The name “Admiral” is everywhere in Town — Farragut High School sports teams, its “Marching Admirals” band … even the name of a dry cleaning business.
Last month two prominent members of The Rotary Club of Farragut traveled to Ohio to watch their daughter, a rear admiral with the U.S. Coast Guard, walk onto a stage to be honored at her retirement.
Parents Jim and Joan McIntee said, “There aren’t enough words in the thesaurus” to describe how proud they were of Rear Adm. June McIntee Ryan, the first woman in Coast Guard history to start as a deckhand and rise to the rank of rear admiral.
Ryan has been in the Coast Guard for 35 years and is the first woman commander of the 9th Coast Guard District, based in Cleveland, Ohio.
“She had eight states under her responsibility,” Jim McIntee said. “She was liaison to the Canadian Coast Guard. She had a lot of responsibility.”
She and Rear Adm. Meredith Austin are the only female leaders of the nine districts.
The McIntees flew to Ohio for Ryan’s retirement ceremony and were back at their usual places at the next Farragut Rotary meeting. They’re fixtures there, where Joan is affectionately called “Mother Rotary” for 30 years of dedicated service.
“My heart was just jumping out of my chest,” Joan said about the ceremony. “When the official party came in and the band struck up playing patriotic music, my heart was jumping out of my chest. It was overwhelming.”
“I’m very proud of her,” Jim said about his daughter.
“She didn’t set out to become an admiral,” Joan said. “She is such a capable person. Literally eight to 10 people during the three days we were there came up to us and told us how much she had influenced their careers. They gave her a five-minute standing ovation. She was just that well revered. There were probably 500-600 people at this event. They were talking about my kid.”
The McIntees have six children: Jim Jr., John, Janet, Jeanne, June and Julie. Although they moved to the Knox County area late in Jim’s career with ALCOA, the children have visited here often.
“It was very interesting when I learned that my parents were in a very heritage-rich area of a naval commander [Adm. James David Glasgow Farragut],” Ryan said. “It was kind of an interesting link.”
She’s no stranger to The Rotary Club of Farragut.
“I’ve spoken at the Rotary
quite a few times, since my mom’s a Rotarian,” Ryan said. “The Rotary has kind of watched me grow up. I spoke at the Rotary when I was maybe, two years into the Coast Guard, so the Rotary has kind of been following my career all along.”
Looking back, “My parents instilled in us a sense of service and that would be the thing that strikes me initially,” Ryan said.
“That actually was something that the commandant complimented them on at my retirement. And of course, I don’t know what the commandant’s going to say at my retirement ceremony,” she added. “ … What was really great was, he honored mom and dad first and foremost before he even talked about me retiring. I thought that was so very appropriate.”
With Ryan and the other children taught to pursue a “sense of service” growing up, “Really, that sense of service was like, ‘Do something with your life,’” Ryan said. “Yes, you have to make money and put food on the table, but you should be doing something beyond just making money.’
“Between my dad doing Habitat for Humanity and my mom doing Rotary, but even before that growing up, we were always volunteering, or in church choir, or there was something to be done at church,” Ryan added.
It was the sailing lessons that helped move Ryan toward the Coast Guard.
“What was interesting, and I would say what really was a game-changer for me, is that we always sailed with my dad and my family on the Mississippi,” Ryan said. “One day we were at the club and a younger family, a man and his wife, and they had a very young little girl.
“They were going out sailing and his wife was a little apprehensive … she wasn’t that experienced. My dad had offered me. He said, ‘Why don’t you go help? At least you’d be another hand,’” Ryan added. “‘You know how to handle a sailboat. You know what to do with the lines and would be able to follow directions.’
“I was probably maybe a sophomore in high school. So I went on this young couple’s sailboat and we ended up aground. ... That was probably my first experience of ‘Look, I’m doing something that I love to do and it helps people.’”
To top things off, “I saw a Coast Guard commercial six months later,” Ryan said, thinking, “‘Hey, that’s something I could do.’
“And it was something nobody else in my family had done. And so when you’re number five of six and an identical twin and you don’t even have a first name because they don’t actually call us June and Julie at home because they couldn’t tell us apart … that’s probably what drew me to the Coast Guard, those kinds of experiences.”
June and her husband, Tim, who also retired from the Coast Guard, plan to remain in Cleveland until their daughter, Aisling, finishes high school.
“I tell everybody I’m not retiring. I’m just getting started,” Ryan said. “People ask what do I hope to do in retirement? I haven’t really found it yet. … I enjoy motivational speaking, so I speak at a lot of high schools currently and people are inspired, not so much by my story, but by giving them tools.”