Greg Ryder, 67, of Durango, Colorado, was killed instantly in a head-on automobile collision, Tuesday, April 23, 2019.

Greg was born in Ripon, Wisconsin on October 31, 1951, to Beth and Leon Ryder. He had great love and respect for his parents and the farm he was raised on but it was not his interest to continue in his dad’s farming boots! Little did any of us realize that Saturday morning cowboy shows, like Roy Rogers or Sky King were setting up shop in his heart, mind and soul with the desire to tell stories and sing the philosophies of cowboy life in the West.

In the summers, his parents nurtured his passion for singing and appreciation for nature on Buffalo Lake, in the Chequamegon National Forest. At a very young age, his keen musical “inner ear” was developed by his mom, Uncle Carlton, half-brother, Bud, and Grammy, while singing folk songs and Bible hymns in front of a fire on cool summer nights.

He loved life at Buffalo. Catching frogs, swimming, building tree houses out of peach crates, log rolling, building rafts and fun family visits with cousins and half-brothers’ families but his love for fishing always took first place. He was a devout fisherman, early to rise to troll for the “big ones” ~ musky!

But his dad’s death in 1963 interrupted this idyllic childhood at age 11. He struggled having to be strong when he was hurting. Determined to do everything she could to keep unity in the family from the upheaval of this loss, his mom followed advice from a close friend, Benny Krueger, to “get those kids on skis”, collectively introducing them to an activity they can learn together. She heeded the advice. This was a turning point for Greg.

That introduction to skiing led to a trip to Vail, Colorado and may have been the thread that pulled all his dreams together: the Colorado Rockies, cowboy life and his natural affinity and passion for music, all came into clear view as he’d maneuver the Rockies’ moguls.

Greg Ryder loved and loved to the core. He loved skiing, singing, golf, his cats, football, his Ripon friends Gary, Gordie, John, Jeff, Bob, Kelly, Jon, Jack, his parents, sibs, uncle and aunt, cousins, half-brothers and their families and grandparents. Greg possessed many natural talents and abilities, but didn’t love the idea of honing them in a school setting. Nevertheless, a few years after graduating RHS, and leaving Ripon, he returned from a year-long move to California (where he picked up his first guitar) and attended Illinois State University. It was at ISU where he met the love of his life, Julie Lebens, a beautiful and beautifully-gifted singer in her own right: It was love at first sight.

They married and moved to Colorado, building their singing careers as a duo. In the mid-70s they lived in Vail but their hearts found Durango. They crafted their musical style and cultivated audience interest. Theirs was a unique blend, evident in songs such as Darcy Farrow and Texas Rangers. It must be said that Greg’s musical gifts and abilities to become the consummate entertainer, flourished under Julie’s tutelage.

Greg sang songs of the west, like Man is Among Us, Why Do You Ride for Your Money and Ghost Riders. He added musical genres to his repertoire like the blues, jazz and rock. He composed material inspired by childhood, Julie and even a musky, based on Buffalo Lake folklore, named Uncle John, who haunted him ~ and hunted him down ~ in a dream. Fans compared him to Marty Robbins. Greg opened for “Doc” Watson and sang with the Bar-D-Wranglers, always continuing to perform in popular, intimate venues, specifically the historical Strater Hotel.

Persistence is needed in freelance work: it is rife with rejection. Greg was committed to the belief in himself, consistent to do what needed to be done and persistent in the face of challenges. His professional successes benefitted from his personal success: Greg Ryder had a loving heart.

We love and miss your beautiful heart, Greg. As Roy Rogers and Dale Evans sang, “Happy trails to you, until we meet again.”

Greg is survived by his wife, Julie Ryder; siblings Susan Ryder (Steve Schuchman); Noel Ryder (Jackie Means); Cousins, Jan (John) and Diann (Albert); Ingrid Ryder; nieces and nephews Jack, Jody, Jennifer, Jonathan, Peggy, Doug, Sally, Beth, Christel, Noelle, April and Ben.

A June Memorial Service in Durango is being planned. Details will be available through FaceBook. For more information, email Susan Ryder at s.ryder86@yahoo.com.