Judith Utter Ryen, a longtime and invaluable staff member of the Rye Free Reading Room, a woman who volunteered across the community, and a pitching ace in Rye Recreation’s Softball League, died peacefully on June 5, 2023, with family by her side in Milton, Georgia. She was 84.
Born in New Rochelle, N.Y. on November 11, 1938, she was the youngest of Emily (Moore) and Rudolf Utter’s five children. After graduating from New Rochelle High School in 1956, she went to work for AT&T.
On August 18, 1961, she married Robert Ryen at Immanuel Lutheran Church in the Bronx. They settled in Rye, where they raised their six children.
In the community, she was a perpetual Midland School class mother and PTA member and ran the White Elephant Room at the Midland Fair. She was also a Girl Scout Leader, Community Director of Rye Scouts, and Westchester Girl Scout Cookie Chair, which resulted in a dining room stacked with hundreds of boxes of cookies every year. For many years, she coached Rye Rec Girls’ Softball and umpired games. She was also a member of Ceres Garden Club.
Judy Ryen had a passion for softball and was in her zone on the pitcher’s mound at Rye Recreation, where she played for the Hot Shotz with her daughters. She joined the team in May of 1974 and was a fierce competitor for decades. At age 75, she pitched her last full game, which the Hot Shotz won. She remained on the roster until 2019 and was known as Mom to many in the league for over 40 years.
In 1985, she began a 29-year career at the Rye Free Reading Room, an institution she loved. She worked at the desk in the Children’s Room before eventually moving behind the scenes and being made the Business Manager.
The role Judy truly cherished was that of Gamma to her 13 grandchildren. Her Sunday night dinners with family were a staple and everyone can name their favorite dish. She also loved big, loud family vacations on the beaches of Cape Cod and the Outer Banks.
“When Gamma was your babysitter,” said her grandchildren, “all rules went out the window. You were probably headed out for fast food, and it was always a good time. She never, ever missed a game, concert, or opportunity to cheer for us and our friends, who also called her Gamma; and she always had the kindest, wisest things to say, whether things went well or not.”
Incredibly witty, she loved a good joke, story, or prank, always made up her own lyrics to a song, and was the first to laugh even if the joke was on her. An athlete to the end, she was tossing a football, shooting hoops, and hitting golf balls into her 80s, and always looked back fondly on her years in bowling leagues.
An avid reader, she always had one book she was reading and one she was listening to in the car. She loved doing crossword and jigsaw puzzles and watching “Jeopardy”.
No tribute to Judy Ryen would be complete without talking about her love of animals. Her dogs Harvey and Sadie were, by far, her favorites, but while raising her children, she would never say no to a request for a pet and would be the first to jump in and help and raise any animal in need.
Her family said, “She was a joy to be with, even in her later years as dementia started to set in.” They send thanks to Laura, Gail, Graham, Emma, and Max who cared for her down in Georgia, as her health declined.
“Judy, Mom, or Gamma. No matter how you knew her or what you called her, she was a wonderful friend,” said her family. “She will be deeply missed by so many.”
Mrs. Ryen is survived by her children, Linda (Joe) Costelloe, Craig (Garnet) Ryen, Laura Ryen, Christine (Charlie Polhemus) Walsh, Glen (Deborah) Ryen, and Gail (Graham) Dean; her grandchildren: Liam, Brendan, Declan and Aidan Costelloe, Lindsay and Kyle Ryen and Garnet Vaccaro, Devin and Michael Walsh, Markus and Anders Ryen, and Emma and Max Dean; and her brother Jerry Utter and sisters-in-laws Ann and LuAnn. She was predeceased by her husband of 52 years, Bob Ryen, in 2013, and by her siblings, Jeanne Ambler, Bob Utter, and Tish Hanifan.
A wake was held June 18 at her daughter Linda’s home in Port Chester and followed immediately by a Celebration of Life.
Donations in Judy Ryen’s memory may be made to Outreach to Pets in Need (opinpets.org), the Rye Free Reading Room (ryelibrary.org), or any organization that will make the world a better place.