Selma Ryan was born at home on April 11, 1924, on her parents’ farm in Hurnville, Texas, 10 miles north of Henrietta. Even though her father, John Hoeffner, only completed 4th grade and her mother, Lydia Baumgartner Hoeffner, graduated from high school in Russia, they were intelligent, hard-working people and their children all graduated from college. Their first child, Esther, tragically died at age 5 in the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918. (Ironically, over 100 years later, Selma died in the Covid-19 pandemic of 2020). On the cold January day that Esther was buried, Selma’s mother gave birth to twin brothers, Karl and Victor. Selma came along five years later and adored her big brothers.
Selma had chores on the farm, gathering eggs, getting the cows in for milking, and helping in the house. She attended a two-room school through the 7th grade and then took a bus to Henrietta High School. She spoke German until she went to school, where she learned English and taught her parents.
The family was poor, but as Selma laughingly stated, they didn’t know it. They were happy and very involved in their community and church. The family was musical and all had beautiful voices. They collectively played many instruments and entertained themselves throughout their lives. Her brothers Karl and Victor went on to become well known in the region, playing mandolin, guitar, piano, and singing. The twin brothers were always teasing their little sister. For example, when the three rode to school on “Molly”, their plow horse, the twins made Selma ride in the middle as that was the worst part of the ride.
Karl and Victor went to college, and joined the Navy after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. They sent money to Selma to help her attend North Texas State Teachers College in Denton. After graduating, she worked in the Dallas area.
When Karl returned from the war, Selma picked him up at the train station. He was with another man who was returning from the war, a fighter pilot named Bud Ryan who had been shot down on his 75th mission behind enemy lines in Italy. Bud had quite a story of how he survived, helped the Italian resistance, and escaped. He took one look at Selma and told Karl that he was going to marry her. After that Karl didn’t let Selma out of his sight because he wasn’t sure he trusted Bud!
Bud managed to court Selma and win her over. She married Robert M. Ryan, Jr, (Bud) on September 23, 1945, and he was the love of her life. She excelled in the difficult job of being an Air Force wife with many moves and extended times of caring for their children on her own during her husband's deployments. He flew F-86 Sabre jets in the Korean War, where he was again shot down on his 75th mission behind enemy lines, and escaped. While Bud was in Korea for a year, Selma stayed home and took care of their daughter.
Selma kept the home a safe and stable place for her family as they moved every two to three years. The assignments included Las Vegas, Nevada; Okinawa; Reno, Nevada; Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Georgia, Texas, Florida, Philippines, and Alabama (where Bud was base commander at Gunter AFB, and where after his death a building was named for him).
While the family was in Ethiopia, there was a coup d’etat when the bodyguard of Haile Selassie tried to take over. Bud was gone from the home to help the Ethiopian Air Force put down the rebellion. Selma took care of the kids and kept them calm while her home was in the crossfire between the rebels and the loyalists. She welcomed neighbors whose homes were more exposed than her home, and taught everyone to hit the ground when gunfire started. There were many bullets lodged in her home. She dug one out and had it gold-plated for her charm bracelet.
One friend said she was an epitome of a lovely lady. She excelled in the game of Bridge, gardening, cooking, and many other things. She created lovely works of art with counted cross stitching. She loved the Lord and was active in her church. At Barton Hills Assisted Living, where she lived the last three years of her life, she sang hymns with a lovely lady who came each week. She still had a beautiful voice and knew most of the hymns by heart.
She is beloved mother to Mike Ryan and Vicki Spencer, grandmother to Ryan (and wife, Stacy) Spencer and Kristi (and husband, Rocklyn) Altshuler, and great-grandmother to Elise and Spencer Badgerow and Kaisa and Brayan Spencer.
Other surviving relatives include her nephew Jim (and Suzanne) Hoeffner, niece Karol Hoeffner (and husband, Greg Shrodes), nephew Robert Berbec, and her cousin, Alex Baumgartner.
She is preceded in death by her mother and father, John and Lydia Hoeffner, her husband, Bud Ryan, her brothers, Karl and Victor Hoeffner, her sister, Esther, her son-in-law, Richard Spencer, her brother and sister-in-law, Pete and Polly Berbec, and her sister-in-law, Mary Beth Hoeffner.