Oct. 4, 1985 — Feb. 18, 2009
Ryan Kania's sister, Ami Jiang, was a few months pregnant when Mrs. Kania learned that her cervical cancer had returned in an aggressive form. But she was determined to see the newest addition to her large, close-knit family.
Jett Ryan Jiang was born Feb. 11. True to her word, his Aunt Ryan was able to welcome him into the world.
"I promised her I would get there to show her the baby, because she was at every single one of my children's births," said Ami Jiang. "She saw him, and that was the last time she was awake."
Ryan (Erhardt) Kania, 33, died Feb. 18, 2019, in her Cheektowaga home, where she was cared for by her family and Hospice Buffalo.
During her final months, Mrs. Kania was buoyed by an outpouring of community support. In late December, the website Hope Rises News, produced by Kate Glaser, worked to make her wish for a big family sleepover come true.
Restaurateur and philanthropist Russell Salvatore offered rooms in his Grand Hotel on Dec. 27 for 14 family members to share a night of fun together. A limo company brought the family to the hotel, where their rooms were set up with game tables, board games, snacks, flowers, desserts and small gifts.
After a horse-drawn carriage ride to see the Christmas lights, the family spent the evening snacking and playing games. When they were preparing to go to bed, a throng of friends and strangers gathered outside the window serenaded them with Christmas carols.
Mrs. Kania called the experience "magical" and "a dream come true."
Mrs. Kania was born Oct. 4, 1985, the daughter of Laurie (Kucewicz) and Gary Erhardt and sister of Ami and Julie.
She graduated from Cayuga Heights Elementary School and Depew High School in the Class of 2003.
After graduation, Mrs. Kania began working in human resources at Elderwood Health Care at Maplewood in Cheektowaga, then moved to Elderwood at Lancaster. She worked at the facilities for 15 years.
Although she was already working full time, "she was very determined, and went back to school to get her degree," said Mrs. Kania's mother, Laurie Erhardt. In 2016, she earned a bachelor's degree in human resources with honors from SUNY Buffalo State.
"One of the things that her boss stressed to me is how determined she was," said Laurie Erhardt. "She worked full time, but she went back to get her degree, with honors. She started her career at a young age, but then she returned to school and got her degree."
Mrs. Kania met her husband, Brian, because their mothers worked together. "We kind of set them up," Laurie Erhardt said. One day, Brian showed up at an event to talk to his mother, Michelle Kania. "I took a picture of him with my cellphone and I sent it to Ryan," said her mother, "and I said, 'This is my future son-in-law.' "
It took eight months for the match to take, but it finally did. The two married in 2012.
Mrs. Kania had surgery for cervical cancer in 2014 and was thought to be cured until a test in September found that it had returned, her sister said. She had three rounds of chemotherapy and surgery to remove blood clots.
"She was the toughest person, loyal, devoted, determined, fiercely competitive," said her mother.
Her son, Mason, recently turned a year old.
Mrs. Kania was a devoted aunt to her eight nieces and nephews, whom she called her "kiddos." She was also dedicated to her family's German shepherd, Maggie Mae.
A GoFundMe page titled "Rally Around Ryan" was set up to cover medical expenses and will now be dedicated to an education fund for her son, Mason, the family said. It had a goal of $20,000 and has now raised more than $22,500.
Besides her husband, son, mother and sister, Ami, Mrs. Kania is survived by her father, Gary Erhardt; another sister, Julie Tafelski; her eight nieces and nephews; and many friends.
Services will begin at 9 a.m. Thursday in the Pacer Funeral Home, 2275 George Urban Blvd., Depew, followed by a 9:30 a.m. Mass at St. Martha Parish, 10 French Road, Depew.