Valerie Ryan, storied Cannon Beach bookseller, dies

<p>Valerie Ryan, who died Thursday, is pictured in her bookstore, Cannon Beach Book Company in 2004.</p>

CANNON BEACH — Valerie “Val” Ryan, the owner of Cannon Beach Book Company, died in her Cannon Beach home Thursday morning at age 76, with her two daughters, Leslie Ryan and Gigi Gilman, by her side.

Valerie Ryan was a die-hard lover of literature who opened the bookstore with a business partner, John Buckley, in 1980. After selling the store to Buckley in 1983, she lived in Seattle for 12 years, then bought the store back in 1995. She had been the sole owner ever since.

“In an era of bookstores closing everywhere, (Ryan) kept that place going and thriving and employing a lot of people,” Mayor Mike Morgan said. “She’s been a big deal.”

A freelance writer of opinion columns and book reviews, Ryan’s presence, personality and point of view loomed large in the Cannon Beach community.

Morgan called her “our Elaine Stritch” – a brassy, outspoken woman of fierce independence who is also fun, witty, smart and irreplaceable.

Ryan was active in the Cannon Beach Chamber of Commerce, variously serving as president and as a board member.

In 2009, “during the dark time when the chamber wasn’t functioning,” she and her friend, Julie Walker, owner of Center Diamond Fabric Store, formed the Cannon Beach Business Association. Together, they helped raise money for public relations efforts on behalf on Cannon Beach businesses, Walker said.

Almost a decade ago, Ryan and Morgan came up with the idea for the Tourism and Arts fund, which devotes a portion of the city’s lodging taxes to local organizations that hold arts-oriented events for attracting overnight visitors from 50 or more miles away.

After Morgan was elected mayor in 2008, that idea slowly became a reality. When the city created the Tourism and Arts Commission for vetting funding requests in 2010 under the direction of City Manager Rich Mays, Ryan became a member of the commission and remained one through her long illness.

At the commission’s last meeting May 13, she weighed in on funding decisions, as forcefully as ever, via speaker phone.

Cannon Beach Book Company has become “an institution that I hope will last for a very long time,” Morgan said. “It’s not every little tourist town that has a wonderful independent bookstore, and we’re blessed to have it.”

Ryan had put the Cannon Beach Book Co. up for sale some months ago. Her children are continuing to search for a buyer.

Ryan is survived by her two daughters and two sons, Connor Ryan and William Ryan.

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