Nurse Knew Laughter, Music, Knowledge Healed

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Stephanie Ryder, a longtime member of the Rim Country and Arizona medical communities, died Tuesday, March 28 at her home in Payson.

Born Sept. 19, 1947 in Atlanta, Ga., Ryder came to Arizona in the early 1960s and graduated from Good Samaritan School of Nursing (affiliated with Good Samaritan Hospital) in Phoenix in 1969. Then, while working as a nurse, she put herself through college at Arizona State University, where she earned a degree in health education.

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Stephanie Ryder, a well-known face in the Payson medical community, died Tuesday, March 28. Funeral services will be at 3 p.m. Saturday, April 8 at St. Philip the Apostle Catholic Church.

Mrs. Ryder developed insulin-dependent diabetes in her teens. Because she had diabetes, whenever a patient with diabetes was on the floor where she worked, the diabetic patient was assigned to her.

In 1978, she was the first diabetes educator hired by the Arizona Diabetes Association, the Arizona affiliate of the American Diabetes Association. In 1981, she started "Good Control," the first monthly newsletter for people with diabetes.

Over the next 11 years, she worked for various Phoenix-area hospitals as a diabetes nurse specialist, and served as regional diabetes educator for a company that manufactures diabetes products.

In 1989, she accepted the position as Diabetes Consultant to the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. In 1990, she returned to Arizona and made a home in Payson with her husband, Trey. The couple met in 1975 and were married in 1977.

Ryder worked as head nurse at Pyle Memorial Hospital (now the Payson Regional Medical Center).

Ryder's first job in Payson was the administrator of the Payson Regional Home Health Agency, taking it from 2.5 employees to 19 employees. She also served as the administrator of Powell House, a 39-unit assisted living complex in Payson.

When she returned to the Payson Regional Medical Center, she found her way to surgery as a surgical nurse. In the intervening years, she worked in virtually every department within the hospital.

In July 2004 she had a double bypass, and four days later suffered a stroke. Ryder returned to Payson a few months later to recover in familiar surroundings. She was progressing with her physical therapy when a series of other medical problems caused a setback, from which she never fully recovered.

Before her heart problems and stroke, Mrs. Ryder was active at St. Philip the Apostle Catholic Church. She sang in the church choir and was in the choir to perform for Pope John Paul II when he visited Arizona.

At one point, she trained at a clown college in Wisconsin and participated in numerous parades, as well as using her clown talents to cheer hospitalized children. She also trained the members of the Mount Cross Lutheran Church children's clown troupe.

She was a percussionist in the Rim Civic Orchestra. She developed the idea for and coordinated a talent show to raise money to underwrite the cost of summer music camp for students in Payson. The first talent show resulted in a standing-room-only crowd of more than 1,000 people in the Payson High School auditorium.

She is survived by her husband, Trey of Payson.

Funeral services will be at 3 p.m. Saturday, April 8 at St. Philip the Apostle Catholic Church, with burial following at Mountain Meadows Memorial Park. There will be a reception afterward at the church.

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