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Saturday, December 14, 1991 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Helen Marie Ryan Wyman, Hostess And Generous Patron Of The Arts

Helen Marie Ryan Wyman was beautiful and kind, a gregarious hostess, a generous patron of the arts, and a fun-loving mother, friends and relatives say.

Most of all, Mrs. Wyman of Seattle knew how to bring out the best in other people.

"Mother just injected so much vitality and color in people's lives," said Deehan Wyman, a daughter.

"She had a way of tapping that potential in people and it made them feel good. She was honestly interested in what you were saying and people would open up because they knew she cared."

When Mrs. Wyman died Monday (Dec. 9) at age 71, friends said it was the "end of an era."

She is remembered not only for her spirited laugh at parties hosted in her comfortable Broadmoor home to benefit the arts, but also for her quiet kindnesses. If a friend was sad because their dog or cat died, Mrs. Wyman would be the first to send flowers or a pie to cheer them up.

Mrs. Wyman treasured her friends, who were of all ages and from all walks of life, said another daughter, Virginia Wyman.

Her mother was among the society notables on guest lists at formal charity events, but she was also friends with fishmongers, booksellers, ship pilots, artists, gallery owners and just about everybody else.

"She'd make friends wherever she was," Virginia Wyman said. "If she were at a party or meeting or a dinner, she'd meet people because she was so interested in them."

When Deehan Wyman was a teenager, she remembers inviting friends to the house and feeling so proud of her mother.

"She stepped into our world," Deehan Wyman said. "My friends were as comfortable with her as we were. With their own mothers and fathers, it was more of a parent thing."

People hired to run the Wyman household use the same reverent tone and kind words to describe Mrs. Wyman as do her friends and family.

That's because Mrs. Wyman treated them like friends and made them feel like part of the family, said housekeeper McAdam "Mackie" Williams and governess Ethel White.

"I'm black and it made no difference with her," said Ethel White, who lived with Mrs. Wyman 37 years, helping raise the five children starting when both women were 27.

"It's like we grew up together. Even though I was working for her, she was still my best friend."

Mrs. Wyman's curiosity in people, history and the world coupled with her strong memory made her an excellent conversationalist.

She fueled that curiosity with late-night trips to the Elliott Bay Book Co. in Pioneer Square, Deehan Wyman said, where she opened the store's first charge account.

Mrs. Wyman would browse in the wooden stacks, pick a few hardcovers and have her driver whisk her home, where she'd devour the books in bed.

"She referred to herself as curious," said Deehan Wyman.

"She instilled that curiosity as a human being in all of us. It's a pretty good gift. It's the basis of education, wanting to know things."

Mrs. Wyman was born in Illinois and moved to Seattle as a young girl. She graduated from the old Queen Anne High School and attended the University of Washington.

Her many activities included the Junior League of Seattle, Seattle Historical Society, Anna McMillan Guild of Children's Hospital and Poncho. She belonged to the Sunset Club, Seattle Tennis Club, Washington Athletic Club and Seattle Yacht Club.

Mrs. Wyman was preceded in death by her husband, David E. Wyman, her daughter, Helen, and her brother, Jack Ryan.

Survivors include her son, David E. Wyman, his wife, Linda, and grandson, Charles McCall; daughters, Ann, Deehan, and Virginia; a nephew, Sean Ryan and his wife, Shawn, all of Seattle.

Mass of Christian Burial will be at 10:30 a.m. Monday at St. Anne Church on Queen Anne Hill. Burial will follow at Calvary Cemetery.

Her family suggests memorials to the Plestcheeff Institute for the Decorative Arts or Catholic Community Services.

Copyright (c) 1991 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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