Friends, neighbors recall Ryan as driven, genuine

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Marcia Nelesen
Sunday, August 12, 2012

— Jackie Wood remembers when Paul Ryan and his cousin Adam Ryan were president and vice president of the Craig High School student council.

Wood was president of the PTO.

The Ryan cousins showed up at every PTO meeting because they always had an issue about something, she recalled.

“They were very articulate and their (comments) well-thought out, and it was all stuff to make the school better,” Wood said. “One day I said, ‘Someday, one of you is going to be president, and one of you is going to be vice president.’”

Rep. Paul Ryan was introduced Saturday as the vice presidential nominee for Republican Mitt Romney. There’s no word on Adam Ryan’s aspirations.

Friends called Paul Ryan genuine, compassionate, honest and candid. They said he is sincere and has integrity, solid family values and a razor-sharp memory.

His longtime friend, Tony Huml, said Ryan has strong convictions.

“He wants a better place for his kids,” Huml said.

“Anytime you talk to the guy, there’s no filter,” he said. “Whether it’s politics or family, everything he talks about is sincere.

“He just is a real guy.”

Huml remembers when they were in their late 20s. Huml was an aspiring musician, and Ryan showed up at one of Huml’s performances.

“After the gig, we sit down, and he goes, ‘I’m thinking of running for Congress. What do you think?’ And we just laughed.

“It was a moment I remember vividly,” he said. “Here I am trying to do music as a high school teacher, and we’re both, I guess, chasing the dream.”

Sam Loizzo, a retired teacher, said when he thinks of Ryan he thinks of an “ambitious kid who knew what he wanted to do at the ripe old age of 17 and 18 years old.”

Ryan was a good student and a good athlete, he said.

“He knew that we didn’t see eye to eye politically, that we had different interests, but he valued my opinion,” he said.

Ryan once spoke about Loizzo on the floor of Congress as a teacher who had an impact on his life.

“It made my mom cry,” Loizzo said.

Brandon Crandall is a retired chiropractor whose daughter went to prom with Ryan in high school. Crandall has since seen Ryan a handful of times and is impressed that he is always respectful, warm and gracious.

“I’m really proud of him,” Crandall said. “He just doesn’t forget where he came from.

“I’m pleased that he’s wiling to take a stand and willing to be criticized and be examined. I think he feels the call for the country. He knows what the cost is going to be, and he’s willing to do it.

Jim Thorpe, a Janesville attorney, lived across the street from the Ryan family for many years.

He said Paul Ryan is a “very bright, articulate family man who is a credit to his family and all our community

“I talked to Paul when he was first thinking about running for Congress and asked him why he would want to be in Congress,” Thorpe said. “He explained his real interest is in policy, not politics. He has never wavered in that position.

“Nobody should underestimate his abilities or his commitment,” Thorpe said. “I think he’s giving up a lot of personal freedom, and this is going to be difficult in some respect for his family.”

But Thorpe is confident they understand the sacrifice, he said.

Thorpe’s son Tom said: “As long as I’ve known Paul, he’s been in this for the betterment of the country and the service he can provide.”

Tom Thorpe lives in Maryland but sees Ryan more often when he visits Janesville. Ryan always asks his friend when he is moving back home.

“He believes in his upbringing here and wants to stay in that culture,” Tom Thorpe said. “He knows D.C. well, but Janesville keeps him rooted.”

Last updated: 5:10 pm Tuesday, August 27, 2013

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