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Jack Ryan, 65; Toy Inventor, Missile Designer

August 19, 1991|MYRNA OLIVER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Jack Ryan, who invented missiles for Raytheon and held patents on blockbuster toys such as the Barbie doll for Mattel, has died.

Ryan, 65, died Tuesday at home after two years of severe debilitation caused by a massive stroke he suffered in 1989, a family spokesman said Sunday. Before his stroke, he had suffered a heart attack and undergone bypass surgery.

Ryan, who held more than 1,000 patents around the world, designed the Sparrow and Hawk missiles when he worked for Raytheon. It was his toy inventions that put his engineering genius into households across the country.

He served for a time as vice president of research and design for Mattel Inc., and worked several years as a self-employed consultant and inventor for the toy company.

Ryan designed some 35 of the country's best-selling toys, including the Chatty Cathy talking doll, Hot Wheels and many electronic toys.

But his best known product was Barbie, the tall, slender, young adult doll that could be purchased with a never-ending wardrobe, boyfriend Ken, and cars, playhouses and career paraphernalia.

Never mind that critics said the doll--with its torpedo breasts, tiny waist and disproportionately long legs--gave little girls a false and unachievable ideal of the adult female figure. Just about every girl wanted one anyway, complete with clothes and accessories.

Ryan applied part of the wealth he acquired from his inventions to a Bel-Air Tudor mansion in 1962 and turned it into a major Southern California party site. He and his then-wife, Barbara, opened the grounds and public rooms of the vast mansion for charity fund-raisers, annually holding more than 150 events with as many as 1,000 guests each.

Ryan also applied his engineering and invention skills to the house, wiring its 60 telephones as an intercom able to handle mechanical tasks such as turning on lights in fountains or along pathways.

He arranged for much of the architectural planning and engineering cost-free through his unusual, personally designed scholarship program for UCLA students. He selected 10 young men, providing them rooms in dormitories over the garage and pool house in exchange for 12 hours of work each week.

Ryan was married five times, once to actress Zsa Zsa Gabor. Survivors include his wife, Magda, two daughters, Ann and Diana, and two granddaughters.

Private funeral services and burial will be held today.

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