Sad news for the community, Esther Ryan has passed away

Esther Ryan established the shoe fund for disadvantaged school children many years ago.

Anyone wishing to give a donation in memory of Esther should send checks payable to Magic City Kiwanis Esther Ryan Shoe Fund or just MCK Esther Ryan Shoe Fund, Box 561, Barberton, Oh 44203.


Community outpours support for beloved Esther Ryan 

Karla Tipton

Herald Staff Writer

The best grandmothers are known for their pleasant disposition, dedication to the greater good, and being on hand when the kids need a little help with their shoes. 

If that’s the case, the city of Barberton’s grandma must be Esther Ryan. 

The 90-year-old Ryan, who is a retired Barberton City Schools nurse, founded the Esther Ryan Shoe Fund in the 1980s after witnessing children who came to school with no socks, no food and little room to sleep at home. When school funds ran out to help disadvantaged school children, she took it upon herself to provide them with shoes, a charity run out of the trunk of her car. She eventually partnered with the Magic City Kiwanis which continues the effort.

“That’s a big project,” said Bob Guilda, who has been the Kiwanis treasurer for many years. “A lot of work, a lot of effort. You’ve got to be dedicated to do it.”

A couple of weeks ago, Ryan suffered a stroke, and the community’s outpouring of support has been overwhelming. Many who had benefitted from her generosity over the years posted well wishes and sent healing thoughts through the Barberton Area Community News page on Facebook. 

Released from the hospital April 20, Ryan returned home where she resides with her husband Bob, and is being cared for by her children. Daughter Susan Gregory said, “People have just been writing the most beautiful stories and I read every one of them to her and she’ll smile a little bit with her one side.”

Over the years, Esther Ryan’s good works have touched many lives. In 1990, she was named as a “Daily Point of Light” by the George H.W. Bush Foundation, which celebrates the power of the individual to spark change and improve the world. In 2000, she received a Lifetime Achievement award from the Barberton Community Foundation. She was inducted into the city of Barberton’s Walk of Fame in 2016.

She has been the grand marshal of parades, handed out awards to deserving community members and held countless spaghetti dinners to raise money for shoes.

Yet, when it comes to celebrations of herself, Ryan doesn’t want a fuss. Kiwanis member Elizabeth Wilson wrote that they wanted to “have a big 90th birthday party and cake last year, but Esther did not allow us to do it.”

“She has really done a lot, and she’s just the nicest person,” said Guilda. “It’s quite a story.”



  1. Amy Lillie on May 14, 2019 at 7:50 am

    Nurse Ryan was my school nurse in kindergarten she was so sweet and kind and very loving and caring all the children just loved her so much she always had a smile on my face everyday Everytime that I would go see nurse Ryan I would always give her a big hug she always made me and all the other children so happy she would make us laugh and smile if you were sad she is the one that would make you smile she always was there for all the children if there was anything wrong you can always go to nurse Ryan and she would listen to you to see what was wrong and you would walk out of her office feeling happy and with a smile nurse Ryan I don’t know what I would done with out her she was always there for me she was like a grandma to me she was the best grandma anyone can ever ask for and nurse Ryan would always make sure all the children and me had shoes for school the shoe fund was such a blessing nurse Ryan had a heart of gold I’m going to miss her so much I will never forget her fly high Mrs Ryan you are a beautiful angel in heaven I will miss you so much and I will never forget you.🌹🥀🌼💐🌻🌺💜💙💛❤️💞💕

  2. Toni McClain on May 11, 2019 at 7:14 pm

    Nurse Ryan I would like to thank you for your Kindess in helping my boys with shoes during my life struggles I am truly saddened by your passing I find comfort in knowing that our Lord welcomed you with open arms heaven truly gained a angel RIP Sweet Lady.

  3. Sharon Brandt McCraney on May 10, 2019 at 4:57 pm

    Sorry to hear of the passing of Nurse Ryan. She was a wonderful lady. I remember when Nurse Ryan would bring my family a box of food for Thanksgiving and help me and my siblings with shoes. We really appreciated you Nurse Ryan for being such a kind, loving, giving person. Rest in Heaven Sweet Angel

  4. Marlene Gates on May 10, 2019 at 7:26 am

    Mrs Ryan you were truly a pioneer in helping the people of Barberton. I’m not ashamed to say I was on the receiving end of your generosity and strive to help others.You will never be forgotten. Thank you and rest in peace.

