GARNER | Quiet, friendly, hilarious, helpful, loving and trickster mastermind were just a few of the terms used to describe a 16-year-old Garner boy who died unexpectedly last Saturday.
He is survived by a large loving family, including his mother and stepfather, Michelle and Tom Chizek; his father, Joel Sanner and his sister, Jenna Chizek.
“He was full of life,” Michelle said.
Ryan's last day
Shortly before he died, Ryan was doing what he loved -- playing with his friends on the family farm. He and about five others were running around, battling with Airsoft guns.
“He said, ‘Wow, that was a hard run,’” Michelle said.
They went to a fountain to pour water on their heads and then Ryan went inside the house to get a drink of water. When he didn’t come back out, his friends called for him with no response.
Ryan, who didn't get hit or fall during the game, was found curled up on the bathroom floor, unresponsive.
“They tried to do CPR right away and there was no pulse,” Michelle said. “We got a phone call from the police.”
When Ryan was found and taken to Mercy Medical Center--North Iowa, Tom and Michelle were about 200 miles away in southern Iowa, setting up cameras for deer hunting on a plot of land.
“When we got to the hospital, there were like 30 people there for him,” Michelle said, mentioning friends and family.
His family is searching for answers.
Michelle suspects an undiagnosed heart condition, heart attack or stroke, but she’s waiting on autopsy results.
Doctors didn’t find anything unusual initially. Further study of his heart and brain are expected to take about a month.
“His uncle on his dad’s side died of a sudden death when he was 20,” Michelle said. “They never got to find out the result because he was in in a different country and it took weeks for the body to come back.”
Paul Evans, pastor at Garner United Methodist Church Pastor, officiated memorial services for Ryan, who was confirmed in 2015 at the church.
Evans said there are really no answers to the questions of why something like this would happen to someone so young.
“Life is life,” he said. “This is one of those things that happens and we have to walk in faith, trust in God’s will.”
Evans noted that Ryan was loved by so many and remembered him as a reserved, super friendly, nice kid.
“We’re all hurting but no one is hurting as much as his family,” he said. “They’re not standing alone. We will walk with them through this.”
Ryan's aunt Sharon Frederick said the family is, understandably, devastated.
“He was such a great kid; he had such a beautiful smile and such wonderful dimples,” she said.
Sharon said the family used to tease him for the dimples, which could be seen in many of the childhood photos covering blue pushpin boards the family put together for the services over the weekend.
“He didn’t care what anybody thought of him,” Michelle said.
Several of the photos showed Ryan dressed up in costumes.
Michelle said he and his sister, Jenna, were "very close."
“He would do anything for his sister, took her to school everyday," she said.
Tom, Michelle, Jenna and Ryan’s 10-year-old cousin, Casey Schilling, gathered at a picnic table outside of their home in rural Garner Thursday afternoon, sharing stories.
“He was always happy-go-lucky,” Tom said. “He was really laid back, I don’t think I ever seen him mad.”
He later recalled just one incident where Ryan may have been angry.
“He said to me, ‘Listen here, old man,'” Tom said, chuckling. “I was shocked.”
Of course, Ryan later apologized. His friends said that was one of Ryan’s funny phrases, “Listen, old man!”
Tom remembers when Ryan first moved out to the farm when he was 4 years old. Tom had been working outside, needed to go to the bathroom and decided to do his business by the shed outside.
He told Ryan that since he now lives in “the country” he can go to the bathroom outside, Tom said, as he laughed.
“Michelle comes home and asks what we’re doing,” Tom said. “Ryan turns 'round and said, ‘Mom, we’re in the country now.'”
Several of Ryan’s friends -- Nick Billings, Cougan Shropshire, Ethan Kale, Bryce Cox, Nick Dyre and Cole Dakin -- arrived at the farm in support of the family.
It wasn’t long before the teens were making the family laugh with stories of their teenage shenanigans -- dressing up silly and going to the movie theater, going to Walmart to get kicked out and getting chased down the gravel road by neighbors.
As for the dressing up for the movie theater, Ryan was the only one who would dress normally, according to his friends.
The seven of them would pile into Ryan's "granny car" -- named Agnes for its former owner -- and drive around, Cougan said.
Ethan said there’s not a too much for teens to do in Garner, so they made their own fun.
“He was never in trouble -- unless he was with us,” Nick Billings and Cougan joked as they shared about their antics at Walmart.
Nick Dyre already got a tattoo with a cross in memory of Ryan.
“They really thought a lot of him,” Michelle said.
Michelle and Tom had never heard some of the stories Ryan’s friends were telling.
“He would just say, ‘I’m going to the movies, Mom,’” Michelle laughed. “These guys don’t drink and do drugs. They love to have fun.”
School and activities
Ryan's nickname, "Skubes," came from his favorite T-shirt from a bait and tackle shop.
To remember him, the GHV Council will frame that shirt and hang it in the school.
Michelle went into the house and brought out the ratty brown shirt. The crew neck collar was worn and fraying, and the shirt was peppered with little holes.
All the boys looked slightly taken aback looking at Ryan’s shirt.
“I had no idea how worn that shirt was,” his friend Cougan laughed. “Wow, that’s awesome.”
The high school’s Crisis Response Team is assisting students as they deal with the unexpected news. The school counselors were available earlier in the week and will also be available when classes begin later this month.
“Ryan was a great young man who comes from a wonderful family and had many close friends,” Principal Jim Haag said in a statement. “Ryan will be missed deeply at GHV and we will do whatever we can to support Ryan’s family, friends and classmates.”
Ryan may be able to help up to 80 people with organ donation, according to Michelle.
"We were thinking, what would Ryan say to that,” his friend, Nick Billings, said. “He’d say something like, ‘I feel sorry for whoever gets my foot!’”
Ryan, who was born with clubbed feet, was involved in Garner FFA and assisted with chores on the farm -- cattle, bailing hay and picking rock.
He enjoyed visiting his father, Joel, in Kansas and liked archery, hunting, 4-wheeling, fishing and camping with the boys at "The Island," a spot on the farm.
“The boys love going out there,” Tom said, laughing. “They even went out there, what was it -- January, 23 degrees. That’s dedication.”
Casey loved telling a story of how Ryan did the Elmer Fudd walk while deer hunting after falling asleep in the tree stand. He was like Ryan's shadow on the farm, following him around when he did chores.
“Ryan’s the best,” he said. “I looked up to him.”
Ryan was thinking of being an electrician, maybe working at Alliant Energy after he graduated.