Deacon Thomas Joseph Ryan, a fixture and pioneer in the Archdiocese of Louisville’s ministry to the deaf, died on June 28 — his birthday. Deacon Ryan was 77 years old.
Deacon Ryan was presented with a Bell Award in 1996 by the WLKY Spirit of Louisville Foundation, which honors those in the local community for service and volunteer work.
In honoring Deacon Ryan, a press release announcing the award noted that he was the first deaf deacon in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
“He served on committees of the National Council on Deafness, the National Association of the Deaf” and with local organizations for the deaf, the release said. It also quoted Deacon Ryan as saying he felt “ ‘a duty’ to provide services, outreach and support for the deaf community.”
In addition to his extensive ministry with the Louisville Catholic Deaf Society, Deacon Ryan was a retired engineer and draftsman for the Multi Metals Division of the Vermont American Corporation.
He was ordained a permanent deacon on August, 28, 1982. He served as the deacon of the now-closed Catholic Deaf Office from 1984 to 2009.
Deacon Ryan was active in the International Catholic Deaf Association, the Louisville Deaf Senior Citizens, the Louisville Association for the Deaf, the National Fraternal Society of the Deaf, the National Association for the Deaf and the Bluegrass Chapter of the American Sign Language Teachers Association.
For years he made weekly pastoral visits to deaf inmates at the Kentucky State Reformatory and made monthly visits to the Kentucky School for the Deaf in Danville, Ky., so students there could participate in Sunday church services in their own language.
Deacon Ryan is survived by a sister, Kathyleen Ryan Albers of Richmond, Va.
The Mass of Christian Burial was held July 2 at the Nazareth Home Chapel. Burial was in Calvary Cemetery.
Expressions of sympathy may take the form of contributions to Nazareth Home or the Louisville Catholic Deaf Society.