Paul Ryan’s connection to Clinton, Iowa

Paul Ryan is campaigning through eastern Iowa, visiting key cities along the Mississippi River (Dubuque, Clinton, Muscatine & Burlington).  Ryan’s stop in Clinton highlighted his wife’s connection to Clinton. Paul Ryan’s mother-in-law grew up in Clinton.  Janna Ryan’s maternal grandparents were Adelaide and Vernon Petersen of Clinton. Vernon was a doctor in Clinton. 

Janna Ryan’s mother, Prudence Petersen, graduated from Clinton High School, went on to Wellesley, then graduated from first in her law school class at the University of Oklahoma.  Janna Little Ryan attended Wellesley, too, and earned her law degree from George Washington University.  Below is the obituary for Janna’s Ryan’s mother. 

Prudence Mae Little
November 16, 1942 – May 22, 2010

Prudence Mae (Petersen) Little died on the 22 day of May, 2010 at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, TX.

Prudence was born November 16, 1942, the first child of Dr. Vernon Petersen, M.D., from Manning, Iowa and Adelaide Vaala Petersen from Saude and New Hampton, Iowa. Prudence is survived by husband Dan Vincent Little and their daughters Janna Christine (Little) Ryan and husband Paul Ryan, Dana Suzanne (Little) Jackson and husband William Jackson, Mary Catherine “Molly” (Little) Olcott and husband Mark Olcott, grandchildren Elizabeth Anne “Liza” Ryan, Charles Wilson Ryan, Samuel Lowery Ryan, William Covington “Cov” Jackson, Jr., Amelia Prudence “Ellie” Jackson, Zachary Gardner Jackson, Aidan Frederick Olcott, Mary Sophia Olcott and Daniel Douglas Olcott, brother Paul Petersen and wife Katie Wilson, mother-in-law Oteka D. Little, brother-in-law Jack Little, sister-in law Oteka Ann Ball and husband Jerry Ball, brother-in-law John Robbins and wife Lana, and nephews and nieces Jeremy Ball, Oteka Lynn Bernard, Carrie Boren and Dan Boren.

Prudence grew up in Clinton, Iowa, graduating from Clinton High School with honors. With the encouragement of Aunt Gertrude Vaala, Prudence made the fateful decision to attend Wellesley College near Boston, Massachusetts from which she graduated with honors in economics in 1965.

After graduation, on June 12, 1965, Prudence married her college sweetheart, Dan, and returned with him to attend the University of Oklahoma College of Law. Prudence graduated first in the Class of 1968 achieving numerous academic honors. After working the first year in Oklahoma City for Attorney General G. T. Blankenship during which she wrote the legal opinion which became part of the movie “Believe in Me”, Prudence returned with Dan to his hometown of Madill to practice law and to rear their three daughters, Janna, Dana and Molly.

In the early years Prudence immersed herself in Madill community activities, including the Madill United Methodist Church, the building of the Fran Drummond Day Care Center, the expansion of the Madill City Library, Madill Daughters, Camp Fire and 4-H, serving on many different boards and committees and being selected Marshall County Citizen of the Year, 1985, all while practicing law and earning the highest respect of the judges and her fellow lawyers for her legal brilliance and the deep appreciation of her clients for her guidance, patience, caring and kindness.

In the later years Prudence was appointed by Governor Henry Bellmon as a founding member of the first Oklahoma Ethics Commission providing vital legal guidance through the first Court challenges and political controversies and to the Oklahoma Council of Campaign Compliance and Ethical Standards. Beginning in 1992, Prudence served on the University of Oklahoma Foundation. During her three years as Chairman, Prudence provided skillful leadership in reorganizing and reforming the Foundation during challenging times of transition. Prudence also served as board member for the Oklahoma Council on Research and Graduate Education, the Women’s Foundation of Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Arts Institute, the Wellesley College Club of Dallas, St. Mark’s School, Southborough, Massachusetts and the University of Oklahoma College of Fine Arts Board of Visitors and University of Oklahoma Alumni Association.

Thirty-five years ago, the week before Molly was born, Prudence was diagnosed with advanced melanoma cancer, twelve years ago with advanced breast cancer, six years ago with ovarian cancer and six months ago with advanced melanoma cancer again. In fighting and winning so many battles with constant courage, peace and calmness, it was Prudence who provided the love, support, strength and inspiration to Dan, their family and friends. During the last twelve years under the magnificent care of Dr. Robert Bast at M.D. Anderson and wonderful care of Dr. Joe Potter in Madill, Prudence had the great joys of seeing her daughters married and welcoming to the world nine grandchildren as their “Nini”. 

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.