Frances “Gwen” Ryan, 96, of Topeka, passed to her eternal life on June 2nd, 2018 at Plaza West Care Center, surrounded by her family.
She was born Frances Gwendolyn Dennis February 4th, 1922 to Conrad Liston and Agnes Mary (Bunger) Dennis on their farm in Bucklin, Kansas. She and her twin brother, Conrad Wynn Dennis were born prematurely during a blizzard and delivered by a doctor who managed to make it through the storm in time. No one was expecting twins. Each baby weighed less than three pounds and they called they Gwen and Wynn. Shortly after, Miss Scott RN arrived and stayed for some time to the relief of the overwhelmed parents. She took charge and the babies were on a strict schedule of feedings, warmth, temperatures, olive oil massage and medicine including whiskey. At four months a decision was made to take them to Topeka St. Francis Hospital for professional care. They were baptized there by a Catholic priest and sadly Wynn died.
Gwen began to grow and thrive. When she was two her parents sold the farm and moved to Topeka. During the depression years, her father worked as a rural mail carrier. Her mother grew fruit and vegetables, which Gwen delivered by wagon to people camped at the Kansas River.
She completed school at Assumption Grade School and Capital Catholic High. During those years, she learned to play piano, and became accomplished at violin and played the church organ. She also met her future husband at church and became close friends with his sister, Mary Ryan Noll, a friendship that would last all their lives.
Gwen completed one year at St. Mary’s College in Leavenworth and one year at the Sisters of Charity Nursing School. She also took classes in photography and business.
When WWII came, she joined the Army in what was then the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps, and her troop of young women were trained on a trial basis at an Air Force Base, paving the way for the Women’s Air Force. She served her country for nearly three years as a photographer and developer technician. She also played the organ for all Catholic services. She and her husband to be, Henry Ryan received honorable discharges in 1945 and were married at Assumption Church on December 27, 1945.
Gwen continued to be active in church activities, and in her children and grandchildren’s school activities. She assisted her parents in the last years of their lives and also took care of Henry when his health failed until his death on December 18, 1998.
Gwen was looking forward to seeing her twin brother, parents, husband and a grandson, Tommy Alber in her afterlife. She was also predeceased by a sister, Patricia Hamilton, beloved cousin and friend, Hazel Hunt, lifelong friend Virginia Baker and her precious sister-in-law, Mary Noll.
She is survived by her daughter Mary (Karl) Alber of Topeka, son Jack (Anne) Ryan of Kansas City, MO, granddaughter Karla (George) Bearse, and grandson Victor (Stephanie) Alber all of Colorado Springs, CO, and six great grandchildren; Patrick Bearse, Lexi Sinclair, Zachary Bearse, Jasmine Alber, Sophie Alber, and Chase Alber and one great great grandson Christian Armenta. Also surviving are her brothers, Duane Dennis of Torrance, CA, Richard (Carol) Dennis of Nashua, NH. She will also be remembered by a multitude of nieces, nephews, cousins, in-laws and friends.
Gwen will lie in state at Mater Dei Assumption Church after 10:00 a.m. on Thursday where the family will receive friends and a Parish Rosary will be prayed at 10:45 a.m. followed by Mass of Christian Burial at 11:00 a.m. Interment will follow with military honors at Mt. Calvary Cemetery.
Memorial contributions may be made to Great Lakes Caring Hospice or Mater Dei Assumption Church and sent in the care of Brennan Mathena Funeral Home. 800 SW 6th Ave. Topeka, Kansas 66603. To leave online condolences or fond memories, please visit www.brennanmathenafh.com