Edward John Ryan DSO ED was born at Montreal Quebec (QC), son of William Ryan and Isabel (McMullen) Ryan both of Milles Isle QC. He was educated at Lachute QC and went to British Columbia in 1907 and in 1908 began a career in the general contracting business. In 1915 Ryan joined the 121st Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force and in 1916 transferred to the 102nd Battalion and was promoted, first to Captain and then to Major.

In August 1918 he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, 102nd Battalion. Ryan served on almost every front in France and Belgium and saw severe fighting, particularly at Vimy Ridge, Hill 70, the Somme, Amiens and in the Cambrai-Arras battle. Major Ryan was "Mentioned in Despatches" four times and was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) for conspicuous gallantry and able leadership in command of his 102nd Battalion during the whole of the operation from September 2nd 1918 to September 5th 1918 between Dury and the Canal du Nord. He and his battalion finally cleared the enemy out of their last stronghold, a wood on the western bank of the Canal du Nord. Ryan saw three years continuous service in the front lines and returned to Vancouver in July 1919.

In 1919 he incorporated his company as E.J. Ryan Contracting Company Ltd. In addition to managing his large general contracting business he became President, Harrison Hot Springs Hotel Company Ltd. which he organized and with which he built the large hotel and complex including golf course and swimming pool which is known all over North America as the Spa of Canada. He also became Vice President of Associated Engineering Company Ltd. in Vancouver. In April 1913, he married Lila May Wood, daughter of Reverend and Mrs. G.S. Wood of Algonquin Ontario. They had two sons and two daughters.