Whether it was election day or just primary day, you would find John Ryder standing on the corner near the polling place of West 256th Street and Riverdale Avenue near P.S. 81 Robert Christen speaking to everyone who’d walk by about his candidates. He’d start at 6 a.m., and wouldn’t pack it in until 3.
“He loved what he did,” Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz said. “Volunteering and being a part of the political process, and helping to select people that he thought were good people for our community and for our country.”
For more than 40 years, Ryder was a member of Benjamin Franklin Reform Democratic Club, serving many of them as part of its executive committee. The group was founded more than a half-century ago to fight for progressive politics and policies.
Ryder died of colon cancer May 17 at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center. He was 90.
His family will remember him during a service July 17 at 10 a.m., at Christ Church Riverdale, 5030 Henry Hudson Parkway.
Ben Franklin club president Bruce Feld called Ryder “an unstoppable force” and “the paragon of grassroots political activity,” but he was a private person at heart.
Ryder moved from his College Road home in Fieldston years earlier, Feld said, but would return to his old neighborhood when he was needed, canvassing house-to-house to petition on behalf of the candidates he believed in. It was not an easy feat in an area filled with private homes and spacious yards, so it meant a lot of legwork.
And Ryder didn’t let the fact he was well into his 80s slow him down, either.
He wasn’t just about politics. Ryder donated his time to nonprofits in the community, served as president and director of Riverdale Neighborhood House and treasurer of the Riverdale Presbyterian Church. He later joined Christ Church Riverdale, where was a member of the Vestry, the church’s governing body.
Before becoming a Democrat in the 1970s, Ryder was the president of the West Bronx Young Republican Club, chairman of the Young Republicans of the First Judicial District, and a district leader and state committee manager of the Republican 12th Executive District in the Bronx.
He also was a longtime member of the Riverdale Yacht Club, where he enjoyed playing bridge.
Born in October 1926, Ryder was a lifelong Riverdalian. He attended Horace Mann School and was a graduate of Manhattan College. Ryder served in the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1945.
He spent his professional career in the advertising industry where he once served as the president of the Advertising Association for Men and Women.
Ryder lost his wife Lorna in 2011.
The two dated in high school, reconnecting many years later when he contacted her to see how she was doing. The pair married in 2005.
Ryder is survived by his sister Elliott Ryder, who lives in Los Angeles.
Dinowitz, who became an assemblyman in 1994, planned to give a eulogy at Ryder’s memorial service.
“He was just a good person, a nice guy,” Dinowitz said. “Never asked for anything. Only gave, gave, gave, and he never really asked for anything.”