Involved in Cuban Missile Crisis, gained the name ‘Chooper’ at Climax Mine
Lee Westley Ryan was born in Lubbock, Texas, the oldest of seven children.
At age 6, he moved with his family to Fowler, where he spent 3 years and then moved to Pueblo, where he finished school.
He enlisted in the Army during the German occupation, 1950-1952. He married the girl next door, Georgia Jean Shepherd in 1953, and enlisted in the Air Force in 1954. He spent 2-1/2 years in Arizona and then off to Beale Air Force base in California.
During his time in the Air Force he was involved in the Cuban Missile Crisis. He spoke of the tension of waiting to get the command to launch the nuclear missiles if Russia didn’t turn their ships around.
He was honorably discharged in 1963 and returned to Colorado. He worked at Climax Molybdenum mine from 1964 to 1969, where he got the name Chopper tacked on him. After 15 years and five children they got divorced.
In 1971, he married June Ford, and got four step daughters. He and June were married for 48 years until her passing in April 2019.
They lived near the Denver coliseum on Vine Street in June’s mother’s house for several years.
During this time he went to college for electronics and started a repair business for televisions for several years.
During this time he took an opportunity for employment at a company called Storage Technology as an engineer. They were trying to be the first ones to develop the laser disk drive at the time.
They bought a new house in Westminister and lived there until moving back to Buena Vista. STC went bankrupt and laid everyone off.
He then got a job taking care of a large retirement home for several years during which time he became friends with Mayor Wellington Webb of Denver.
They returned to Buena Vista in 1996 to 2009. He was employed for a while as a meter reader for Sangre de Cristo.
He was involved with the American Legion while in Buena Vista and when they moved to Virginia. They bought a home near a lake out in the country behind Stone Bridge.
On occasion family members were know to engage in rousing paintball competitions there. When failing health made the property too hard to continue to care for, they moved into a retirement mobile home park near Vinton closer to family that helped care for them, always going above and beyond.
He and June lived out their final years there with the assistance of their granddaughter Whendy and her husband Roger, and their son Chad and sometimes Whendy’s dad Allan and kind neighbors.
As a young man he enjoyed playing poker, pool, jokes, magic tricks, hunting and fishing. The older version was an author, especially short stories. To the end he enjoyed Quip to quotes and puzzles from the newspaper.
He outlived all his siblings, his wife and two of his sons, Rodney and Scott. He’s survived by three daughters, Shannon (Don) Blossom of Buena Vista, Colorado, Rhonda (John) Fields of Haltom City, Texas, Lisa (Mike) Sprinkle of Haltom City, Texas. He had a number of step daughters, many nieces and nephews, grandkids, great grandkids, and great great grandkids. He lived a full life and died content.
Funeral service will be held in Virginia. Memorial service in Buena Vista is pending.