Ferrell Spencer Ryan

Published 8:13 pm Monday, July 9, 2018

Ferrell Spencer Ryan passed away on July 7 at age 88 after a brief illness, surrounded by family in Brevard, North Carolina. He will be laid to rest at Arlington Cemetery on July 11 at 1 p.m., with a service celebrating his life to follow at 2 p.m. at Mount Vernon Baptist Church, where Ferrell served as a deacon for many years. Arrangements are by H.M. Patterson & Son. The family has requested donations in lieu of flowers to Wears Valley Ranch, 100 One Fine Place, Sevierville, Tennessee 37862.

Ferrell was born and raised in Selma before earning his degree at Auburn University. After serving in the Army during the Korean War, Ferrell married his high-school sweetheart Rhonwyn on Dec. 8, 1952. Together they raised 4 children in Signal Mountain, Tennessee and Atlanta, Georgia as Ferrell’s career in pharmaceutical sales burgeoned. After founding Georgia’s first pharmaceutical company, Ferrell shepherded Reid Rowell’s growth using innovative product development and strategic acquisitions which eventually saw it sold to Solvay and Abbott Labs. Referred to as the grandfather of the state’s pharmaceutical industry, he inspired and informed the establishment of more than 10 other pharmaceutical and life science companies and was awarded the 2010 Lifetime Achievement Award by Georgia BIO for “incredible inspiration to entrepreneurs and innovators throughout his career.”

One protege he helped along the way said “Ferrell was the ‘high tide’ – everyone around him was raised up.” His warmth and integrity could nurture consensus in a room of adversaries. But what set Ferrell apart as both a business and family man was his unerring positivity and willingness to give. As the family patriarch, “Pop” built a tightly-woven extended family around his generosity and loving-kindness. Though they will greatly miss his guiding and calming presence, Ferrell’s family will forever carry forward his character and grace. Though a 2014 article dubbed him “The Entrepreneurial Encourager”, he was ultimately the man he always recounted in describing a new friend or associate – “the nicest guy you’d ever want to meet.”

Email newsletter signup

Ferrell is survived by his wife of 65 years Rhonwyn, his children Ophelia Annette Ryan, Ferrell Spencer Ryan, Jr., Lynn Ryan Walker (Ray), and Rhonwyn Ryan Bonesteel (Paul); his grandchildren Ferrell Spencer Ryan, III (Molly), Benjamin Waid Ryan, Kate Malone Parsons, Anne Ferrell Walker, Jonah Wolven Bonesteel, and Luke Aklilu Bonesteel; and great-grandson James Augustus Ryan. He is predeceased by his mother Ethel S. Ryan, father Benjamin A. Ryan, brother James A. Ryan, sister Nelda R. Gray, and granddaughter Maggie W. Bonesteel.