Mary Bryant . . . A life travelled


Mary Bryant . . . A life travelled

A tribute to Mary Bryant … March 3, 1919 - April 4, 2011

A keen, creative. original mind, a vibrant, tender soul. She will be missed. Carl Dow, Editor and Publisher, True North Perspective.

Mary was born March 3, 1919, on a central-Saskatchewan farm near Ardath. She attended a one-room school to grade 8 until the age of 11 but was unable to continue because of economic reasons — this was dust-bowl time in Saskatchewan. She studied at home and at 16 attended high school for 90 days, wrote all the final exams and passed with honours.  

With financial assistance from an older sister she enrolled in Normal School, graduated with a teaching certificate the following summer and in August 1936 started teaching in the first of a series of one-room schools. From 1942 to 1944 she taught at the Indian Residential School at Lac La Ronge, Saskatchewan, and from 1944 to 1948 at the Anglican Mission School at Aklavik, N.W.T.

Her 2007 book, Four Years — and then some, documents her experiences at that time. Through the 1970s and ‘80s Mary taught math and English in the adult re-entry program at Algonquin College and was devastated when she was forced to retire because of failing health.

Her great interest in botany led her to enroll in Biology at U.B.C., graduating in 1951. At U.B.C. she met and married fellow biology student Joe Bryant and soon followed him to The Pas, Manitoba, where her first child, Thomas was born. The small family soon relocated to Aklavik, N.W.T. where her second child, Josephine was born. After stints living in Fort Smith, N.W.T., Aurora, Ontario and Scotland, they landed in Ottawa in 1967. 

Throughout her life Mary loved to paint, write and garden. Her paintings grace many homes and the territorial museum in Yellowknife, NWT. For her contributions she has received many awards, including the Ottawa Mayor's Award for Community Service, the Ontario Horticultural Service Award, the Rehabilitation Centre Achievement Award, the Women of Distinction Award for Lifetime Achievement,  Life Membership in the Ottawa Art Association and the Ottawa Horticultural Society.

At Aklavik the Dick and Jane primer was the only one available so Mary wrote her own, called simply Our Book featuring people, places and events that were meaningful to arctic students. It was an immediate success. 

At UBC she illustrated The Ferns and Fern-allies of British Columbia. 

That was followed by a children's’ story/colouring book, Looking for Long Ago

In 2003 Mary and Joe co-edited and Mary illustrated THEN. . . friends sharing memories, an anthology of short stories about their friends’ and relatives’ memories of Christmas and other winter events (now in its third printing).

During the last decade of her life Mary donated all the proceeds from her art and books to aid patients at the Rehabilitation Centre of  the Ottawa Hospital.

Throughout her life Mary was a very positive force in the lives of hundreds of people, a cheerleader and motivator for her children, grandchildren and legions of students.

Over the decades  many of  her students have tracked her down to tell her how much difference she made in their lives.  She supported her favourite organizations and their people with enthusiasm, intelligence and grace. She loved us all.
Mary leaves her husband Joe, her son and daughter Tom and Josephine Welch. Tom's children are David, Michelle and Christine. Josephine has one son, Eric Welch.  

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