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On July 14, 1976 at 9:40 p.m. at The Regional Hospital in Prince George, B.C., Ryan James Curtis Vlaad was born; a baby brother for 5-year-old Billy and 3-year-old Cary.
His light straight, blonde hair appeared to resemble the comb of a woodpecker to friends of the family. From then on he was dubbed with the nickname, “Woodie”. Fortunately that name didn’t stick, but as a teenager and then young man he was affectionately called “Vlaady”.
Ryan was a delightful baby and from a very early age he was at ease with children and adults alike. He often accompanied his parents on visits with their friends and comfortably became one of the group rather than playing outside or with his toys. Family friends, in their 70s received a visit from Ryan one day (he had just stopped by to say hello and talk awhile). The lady wondered why a young man would waste his time with “a couple of old fogeys”. She already knew the answer; that’s just the way Ryan was.
Ryan is remembered as a young man with the toothy, ear-to-ear smile; the guy who while sitting on the home patio would holler greetings and waved to passers-by whether young or old. When meeting people on the street, the men were greeted with a firm handshake and ladies with a respectful kiss on the cheek all accompanied by that well-known smile.
Ryan had the ability and willingness to help others. He would loan a buddy a few bucks when that was all he had in his pocket. He was very compassionate and was eager to offer a shoulder to cry on or an ear to listen when a friend was in need.
Ryan’s interests and hobbies included music (listening to, playing the harmonica and guitar), rock climbing, fishing and just about any other outdoor activity. He accepted a position with a London, Ontario based hot air balloon company where he worked his way up to a Balloon Pilot and spent a few years soaring the skies over Canada and the United States. He became interested in becoming a commercial pilot which meant he had to complete his grade 12 and with eagerness and determination he did just that and enrolled in the flying program with Aero Academy in London, attaining his private pilot’s licence, along with instrument, night and float endorsements.
In 2002 Ryan aced his final exams and was within four days of completing his course. The next day his life was taken. He didn’t live long but accomplished much and left a legacy that will inspire many for years to come.
Ryan James Curtis Vlaad died senselessly but selflessly with his Gift of Donations, which saved three lives and improved the lives of several others. He will be remembered and loved forever.