by Sukey HowardJune, 2001
A wealth of words
Ten children, an alcoholic husband who spends most of his meager salary on booze, the wolf constantly at the door . . . what's Evelyn Ryan, a deeply dedicated mother, to do? Well, in the 1950s, a truly talented woman who wouldn't and couldn't consider a career might turn to entering contests writing jingles, slogans and rhymes that might win the prize to keep that wolf at bay. In The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio, Terry Ryan, one of Evelyn's 10 children, takes us back to that time of tail fins and black and white TVs and into her childhood home. Her mother won every major appliance, the pots, pans, food and most of their Christmas presents in contests, not to mention the prize money that made up the down payment and later stopped foreclosure on that home. Warm and witty, Evelyn Ryan was unusual not just for her cleverness, but for her inextinguishable love of life and the pleasure she found in writing the words that saved her family. It's our pleasure to meet her.