the fruit falls from the sky, falls deep inside me.

– Angelos Sikelianos

Because I Deeply Praised [fragment] (translation)

Every now and then someone special walks in your life; you may not realize it at the time, but over weeks, months and years, your heart comes to realize the truth.

Bill Ryan was one of those special souls who was in my life and countless others’ lives; he made a difference to so many. His kind brown eyes sparkled; Bill had a way of making you feel like the most important person around. In later years, he’d take his cane and walk through the beautiful historic gardens he and partner Jim had painstakingly coaxed back to life.

Among those gardens was his backyard art studio: a retreat and special quiet place. So many times, he would take off for Isothermal Community College, or Tryon Painters and Sculptors to teach classes.

I once spent time with him up at the old Chicken House studios, enjoying an art class that only Bill could teach. He wasn’t one to criticize or make a student feel bad: that wasn’t Bill’s gentle way. But he’d patiently guide you, showing you a brush stroke or two that could change a piece, or get you smiling over stories from his days of being an art student: of learning about the Wyeths, New England, low-country South Carolina, his mother. It was because of his beloved mother that Bill became an artist: she encouraged him from childhood.

  1. His love of gardening, plants, and nature went hand in hand with his love of the beautiful. Antiques, flowers, Saluda and Jim were what mattered to him; as did his many adoring friends who would stop at Ryan & Boyle for a little chat with either Bill or Jim, or both.