PORT ANGELES – Eight bells signaling the end of a watch rang from the MV Coho ferry as it passed by the Port Angeles City Pier on Sunday at 12:45 p.m. on its way to the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Victoria.
Its Black Ball Ferry Line flag flew at half-mast, and on its port side a string nautical flags spelled out “FWCH;” fair weather calm horizon. On its starboard side, another line of nautical flag spelled out “Ryan M,” for Ryan Malane, Black Ball’s co-owner and vice president of marketing, who died on June 13.
Malane, 48, was remembered in a celebration of life on City Pier in Port Angeles that was attended by more than 100 friends, family, and business associates from the U.S. and Canada.
“It signals the time of a sailor’s eternal rest,” Black Ball COO Ryan Burles said.
“Ryan put us on another professional level while keeping the essence and rich tradition of Black Ball.”
Malane had been seriously ill for at least two weeks prior to his death at Swedish Hospital in Seattle; no cause of death has been disclosed.
Malane and his wife, Cynthia, married in 2009 and the following year he joined Black Ball to lead its marketing efforts. In 2012 he was a member of Black Ball’s management team that purchased the company.
“I will miss his intellect and his curiosity,” said Black Ball CFO David Booth. “He could always shed a different light on a subject by challenging assumptions. And he was just fun to be around.”
Jon Schmitt had lived with Malane, his brothers and his mother when he was growing up. Schmitt, who drove from Tacoma to attend the celebration of life, said that Malane hadn’t really changed from the smart, kind person he had known for 40 years.
“When he was 8-years-old, we went to see ‘E.T.’,” Schmitt said. “Afterward, I asked him what he got out of it, and he said, ‘If you love somebody, you have to be willing to give up something.’ I thought that was pretty perceptive for someone who was so young.”
Malane’s younger brother, Aaron Whitfeldt, shared memories of an elder sibling who was smart, patient and entrepreneurial.
There was the time Aaron put dishwashing liquid in the dishwasher and bubbles started pouring out of it, but instead of criticizing him, Malane said it reminded him of a Brady Bunch episode. Or the time Malane enlisted him in making spiced toothpicks to sell at school using hot cinnamon oil.
“Being generous and helpful was not a chore,” Whitfeldt said. “He was a mentor and inspiration to me.”Speakers remarked on Malane’s deep affinity for and connection to Port Angeles and his effort to maintain medical insurance for 120 Black Ball employees for the 18 months the Coho was docked due to COVID-19 health restrictions while the company survived on reserves and grants.
Malane served on the Clallam County, Economic Development Council, the Olympic Peninsula Tourism Commission, and, at the behest of Commissioner Randy Johnson, on the Clallam County Lodging Tax Advisory Committee.
“We’d have Zoom meetings with him and his cat on his shoulder,” Johnson said. “I’m going to open a bottle of Scotch tonight in memory of a very dear friend.”
Edna Peterson, who ran the Necessities and Temptations store across from the Black Ball terminal for more than 20 years, said that she used to bring cookies to Malane and his staff, while Black Ball employees would help her out with moving furniture or starting a dead car battery.
“We were a little community,” Peterson said. ” We were always looking out for each other.”
Dave Cowan, who was among a Canadian contingent who sailed on the Coho from Victoria to attend the celebration of life, had worked with Malane in promoting tourism in the greater Victoria area.
“It’s a special person who can impact one community, but it’s rare for someone who can impact two,” Cowan said.
Reporter Paula Hunt can be reached at Paula.Hunt@soundpublishing.com