William Ryan Obituary: Remembering a Life Well-Lived

It is with deep sadness that we announce the passing of William Ryan, a beloved member of our community, devoted family man, and respected professional. William left us on 19 November 2021, after a brief illness. His legacy of kindness, integrity and dedication will be forever cherished by all who knew him.

Early Life and Education

William Ryan was born on September 20, 1923 in Everett, Massachusetts. He was raised in Everett and joined the United States Army Air Corps during World War II, serving as a cryptographer in the Caribbean.

After leaving the army around age 24-25, Ryan was able to attend college thanks to the GI Bill of Rights. In 1951, he married Phyllis Milgroom, a political activist and psychiatric social worker. In 1958, Ryan obtained a PhD in clinical psychology from Boston University.

Career and Achievements

Ryan became well-known by singing about the West in America. Ryan’s old band, Wead, played a show in Wellington, Ohio, in the summer of 1966.

He worked with Phil Baron as Willio and Phillio in the late 1970s. They did regular shows on TV, radio, in comic clubs, and at colleges and universities across the U.S. Afterwards, they worked together again, this time voicing best friends Teddy Ruxpin (Baron) and Grubby the Octopus (Ryan) in the Teddy Ruxpin book and tape series and the TV show The Adventures of Teddy Ruxpin (1986–1987).

In August 2002, Willio and Phillio went back to Cleveland to play three shows: two at the historic Cain Park and one at the famous Beachland Ballroom. Alec Nordstrom, a friend from Hudson, was asked to join the band onstage at the Cain Park show. Jane Scott, the famous rock reviewer in Cleveland and the “world’s oldest teenager,” went to see Beachland and wrote about it for the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Ryan got back into music with the Willie and Phillio act. After moving to California, he started writing and recording songs for The Walt Disney Company.

With a voice that sounds like Micky Dolenz of The Monkees, Willio and Phillio sang “I Wish It Could Be Christmas All Year Long” on a Disney Christmas record.

His voice work can be heard in many Pooh movies and the long-running Disney Channel show Welcome to Pooh Corner, where he played Rabbit, Tigger, and Eeyore. He also did the role of Barnaby the Dog on the hit TV show Dumbo’s Circus.

william ryan
william ryan

Ryan played over 100 different roles on the radio show Adventures in Odyssey starting in 1987. He played Eugene Meltsner, Harlow Doyle, David Harley, Patrick O’Ryan, and many more. He did the voices of Rabbit in Winnie the Pooh and a Day for Eeyore, Digit in An American Tail, Petrie in The Land Before Time, and Willie the Giant in Mickey’s Christmas Carol.

It was still speech work for him. Along with his band The Cactus County Cowboys, he worked on the third season of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, the 21st season of Adventures in Odyssey, and the new radio show Will Ryan’s Cactus County Round-Up in 2009. He did the role of Winnie the Pooh in the Family Guy episode “Road to the North Pole.” Along with Andrew J. Lederer and Michael Rosenberg (Jackie Diamond), Will Ryan had a side project called The Merry Metronomes, a music and humor trio in the style of the 1920s.

He and Lederer sometimes performed together as a pair, generally under the name The Natty Nabobs. Occasionally, he and Nick Santa Maria acted as Biffle & Shooster, a vaudeville-era comedy team (Ryan played Shooster). In 2013, they made their first movie, It’s a Frame-Up!, a fake 1930s comedy short.

From January 28, 2021, until his death Will co-hosted the YouTube show “Tell Ya Later” with Katie Leigh, who was a longtime friend and co-star. It was four days before Ryan died, but the last show with him in it aired on November 15, 2021. There is still footage that hasn’t been shown that was taken before he died and will be shown after his death.


Ryan died from pancreatic cancer on November 19, 2021, at the age of 72.

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William Ryan’s life was a testament to the power of dedication, love, and kindness. His memory will be treasured in the hearts of his family, friends, and all who had the privilege to know him. Rest in peace, William. You will be missed, but your legacy will live on.

This obituary captures the essence of William Ryan’s life, highlighting his personal and professional achievements, and detailing the impact he had on his family.


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