Honorable. Dedicated. Patriotic. These were only some of the words bestowed upon 2002 Branford Sports Hall of Fame inductee Austin D. Ryer, Jr. as a student, an athlete, and as a serviceman.
Born and raised in Branford on January 6, 1926, Austin attended Branford schools and was a two-sport high school athlete. A four-year letterman on the Hornets football team from 1940 to 1943, Austin played center. During his freshman season, Branford finished a fairly good season with two out of four league games, defeating Derby (14-0), and Milford (14-0). The other games played by Branford High were against non-league teams. They were all larger schools, but Branford played excellent football in spite of the odds. That year, Austin was a teammate of two other Sports Hall of Famers, Walter Tamulevich (1990) and James Barba (1995) and in his junior year, played alongside Anthony Hynovich (1997) and William Fortune (1997). Austin was a varsity member of the Hornet’s hockey team in 1941 and 1942, the Assistant Manager in basketball in 1940 and participated in the Boys Glee Club and in the Service Squad. His senior classmates voted him “Most Courteous”.
Tonight’s inductee, nicknamed “Bull”, left school in his senior year to enlist in the Army Air Corps before graduation. He rose to the rank of Staff Sergeant in the service of his country and gave his life in that service on June 26, 1945, at the age of 19, shortly before the end of the war. He received the Silver Star and the Purple Heart posthumously for his valor in saving the members of his B-29 crew in the South Pacific. Austin was the only member of the Class of 1943 to give his life for his country.
Austin is survived by one daughter, Dianna Ryer McClendon from Lubbock, Texas, and one stepbrother, Herman Bogli, of Branford.