Through a Daughter's Eyes: Remembering Leo Ryan

30 years later, a man who tried to stop Jim Jones is remembered by his family

Daughters of slain U.S. Rep. Leo Ryan remembered their father Tuesday as a dedicated public servant driven to help those who later died during a 1978 massacre at the People's Temple compound in Jonestown, Guyana.

Ryan, a San Mateo congressman who earlier served in the state Assembly, and several others were slain during a fact-finding trip to the South American country.

"He was a real public servant," El Dorado Hills resident Patricia Ryan told KCRA 3 on the 30th anniversary of the massacre. "He wasn't just a politician. He was what we believe public servants should be.

More than 900 people were led by the Rev. Jim Jones into a murder and suicide ritual of epic proportions at Jonestown.

Patricia Ryan's sister, Erin Ryan, said her family was happy on Monday to see a San Mateo post office renamed in her father's memory.

"It means a lot to us," she said.

When Leo Ryan and some church members tried to leave Guyana, a team of assassins opened fire.

Ryan was fatally shot as he boarded his plane, making him the first congressman slain while holding office. Four others, including three newsmen, were also killed.

Hundreds of people died at the Jonestown compound later that day, most from cyanide poisoning.

Patricia Ryan said her father's staff had been working for months to find out what was happening at Jonestown. She recalled walking him to the door before he left for Guyana and nervously reminded him not to let anybody fire any shots at him.

"And that was the last thing I said to him," she recalled.

Erin Ryan, who now lives in Sacramento but had been living with her father as she attended Georgetown in the 1970s, remembered having dinner with him the night before he left. She said he didn't talk much about the trip, but she learned later that he has written a will before departing.

"He knew that there was some danger, but I don't think he really believed that anything terrible would happen," Patricia Ryan added.

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