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Janesville sendoff a family affair for Ryan

JANESVILLE, WI -- Paul Ryan's sendoff to the Republican convention on Monday was mostly a family affair, as a well-wisher brought a photo of Ryan's late father to a farewell rally.

Alex Moe/NBC News

David Green (middle), shows off photo he brought of the bowling team from the 1960s with Paul Ryan's father, Paul Murray Ryan (far right).

“That’s my dad,” Paul Ryan exclaimed as he took the black-and-white photo from a man in the crowd.

“That’s my dad’s bowling league. Look at that. That’s my dad right there,” Ryan said and eventually handed the photograph to a staffer: “Be careful with that.”

Longtime family friend, 87-year-old David Green, brought the photo of the late Paul Murray Ryan, taken back in the 1960s, to show his son, who could be the next vice president of the United States.

Memories like this were shared all morning Monday.

The seven-term Wisconsin congressman, Paul Davis Ryan, has never forgotten his roots and today, the family man returned to the small Wisconsin town he has called home for the past 42-years to say thank you.

“Hello, Janesville. It's good to be home,” an emotional Ryan told the crowd inside his former high school’s gymnasium a few blocks from his home here. “I want to thank our neighbors on Courthouse Hill for indulging all of this and for their patience. We really appreciate that.”

(A security perimeter of several blocks has recently been put up around Ryan’s home.]

He continued: “And I want to thank everybody in the broader community. Thank you. I know this has put a lot in Janesville, and I want to thank you, and I want to just tell you how proud I am to come from Janesville, Wisconsin.”

Just two days before the biggest speech of his life, the presumptive GOP vice presidential nominee returned to the town where he was born and raised – and is currently raising his family – for a send-off rally before flying to the Republican National Convention in Tampa, FL.

The congressman was joined by his wife, Janna, and three children: Liza, Charlie, and Same (who wore a Romney-Ryan cheesehead), for the first time since the weekend he was tapped as Mitt Romney’s VP.

“Life has changed since I last saw you,” Janna said on the ropeline and was even given a bumper sticker by an attendee that read: “Romney Ryan and ME!”

“I love it! I love it!” she exclaimed.

Ryan’s mother, Betty, and brother, Tobin, were also in attendance at the rally inside Joseph A. Craig High School.

“It’s -- I don’t have words for it,” Ryan said when asked what it was like to be a rockstar here in his town.

And many in the crowd had very fond memories of Ryan throughout the years.

Family friend, Julie Lyons, wearing a “Team Janna” homemade t-shirt to support the family behind the politician, recalled how “normal” Ryan is and how he just liked to be “one of the kids.”

"We have traveled with them [The Ryan’s] to different places," Lyons said, who has twins the same age as Ryan’s 10-year-old daughter. “I’d say all the parents, including Paul, are always very involved in the kids activities and whether it is riding paddle boats or fishing or cookouts, he is one of the kids."

And Mary Kanavas, whose husband was in the Wisconsin State Assembly and knows the Ryan’s, says no one loves their hometown as much as Ryan.

“There are many people that are from many places in the world but Ryan eats it, breathes it, sleeps it, walks it -- he loves this town and I think that is what people are so excited about,” she said. “He is an honest to God child of Janesville and I think he will make them very proud.”