Monday, July 28, 2008

Ryan Jones – Memorial Reflections

Over 400 people attended a celebration ceremony for Ryan Jones in the Presidio on Sunday, July 27, 2008. Family members, park colleagues, and friends all gathered to pay tribute to this remarkable young man and share memories of his life. Greg Moore, executive director of the Parks Conservancy, represented Ryan's park family and continued our conversation with someone so admired and loved by his colleagues.

Ryan liked to talk and all of us at the Parks Conservancy enjoyed the conversation. Whether out in the parks or in the office, a discussion with Ryan was a happy and unpredictable journey. So today, I’m going to resume our conversations with Ryan and speak to him about the history we share and feelings we hold dear.

Hi there, Ryan and welcome. Perhaps those were our first words when you walked into our lives at the Golden Gate National Parks 14 years ago. We welcomed you as an effervescent teenager, yearning for new discoveries and friends. And you never left us, Ryan. You are still here with us today and will always be a part of these parks and the people who care for them.

Go for it, Ryan. We cheered you on from the beginning—thinking that, perhaps, you needed our encouragement. Well, we had it backwards. Ryan, it was you who motivated and inspired us. Your every goal, adventure, and milestone was a self-propelled discovery. Your enthusiasm and focus outpaced ours and you left us in the dust.

Let’s talk, Ryan. I realize this is a bit of a dangerous invitation to you as you don’t really don’t need an invitation to talk! Even though you gave us no choice, all of us at the Parks Conservancy loved talking to you! It was not a linear experience, but a wild ride of creativity, humor, and many times, wisdom.

Take the lead, Ryan. And you did. As you grew up with us, you became the Pied Piper of the parks. Kids, young adults, volunteers, teachers, community leaders, and staff found your whimsical and spirited leadership irresistible. In the early years of the Parks Conservancy, when people asked if we had youth programs, we’d say: “Yes, we have one phenomenal program.” “What is it?” they asked. “Ryan Jones,” we’d reply. Well, Ryan, you wouldn’t settle for that and you went on to become the inspiration and motivation for our complete range of youth programs: IYEL, LINC, Urban Trailblazers. All these programs reach thousands of youth every year today.

Show us beauty, Ryan. No, I don’t mean how cool those clothes look on you. Or how shiny, clean, polished, and organized the Site Stewardship tools are. Yes, Ryan, you found beauty in everything—in the plants and animals of our parks, in the faces of our youth, in the friendships you developed, and in the art you created. And you made us feel beautiful too.

Make us happy, Ryan. It was impossible for you to do anything else. Just seeing you at a distance made the entire park family smile. Even the garter snakes, frogs, raptors and all the creatures of the parks had grins on their faces when you were nearby. You had “happy” covered from A to Z—from asinine to zany. Thank you for the gift of joy, Ryan. For making us all feel so joyful as a family of park lovers and friends.

We love you, Ryan. Simple words for the strongest sentiment of all. We love you as a child and grandson, as a brother, a friend, a buddy, a playmate, a colleague, a leader, a teacher, a role model, a mentor, a partner, and a lifelong inspiration. Our love continues and is held deep in our hearts.

Let’s fly, Ryan. Can you do that for all of us? Yes, okay, we’ll all put on a blue tarp, super-hero cape. Then we’ll fly high above the parks with you. Be our guide, Ryan—show us the beauty and let’s celebrate your legacy. Wow, as we soar above these parks, we see you everywhere, Ryan. The seedlings planted by you at Crissy Field are now fully grown as marsh-side plants. The hawks of the headlands are dancing in the sky, awaiting your beautiful artistry. The proud trees of Oakwood Valley and the delicate wings of the mission blue butterfly sway in the breezes, signaling their fond hellos. Plants in the park’s native plant nurseries from north to south are growing taller as they reach skyward to you. The snakes and frogs of Mori Point and all the creatures and plants of Milagra Ridge, bow in thanks to you for making their home a better place.

And, Ryan, can you see all those young people in our parks and communities? In you, they found a cherished friend and inspirational leader. My gosh, look at them all, grown over 14 years with you into teenagers, college students and young men and women—carrying your warmth in their hearts, your memory in their minds, and your inspiration in their spirits.

And hey, take another glance, Ryan. It’s your Parks Conservancy friends and your National Park Service and Presidio Trust colleagues—doing what they always do—connecting people and parks in a loving, lasting relationship. And when people ask us why and what motivates us forward, we will answer as we always do—about the beauty and enjoyment of the parks. But in our hearts we’ll be thinking: “If only Ryan were here to tell you, you’d have quite a conversation and you’d never leave these parks.”

And you have not left us either, Ryan. You’re with us now and forever. With the wind blowing strong on Crissy Field and the upsweep of your kite sail over the blue green waters of the San Francisco Bay, we now know that you simply sailed out the Golden Gate. The call of the gray whale and the adventure of the great beyond took you into a new dimension—connected to us in love and spirit, but far beyond our physical reach. But each time, we see a brown pelican soar—the amazing bird you envisioned as your reincarnated self—we will think: “Ryan’s here.” And a smile as big as the rising yellow sun warming the sticky monkey flowers will break out over our faces.

Greg Moore
Executive Director
Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy


Anonymous said...

A beautiful, sincere, heartfelt rememberance of an obviously talented and passionate individual.

I know Ryan appreciates that he's not forgotten, and remembered with such kindness and affection.


Shelton Johnson
Park Ranger

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Anonymous said...

Still thinking of you Ryan!