Orange Coast College alumnus Ryan “Fly-Ry” Bodnar died on April 24 at just 25 years old. His death was a devastating shock to the OCC community, whose adoration for Bodnar rivaled his sincere love for both the college and everyone around him.
Bodnar was a communications major at OCC before he was accepted at Cal State Long Beach prior to the pandemic. During his time at OCC, he made a name for himself in the communications program through his kindness and charismatic warmth towards everyone he encountered.
“When I found out he had passed, I probably spent two solid days contacting so many of the students in my classes because they were just so in love with Fly-Ry,” retired Communications Professor Barbara Bullard said. “He made life joyous wherever he went. He would remember everything about them and their stories. The students loved it.”
Bodnar enjoyed being a class helper for his professors and growing close through connections with both the faculty and students he would assist. He was more than happy to lend a hand to Bullard, whose work was made difficult by Parkinson’s Disease. Bodnar became irreplaceable and loved by the students in each class.
“Wherever he went, he built community,” Bullard said. “He just became so close to all of us in the Communications Department. He was like a second son to me.”
Bullard enjoyed taking her student helpers out to lunch out of appreciation for their work. Bodnar became close friends with other student helpers, such as Tahnya Claypool.
“He was in my class that I was T.A. for and that’s when I first met him,” Claypool said. “I’m pretty sure he started going to lunch with us even then, which is funny because it’s one of those things that just the T.A.'s go to.”
He truly loved going to school and was committed to attending even when it didn’t come easily. Commuting from Fullerton, it would take Bodnar an hour-and-a-half to two hours to get to school by bus every day. On mornings with an 8 a.m. class, he would need to board the bus by 6 a.m. Bodnar’s infectious kindness led students to offer him rides to and from school.
“He worked really hard and he was really proud when he graduated. That was a big moment for him,” said Julie Ann Le, a close friend of Bodnar. “He loved school, and I think that was what really brought joy to him. He always wanted to be a professor at OCC. That's what he dreamed of.”
Bodnar had a profound impact on those that he met, giving everyone that he spoke to undivided attention and a good laugh. He loved to discuss politics, celebrity gossip and his love for Adele.
“He had this contagious hyena-like laugh and would be so animated when he's telling us stories,” Le said.
He prioritized caring for others and was always in good spirits, even when he was going through hard times himself.
“He was always so excited to see people and gave the best hugs even during his sad moments,” Claypool said. “He'd be like, ‘Hey, how are you?’ He’d be so happy to see me. And then as the day goes on, I would ask him about what's going on with him, and realized it was maybe not his best day, but you would never have known that.”
Those who were lucky enough to know Fly-Ry at OCC remember him as a light in the classroom. His professors cherished the depth he brought to school both socially and intellectually.
“He was one of those rare students who was able to observe the classroom climate and then adapt his communication to lead discussions,” Professor Felicia Coco said. “I so appreciated his input. He was thoughtful and kind, always there to help.”
Bodnar was a shining example of how to live life— optimistically, kindly and with great care for others. He will be deeply missed by the OCC community.
“Fly-ry’s very easy to love because he loves everyone,” Claypool said.
Bodnar will be honored at a celebration of life on Saturday May 28 at 11 a.m. at Our Redeemer Church in Garden Grove.