A former president of the UCT Students' Representative Council in the 1940s, Hugh "Boz" Ryan, died in June at the age of 80.
Ryan was born in a mud hut in the Transkei and educated at St Aidan's College in Grahamstown. After school he joined the SA Navy and saw action on board a destroyer in the Far East. In 1946 Ryan enrolled to study at UCT. He had intended joining foreign affairs but following the fall of Jan Smuts' government in 1948, Ryan went to what was then Rhodesia where he joined attorneys Gill Godlonton and Gerrans. He retired as a senior partner 21 years later.
In Zimbabwe Ryan was vice-chair of the Prisoner's Aid Society and served on the board of the blood transfusion society. There too he met his partner of 44 years, Ron Bennett, who worked for the family engineering business in Harare.
In 1980 Ryan and Bennett became volunteer care-givers at St Luke's Hospice in Cape Town. At the same time, Ryan also volunteered for the AIDS counselling service 6010. This entailed being on call at times 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Ryan's work at the hospice later became a fulltime job, drawing on his legal expertise. He became a board member and first chairman of the St Luke's Foundation.
He was enraged by prejudice and extremism. An avid newspaper reader, he was a regular letter writer, criticising and commenting on everything from the erosion of human rights in Zimbabwe to the decision to eradicate stone pines from some of his favourite picnic spots.
(This is an edited version of the obituary that appeared in the July 13 edition of the Cape Argus and has been reprinted with their permission.)
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