William Chilton Ryan (known as Chilton) died May 8 at his home in Weston. He was 90.
William Chilton Ryan: actor, ad man. Contributed photo
Born in New York City, on Oct. 10, 1929, he was the son of the late William J. and Margaret E. C. Ryan, longtime residents of Wilton, where Chilton was raised. He attended Center Elementary School in Wilton, followed by several years at “Mater Dei” Poor Servants of the Mother of God, in Rome, Italy.
Upon returning to the USA just before the outbreak of World War II, he attended Gilbert Bennett Junior High in Georgetown and then Fairfield College Preparatory School in Fairfield.
A member of the first graduating class of Fairfield University in 1951, Chilton spent several seasons as apprentice, actor/chorus boy, assistant stage manager, box office/subscription assistant and press representative at The Westport Country Playhouse.
After short stints as a writer at the Kudner Advertising Agency and at radio station WMGM in New York, Chilton spent five years writing, producing, and directing for the Advertising and Promotion Department of NBC.
In the early 1960s, he returned to Fairfield County and started a chain of coin operated laundry and dry-cleaning stores while writing lyrics for melodies composed by Cy Walter, Forrest Perrin, Gary McFarland, Otis Clements, and Michel LeGrand.
In the early 80s, after selling off all his stores and semi-retired, Chilton returned to acting. In 1983, he became a member of the founding board of the Theatre Artists Workshop of Westport, where he served as president for many years, as well as a member of the founding board of the Westport Arts Center.
He appeared in productions at Stamford Theater Works, Boston Post Road Stage Company, Stage 2 at Long Wharf, and The Quick Center. He also voiced numerous radio ads and commercials.
He is survived by his children, Christopher Janis of Norwalk; Carin Janis of Sylmar, CA; Catherine Ryan (Steven) Maeglin of New York City; grandchildren Diana Janis Griffin of Valencia, CA; Ryan, Chelsea, Amanda, and Quinn Maeglin, of New York City; two great-grandchildren and his brothers, Christopher of Whiting, NJ and Peter of North Bend, OR. His siblings, Geoffrey, Lisa, and Margot predeceased him.
Chilton will be missed by many and remembered as a true gentleman. He was a devoted husband, father, and friend with a warm heart, a quick wit, and a generous nature.
Chilton fulfilled a longtime wish to donate his body to The Yale School of Medicine to help future doctors.
No services will be held at this time due to the pandemic, but a memorial service will be planned in the future.
Donations may be made in his memory to The Actors Fund, https://actorsfund.org/support-our-work/honor-loved-one.