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NewBridge co-Founder Jim Ryan Honored During 60th Anniversary

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

NewBridge founder Jim Ryan.NewBridge Services co-founder Jim Ryan was a private man of few words, except when it mattered most, his three adult children said. Ryan served in the U.S. Army in World War II, fighting in battles that freed the Philippines from Japanese control. The highly decorated lieutenant — he was awarded a Purple Heart, a Silver Star and a Bronze Star with oak leaf cluster, among others— never spoke to them about his war experiences.

But Ryan did talk to the Rev. Donner B. Atwood, pastor at The First Reformed Church of Pompton Plains, when he struggled with stress in the early 1960s. Ryan joined Atwood’s efforts to provide professional mental health services in the community. In 1963, they and three others founded the Pequannock Valley Mental Health Center, which would evolve into NewBridge Services years later.

“I think he would be so proud to see how the organization has grown,” said daughter Debbie King, president of the NewBridge Services Board of Trustees.

Incredible Work Ethic

What King and her elder brothers, Randy and Steve Ryan, remember about their father was his incredible work ethic. After earning a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from St. Lawrence University in New York and another in chemical engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Jim Ryan worked for the Colgate-Palmolive Corporation for 32 years.

“He never missed a day of work,” Randy Ryan said. His dad would walk to the Pompton Plains train station no matter the weather to get to work in Jersey City.

Steven Ryan said his father was mechanically gifted, and recalled days from his childhood at Ryan’s side fixing gadgets around the house. They once dug a new well in the yard together.

Jim Ryan was active in the church. “He had the most beautiful voice and I would love to stand next to him in church and sing with him,” King said. She said he had a green thumb, and gardened throughout his life.

Classroom Dedication

Ryan remained active with NewBridge Services, serving on the board of trustees and as its president, King said. Education was tremendously important to him, and in 2015, NewBridge dedicated a classroom at NewBridge Jobs Plus, its alternative education and career program, to the memory of Ryan and his wife of more than 60 years, Marie.

When NewBridge celebrated its 50th anniversary, Marie Ryan said her husband believed deeply in the organization. “He realized how many people needed that kind of help, and he felt drawn to the cause because of his own experiences.” Ryan was 84 when he died in 2005.

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For its 60th anniversary, NewBridge Services is honoring its five founders at the Legacy of Hope Gala on May 11. Information about tickets and sponsorships is available at newbridge2023.givesmart.com. Watch for upcoming stories on the Rev. Donner B. Atwood, Judge Herbert Irwin, Mary Jane Kelly and Dr. Kurt Manrodt.

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