Bad news can momentarily stun a person and keep them still and quiet for several minutes - partly due to shock and partly due to one not knowing exactly how to react. Such was the case when I heard of the death of Dennis Ryan, who was one of the most passionate people I have ever met.
Dennis was also very passionate about Lake Placid - and he wasn't afraid to flaunt it. He was also able to convey that passion to everyone he met, whether a true "local," someone who has lived here several years or a visitor who attended one of the many events in the Olympic Village.
Yes, like everyone else in this community who received the sad news of his death, I was numbed. Everyone has their own knowledge and experience of what Dennis Ryan meant to the village, but for me he stood alone when it came to being the consummate spokesman and representative of Lake Placid. He wore his heart on his sleeve.
Dennis was the MC at so many big-time events here in Lake Placid that I've lost count and will not even attempt to name every one. But to give some idea of his passion toward Lake Placid, I can reflect on his attention to the Lake Placid News.
Dennis made sure he contacted me whenever he was coming to town or was in town for an event or planning meeting. He loved Lake Placid and being a media man himself, realized how important the Lake Placid News is to the community. After one of our first meetings, Dennis quickly dubbed me as "one of the good guys." I came to learn what he meant by that phrase - it was a term of endearment that he used. Then after inviting me to so many behind-the-scenes happenings, he started referring to me as "an embedded" news person.
And as I settled in to the job as editor of the LPN, as each big event came and passed, I recognized that many had one common denominator - Dennis Ryan. Whether he was working behind the scenes or at the forefront with a microphone in hand, Lake Placid couldn't have a better voice to make its pitch. Event after event, there was Dennis Ryan. And if he knew that the Lake Placid News was there, he'd spread the news even further.
One year during on Fourth of July parade down Main Street, I was just walking along the parade route taking photos when I heard Dennis' distinctive voice coming from Mid's Park. He was naming each participant as they passed. I was not on that list, but in true Dennis Ryan fashion, he captured a "moment" to recognize someone. "And there is Richard Rosentreter, editor of the Lake Placid News. If you didn't read it in the LPN, it didn't happen. Everyone give a round of applause for the Lake Placid News!!"
That moment epitomizes what Dennis Ryan was about. He was quick to recognize others and had the tremendous ability to "rally the troops." And his passion was contagious.
At every event, his booming voice would bang out everything special about Lake Placid. He let every visitor in the audience know that they were in a special place at a special time, and surely they went home with fond memories of the Olympic Village after hearing Dennis' "non-stop pep rally." You might even say that Dennis was a one-man pep rally for Lake Placid.
Listening to Dennis speak during an event, it didn't matter if it was the Empire State Games, the relighting of the Olympic cauldron, a parade, Worldfest or a basic awards ceremony, his energy would be enough to fill the largest auditorium or arena. That larger-than-life presence will surely be missed.
No one will be able to answer why Dennis took his life. Each and everyone of us who now has a heavy heart is asking: Why didn't he tell me? What could I have done? All of us wish we knew something of that magnitude was brewing. But we cannot turn back the clock. All we can do is move on and remember just how tall he stood as a person and an ambassador of Lake Placid.
I last saw Dennis at a planning meeting on May 11 for the Set the Night to Music fireworks show in July Fourth. He took time after the meeting to take me by the side and ask me how things were going at the newspaper. I told him how I was handling things here without a staff writer, and I will never forget the last thing he told me before I shook his hand. "Rich, you've got a great outlook on life." Looking back, I wish I had a second to get inside of his head, and for once, pass along some advice to him.
Also, just as the meeting ended, Dennis told everyone planning the fireworks show, that at the end of the Fourth of July show, he'd be on the roof of the Northwoods Inn, relaxing and having a beer. Well, good buddy, I will be there. And I hope anyone who knew Dennis will be there too, because I am sure his spirit will be there on that night too.
Rest in peace Dennis. You are embedded in Lake Placid and your memory will never die. You meant more to me - and this community - than you could ever have imagined.
You were indeed "one of the good guys."