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The girl from Madill


Gazette staff August 21st, 2012

The Republican presidential ticket has some Oklahoma flair, thanks to the wife of vice presidential nominee U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan. Janna Little Ryan grew up in Madill and is a first cousin to U.S. Rep. Dan Boren, D-Muskogee.

Credit: Brad Gregg

State Sen. John Sparks, D-Norman, first met Janna Little in Boston in 1987, when he was at Harvard University and she was attending Wellesley College. The Okie expatriates became fast friends. After graduation, they wound up working together in the Washington, D.C., office of then-U.S. Rep. Bill Brewster, D-Marietta.

“She is charming, terribly bright and witty. She’s all the positive attributes you could have,” said Sparks. “When people met Janna [in college], they thought a lot more about Oklahoma.”

He said he was a little amused when Janna, “the very progressive, but also very open-minded” daughter of a prominent Democratic family in Marshall County, got engaged to Ryan.

“We were surprised when we found out she was going to marry a Republican congressman, but love’s a powerful thing,” Sparks said with a wry laugh. “I don’t know how sharp Congressman Ryan is, but I would be surprised if he’s the sharper of the two.”

He was among the guests who attended the Ryans’ Dec. 2, 2000, wedding in OKC. At the time of the reception at the Petroleum Club, the University of Oklahoma Sooners were playing Kansas State in the Big 12 championship. A TV had been set up in a side room for Sooner fans.

Sparks remembered going in to check the score, only to see the newly married Janna Ryan.

“She was hanging out in her wedding dress watching the game,” he said. “She wasn’t afraid to want to make sure everyone enjoyed the evening as much as possible, even if that meant all eyes wouldn’t be on her. I think she wanted to watch the game, too” That also might explain who was responsible for naming the Ryan family’s two dogs: Boomer and Sooner.

 
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