Ryan Odelle Mance came into the world on August 22, 1978, almost five years to the day after the birth of his big brother, Rod. As a baby and toddler, Ryan never cried much or demanded much attention. He was such a warm and loving child, filling his family’s lives with sunshine. Even as a child when his asthma caused him discomfort and he was asked how he felt, he would always respond “I feel a little bit fine.” Although his family was there to care for him, his personality would comfort them. His world centered on his mom, Patricia Daniels, and a brother who he idolized. When Rod married and had a daughter by the name of Brittany some years later, Ryan’s and Rod’s love fused and channeled to their beloved Brittany.
Ryan’s teachers spoke with such genuine fondness. One of his middle school teachers remarked “I taught him at Eisenhower Middle School. He was in my 8th grade Spanish I class. Ryan was an absolute delight. He was so kind, so respectful of others, and so mature. I can’t say enough good things about him.” – Nora Timmons
As Ryan matured, his personality grew bigger. A Laurel High School teacher wrote, “Having spent a delightful school year with Rod, I was thrilled years later when Ryan came into the same classroom. When Ryan came down the hall, visiting with everyone, smiled his wondrous smile at me, then entered our room, life began. What a joy! He was so open to everyone. (He was) empathetic to his classmates, whether their needs were personal or academic. He made the positive difference everyday for everyone he encountered. Ryan was a delightful, multitalented, scholarly gentleman.” – Linda Kinsley
Ryan loved people, life, music and blowing his saxophone. He was not only a member of the National Junior Honor Society and an outstanding academic high school student, his many musical certificates and awards from his participation in the State Solo and Ensemble brought him and his family so much pride. He lettered in music while in high school and relished his position as first saxophone chair.
Though Ryan went on to study at the University of Maryland Baltimore County and Prince George’s Community College, his mother learned after his death that he was offered a musical scholarship to Bowie State. Why he never spoke of this offer and so many other whys go unanswered.
In the predawn morning hours of November 12, 1999, Ryan was murdered. His mother was left to discover her beloved son’s body just inside the front door of their home. Police came, DNA samples were taken, and within days of Ryan’s murder, Laurel Police investigators obtained an ATM photo of a man trying to use his stolen bank card.
During the five years that Ryan’s murder went unsolved, on the anniversary of Ryan’s death his mother tucked fliers on cars and police cruisers, simply asking citizens of Laurel to help find her son’s killer.
But the break came six years later with a DNA testing that was not available at the time of his death. By resubmitting the DNA samples, Laurel Police investigators confirmed a match to a man serving a lengthy sentence on an unrelated charge in Nichols, GA. Investigators also found witnesses who identified the man as the person in the ATM photo. Police issued an arrest warrant charging the man with Ryan’s death. However, the accused has not been brought to trial for Ryan’s murder.
Oh, but the beauty of life and the power of goodness prevail. To date, 21 scholarships have been awarded to deserving, talented and qualified students in Ryan’s memory — five scholarships between 2005 and 2008; 16 scholarships since then. And, many more scholarships will result from the Ryan Odelle Mance Memorial Scholarship Foundation, Incorporated.
Ryan’s joyous spirit lived yesterday, lives today, and will live forever. He did not know his destiny or how his tragic death would be used to inspire others. He had no idea that his big brother, Rod, would one day design the logo and tag line to help brand an organization created in his memory. But, Ryan did know he was loved. Ryan, like the butterfly, emerges victorious over death and has entered that final, eternal stage which is more beautiful than all the others.