- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Pub owner

Frederick Ryan Jr. swears he was only thirsty for a pint of Guinness when, accompanied by his wife, Genny, and the couple’s three daughters, he ducked into the Ronald Reagan Pub during a visit to Ballyporeen, Ireland.

By the time the president and chief operating officer of Allbritton Communications in Washington left the pub, he owned it.

“I hadn’t even been drinking,” said Mr. Ryan, a top aide to President Reagan who is chairman of the Ronald Reagan Library and Museum in California. “The funny thing, I called Nancy Reagan and told her I just bought the Irish pub named after her husband, and she paused and said, ‘Have you been drinking?’”

When the Ryans arrived at the pub named for the late Irish-American president after he sipped a pint there more than 20 years ago, they found the door locked.

However, they found the owners, John and Mary O’Farrell, upstairs, and the couple soon explained that their family was expanding, and to gain the needed space, they were auctioning off everything in the pub.

The O’Farrells, at the same time, were more than happy to give the American visitors a tour of the pub, where Mr. Ryan was surprised to find “everything still in its place — tables were set, glasses were on shelves, taps behind the bar. And all the Reagan memorabilia was still there.”

“Right then and there, I asked Mary how much she would want to sell the pub for. She said she would have to consult with her husband. The next thing you know, they came back with a price, and I said: ‘OK, I’d like to buy the pub from you.’ And I bought it.

“My wife came back in and said what’s going on, and she said, ‘Your husband just bought the pub.’” (Yes, the Ryans still are happily married.)

Here’s the kicker: the one-time Reagan aide hired a company to disassemble the pub completely — bar, stools, beer taps, pint glasses, a cabinet, tables, chairs, signs, pictures on the wall, even the wallpaper — “they took everything out, shipped it to California, and reassembled the pub, which I have donated to the Reagan Library,” Mr. Ryan said.

Most fittingly, the O’Farrells have agreed to travel to the California library next month and be behind the bar to pour the first pint of Guinness when the Ronald Reagan Pub reopens during a reunion of Reagan alumni.

“What’s the greatest thing for me is that this pub was to have been auctioned two weeks later,” Mr. Ryan said. “I was there at just the right time, as if it was meant to be.”

Ponder this

This past weekend, tens of thousands of protesters against the war in Iraq — some chanting that President Bush was a liar, a criminal and a killer — marched through the streets of Washington past the White House.

Talk about raining on their parade.

Marching 50 yards ahead of the demonstrators — holding up a sign that said “Freedom is Not Free” — was Ryan Ponder, 25, a former sergeant in the 4th Infantry Division of the U.S. Army who until last year was fighting in Iraq.

“At one point, the anti-war protesters got so upset that he was marching ahead of them — and was the first person that onlookers saw — that they stopped the whole 150,000-person march so that he would get farther ahead of them,” said one onlooker, a Capitol Hill staffer who asked not to be identified.

“But he stopped, too,” he added. “He truly is like the man who stood in front of the tanks in [China’s] Tiananmen Square in 1989, unafraid to stare down a much more powerful force.”

We reached Mr. Ponder yesterday at the Capitol Hill office of Rep. Chris Cannon, Utah Republican, where he is an intern hoping to climb the ladder.

Mr. Ponder said he was proud to have marched, calling it his “patriotic duty.”

Asked whether he had any close calls with a far deadlier enemy — the Islamic insurgents in Iraq — he said: “Of course I did. That’s what happened when you’re fighting a war.”

Letter of the week

“Dear Inside the Beltway: Just a thought. Since Sen. John Kerry has announced that he will be voting against Judge John Roberts as chief justice, perhaps the Senate could find some way to let Mr. Kerry first vote ‘for’ Judge Roberts before he votes ‘against’ him.

“Regards, Jack Moran, Poquoson, Va.”

John McCaslin, whose column is nationally syndicated, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccaslin@washingtontimes.com.

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