Shirley’s father, James Edward (‘Jimmie’) Ryland, who died in 2005, would have been 100 years old today. Jimmie was born on Labor Day, September 3, 1917, in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, the sixth child and fifth son of Algernon Porter Ryland and Tommie Brewer Ryland, who proclaimed themselves ‘rich in sons’ though they were poor in earthly goods. Shirley’s mother, Mary Chew (‘Chew’) Brummett, also grew up in Pine Bluff. Although two years younger, she skipped a grade and graduated in the same 1936 high school class as Jimmie, who stayed back a year to letter in football. They were not sweethearts in high school but fell in love later, encouraged by his friend, her older brother Tom.
They married on June 16, 1941, and moved to Memphis, where Jimmie had been working as a salesman for Tayloe Paper Company since 1936. In 1942, Jimmie enlisted in the Army Air Corps as an Aviation Cadet Candidate. This was the first time that non-college graduates were offered the opportunity to become pilots. Shirley’s older sister, Katherine Amy (“Katie”) was born November 6, 1942. Jimmie was called to active duty in 1943 and spent over a year in an accelerated college program, from which he graduated in March 1944 and was commissioned a second lieutenant. Chew and Katie, meanwhile, moved back with her parents in Pine Bluff for the duration of the war.
After completing 48 weeks of flight training in Chattanooga, TN, Maxwell Field, AL, Lafayette, LA, Walnut Ridge, AR and Stuttgart, AR, Jimmie qualified as pilot of a B-24 Liberator and was ordered to the European Theater on September 19, 1944. As a twenty-seven-year-old father and the oldest member of his crew, he was given the nickname ‘Pappy’, which stuck for the rest of his life, particularly for his grandchildren, who named Chew ‘Nanny’ to match it.
Flying with a stopover in the Azores, he reported first to North Africa. He was scheduled to fly next to Italy, but during takeoff, one of his engines malfunctioned, and he turned back. All of the other planes in his group were lost in a storm over the Mediterranean.
Jimmie flew five combat bombing missions over German-held territory from Italy. On his fifth mission, his plane took flak while bombing Vienna on October 17, 1944. His tail gunner was killed, and Jimmie was severely wounded in his calf muscle. He returned to base safely, but it ended his flying career, and he spent the next nine months recuperating in hospitals. Shirley was born November 10, 1944, while her father was in a hospital in Bari, Italy, until December 15, 1944, when he boarded a hospital ship to return to the U.S. He learned of Shirley’s birth through the Red Cross.
From left to right, Chew, Shirley, Katie and Jimmie after Jimmie’s return from Europe in 1945
Jimmie Ryland with daughters Shirley and Katie in 1945
Jimmie finished out his military service as a Transition Dispatcher at an Air Transport Command Base and was separated from the service on October 1, 1945. He was awarded the Air Medal, Purple Heart and the European-African-Middle Eastern Theater Ribbon with three Bronze Service Stars.
The Tayloe Paper Company in Memphis today is upscale condos (below)
After the war ended, Jimmie and Chew moved back to Memphis, where Jimmie resumed his sales career with Tayloe Paper Company, where he worked for forty-five years, retiring when the family-owned business was sold to a large corporation. Among his customers was a young Sam Walton, who was then managing a five-and-dime store in Newport, Arkansas, before relocating to Bentonville to make history.
In 1945, they bought their first (and last) home, with the help of family and the GI Bill, where they raised three daughters and a son and remained until Chew’s death in 2002. Over the course of those years, they transitioned from the role of young parents to that of beloved elders of the neighborhood, where they knew no strangers. After retirement, Jimmie expanded his own backyard vegetable garden to growing produce for neighbors in their own backyards and the shared alley.
1983 Lake Powell family reunion. Jimmie and Chew with their four children, three sons-in-law and all but their grandchildren except the oldest, Carl Babcock
Jimmie and Chew with all of their grandchildren except Carl Babcock
Jimmie and Chew with their children in birth order: Katie, Shirley, Patsy, Jim behind
He served many roles at their church, Evergreen Presbyterian, most notably coaching their pee-wee baseball team for many years, with emphasis on building character over winning games.
Jimmie enjoyed duck hunting with his brothers in Arkansas and quail hunting near Memphis as well as playing golf and fishing. He was “handy” and made automated duck pluckers from old mimeograph machines.
Chew had a major stroke in 1992, after which Jimmie cheerfully took on duties of caregiving and housework. He became adept at baking wonderful sourdough bread that was treasured by friends and family.
After Chew’s death in 2002, Jimmie courted and married Ann Eddins Nance, a widowed family friend and fellow church member who had been his high school sweetheart in Pine Bluff before she left for college. They enjoyed two plus years of marriage before his death in 2005, after which Ann moved to North Carolina near her son’s family, where she lived until her death in 2015.
Beloved by all whose lives he touched, Jimmie loved life and conveyed that joy to others.