  5. Patty on May 10, 2019 at 12:43 am

    Sincerest condolences to her family and others grieving this loss. Her compassion, & concern has touched countless in this city. My hope is that by her example, we can all be as kind & compassionate.

  6. Liz Lewis Paul on May 10, 2019 at 12:23 am

    Mrs.Ryan was there for everyone that need help. God felt she served him well and welcomed her home. Rest In Peace. You were an amazing person.

  7. Dee walter on May 9, 2019 at 4:55 pm

    Esther Ryan was the most amazing person. She helped Barberton students in so many ways. The world has lost a great lady.

  8. Jason brown on May 9, 2019 at 3:01 pm

    Nurse Ryan was someone that you could always go to in a time of trouble or in a time when you need it just to talk to somebody. She was my nurse at Oakdale for many years. She had to be the kindest woman I have ever met people like that are far and few in between. For all of us that was blessed enough to get to know nurse Ryan it was a gift. She was a woman who cared more about the children then her self she went above and beyond her duties to make sure underprivileged kids had things to eat shoes to wear socks to wear places to sleep that my friends is a true human being Rest in peace nurse Ryan you will be missed

  9. Debbie Neiswinter Sebastian on May 9, 2019 at 2:19 pm

    I grew up across the yard from the Mr and Mrs Ryan, in a wonderful neighborhood where everyone was always watching out for each other and all the children were pretty much free range! Mrs. Ryan was the first person I went to when I crashed a mini bike, that I was not supposed to be riding, and begged her to not tell my parents. She, of course, rat’ed me out because the burn required an emergency room visit…but I forgave her! Please give Mr. Ryan a big hug from me Craig, Ricky and Susan-my love to you all. So sorry for your loss and please know how much love and respect I have for her for such a well lived life.

  10. Nick Meehan on May 9, 2019 at 11:41 am

    I worked her Esther Ryan in her office 1986 – 1990. I helped her collect cans to take to Maxwells to contribute to the shoe fund. Made Holiday food boxes and delivered them to families in need. She was one one the kindest people I’ve have never know and a true angel! Esther Ryan you have surely earned your place in heaven but your will deeply missed here! Much Love!!!! Spread your wings hopefully they have your Diet Coke in heaven!

  11. Barb Hammond on May 9, 2019 at 11:32 am

    Mrs. Ryan was an inspiration and very thoughtful. I remember when my kids were growing up and they needed shoes, she was right they to help .Fly high with the Angel’s Mrs. Ryan because you are an Angel.

  12. Anonymous on May 9, 2019 at 11:00 am

    A candle never looses it’s light, by lighting another! Esther Ryan’s light was comparable to the Sun! Those fortunate enough to have known her are truly blessed! She was and always will be remembered. RIP 💜

  13. Carolyn Lee on May 9, 2019 at 10:48 am

    Oh what a Beautiful and kind woman. Mrs. Ryan was a wonderful person and nurse. I am a product of Barberton Schools. I will never forget her. When I was in school she was always nice to everyone. She always thought of others rather than herself. God has gained another Angel. Rest well Nurse Ryan, U will certainly be missed in the Barberton Community. Love U, Carolyn Dowdell Lee! Prayers for your Family!

  14. Brandi Head ick on May 9, 2019 at 10:28 am

    Mrs. Ryan is a very selfless inspiring woman she helped me through many tough situations in my youth her legend will carry on through anyone who ever came in contact with her. Fly super high

    • Amy Lillie on May 9, 2019 at 1:20 pm

      Nurse Ryan will surely be missed she was such an inspiration for our community nurse Ryan helped out a lot of people and children she would do anything for anyone she would always help anyone that needed help she was there for eveyone nurse Ryan was always happy every single day she always had a smile on her face nurse Ryan was such an amazing person she has a heart of gold she was very loving and very caring and such a sweetheart anytime that we would see nurse Ryan we would always give her a big hug we all loved her unconditionally nurse Ryan will surely be missed I am so sorry for your loss our condolence to all her family and friends rest in peace nurse Ryan you are a beautiful angel up in heaven we all love you very much she will surely be missed prayers to all family and friends 💜💞💜💞💜💞💞💜💞💜💞💜

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