John Ryan

John Ryan

CHAMPAIGN – John R. "Rocky" Ryan, 79, of Champaign died at 11:30 a.m. Thursday (Nov 3, 2011) at Provena Covenant Medical Center in Urbana.

Rocky's visitation will be from 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 6, at Owens Funeral Home, 101 N. Elm St., Champaign. The parish wake service will begin at 5 p.m. Funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. Monday, Nov. 7, at St. Matthew Catholic Church, 1307 Lincolnshire Drive, Champaign.

Rocky was born on July 5, 1932, in Tolono, the son of Thomas and Mary Ryan. He married Lucille Mae Franzen on Feb. 27, 1954.

He is survived by two sons, Jeffery S. Ryan of Champaign and Gregory (Barbara) Ryan of Urbana; two daughters, Patricia J. Kulas of Dallas, Texas, and Karen (Mark) Kennerly of Champaign. Rocky had 10 grandchildren, Meghan, Kelly, John, Phoebe, Sophia, Katie, Jamie, Rami, Michael and Betty. He was recently blessed with his first great-grandchild, Avery. He's also survived by two sisters, Mary James of Champaign and Rita Musson of Sadorus; and his brother, Michael Ryan of Palatine.

He was preceded in death by his parents; two brothers, Thomas Ryan and James Ryan; and two sisters, Ellen Noonan and Pat Jarboe.

Rocky graduated from Unity High School in 1950. At the end of Rocky's prep football career, Unity owned a 47-game win streak. Rocky also lettered in basketball and track while at Unity. As a junior, Rocky won the Illinois State Pole Vault Title. Rocky was also inducted into the Unity Hall of Fame.

Rocky lettered in football three years while attending the University of Illinois and playing for the Fighting Illini. Rocky caught a touchdown pass in the 1952 Rose Bowl and set several receiving records for the University of Illinois during his career.

Rocky was drafted in the second round by the NFL Philadelphia Eagles in 1954 and was the 21st pick overall.

Rocky served in the United States Army from 1954 to 1956. After serving his country he signed as a receiver and defensive back with the NFL for the Philadelphia Eagles. Rocky played for the Eagles for two years and finished his last year in the pros in 1958 with the Chicago Bears.

After Rocky's pro football career he worked for Illinois Bell Telephone Company, Prudential Insurance and JM Jones/SuperValu as a retail development manager before retiring 17 years ago.

Rocky was a longtime member of St. Matthew Catholic Church in Champaign. He was a member of the C-U Athletic Club and Veterans of Foreign War Post 630, Urbana.

Rocky was an avid fisherman and loved his many trips to Canada and Lake Michigan. Rocky also cherished his time with his children and grandchildren.

Memorials may be made to the East Illinois Food Bank or an organization of the donor's choice.

Condolences may be offered at

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kkhyde wrote on November 08, 2011 at 8:11 am

The Hyde family would like to express our condolences and prayers for your family.  May you treasure many happy memories.  We are in Tucson for the winter so were unable to attend services. Dick, Karen and family   

georgiamae wrote on November 07, 2011 at 11:11 am

Rocky's Family,

We extend our sympathies to all of you in your loss of Rocky.  I particularly remember Rocky from the Franzen Reunions and the many E.I. ballgames I attended when they were "in my back yard".  He was a very "large" figure, and I know you will all miss him!

Larry & Georgia Isaacs

dgclow wrote on November 05, 2011 at 6:11 am
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Please accept our deepest sympathy on the loss of your beloved Father, Grandfather, Great Grandfather & Uncle

We will miss his bright red, Irish smilin' face and all of his Irish tales. My favorite of all times is, "They built Memorial Stadium for Red Grange but I filled it".

May the love of family & friends guide you thru this most difficult time. May the memories of "Rocky" keep your Irish eyes a smilin'. You're all in our thoughts and prayers.

God bless....


Ronnie & Diana (Gordon) Clow