Former Gov. Ryan visiting Cuba

September 11, 2018 GMT

Daily Journal report

Nineteen years after his historic trip to Cuba and meeting with the late Fidel Castro, Kankakee resident and former Illinois Gov. George Ryan has returned for another visit.

Chicago Sun-Times columnist Michael Sneed wrote in an exclusive on Monday that Ryan was invited back to Cuba as a personal invitation.

The 84-year-old Ryan and a group of people will be in Cuba until Thursday.

“I’m just really looking forward to rekindling memories and dreams we had back in 1999 for my first trip to Cuba in hopes of getting the embargo lifted,” Ryan told Sneed.

“We are not bringing medical supplies with us this time, just a lot of hope for the future of our countries and refreshing some old, but wonderful, memories.

“Most everyone in our group is looking forward to buying cigars, rum and Cuban art.”

As he did in 1999 and 2002, attorney John Glennon arranged this trip and is among those visiting this time.

Sneed reports Ryan now is dating Kitty Kelly, who will be among the other 19 people accompanying him to Cuba. The delegation also includes her son, Illinois businessman John Kelly.

Among the other guests on the Cuban trip are White Sox/Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf; Bolingbrook Mayor Roger Claar and his wife; Bulls ticket manager Joe O’Neil; Charlie Serrano, who organized the trip; and an assortment of buddies and their wives from Kankakee, where Ryan still lives.

In 2003, Ryan deemed Illinois’ capital punishment laws flawed and emptied death row. That reignited a nationwide debate and led the state to abolish its death penalty in 2011.

Ryan declared a moratorium on executions in Illinois in 1999, after seeing more than a dozen death-row inmates have their convictions overturned.

A federal jury convicted Ryan in April 2006 on fraud and racketeering charges. He served 6½ years in federal prison.

While in prison, Lura Lynn died. Prison officials allowed Ryan to visit his ailing wife in the hospital but not to attend her funeral.