Mary Bryant

December 9, 1931 – June 12, 2021
“Your life is made of two dates and a dash. Make the most of the dash” unknown author
Dad has asked me to share stories of Mom’s life and some of her many accomplishments. He is so proud of how she lived her life and he told her, and us, often. She knew how much she was loved and respected but I am not sure she could ever really know just how many lives she changed for the better.
When Mom was only 7, her mother Elmona E. Browne, died just days after giving birth. Mom was now the eldest of 3, including an infant. She soon became the mother of the family.
Mom would do odd jobs to make money and then take the children out for the day. You could ride the train all day if you didn’t get off, so they went on many train rides. They went to double-feature movies and had penny candy. Mom swore them to secrecy because if their father found out, that would have been the end of the fun outings.
She left home at 14. She looked older than her age and found work quickly. She said she always knew that her Mom was watching over her and recalled seeing her Mom’s spirit in a field.
Mom worked in the kitchen at an all-boys camp on a lake in Maine. The boys from the city loved it when Mom would give them turns making cookies. Many of them had never cooked before. The chef said that Mom’s fried chicken was even better than his.
She worked in a hotel, carrying the linens up and down flights of stairs and cleaning.
Mom was a cashier at a grocery store in Connecticut. She used to draw the specials on the windows, with catchy phrases and pictures. She quickly became head cashier.
Mom would save up her money to bring presents to all her siblings at Christmas. Her father had remarried, and in the end, Mom was the eldest of 14 siblings.
Mom worked at Carlton Woolen Mill in Winthrop Maine as a spinner. That’s where she met Dad, Kenneth Bryant Sr. He was an inspector and had been admiring Mom from afar. He asked her out on a date. She accepted and made her amazing fried chicken, one of her many fabulous qualities that won him over. Two weeks later they were married in Dad’s family home in Readfield, and that began their 65 years together.
They went on to raise 8 children and raised a few of Mom’s siblings from the time they were 15.
Mom was an amazing cook. I’d love to know how many jars of food she canned and quart bags she froze. The cellar storage was filled with canned fruits and vegetables, most of which we grew on the farm. She made the best pie crust and biscuits. I loved cooking with her but never learned her finesse… it needs a dash of this, the bread must feel a certain way. I believe every child and grandchild had a chance to punch down the bread. She involved the children in what she was doing.
She was so happy as she became a grandmother and a great grandmother. She loved watching her family grow and seeing the joy that children brought. Mom had 14 grandchildren and 13 great grand children (including 4 on the way).
One year Mom made 1,000 wreaths, with the help of tiny hands, and sold them for $1 each. That was her Christmas money for the children. She always loved Christmas and because she never had a big Christmas, she wanted a huge Christmas for her children. She would start shopping the specials in January and keep chests of gifts upstairs. She was the best bargain hunter. She would always tell Dad how much money she “saved”.
She loved going to lawn sales and one day came home with 5 children’s bicycles. She loved collecting stuffed animals and dressing them in baby clothes. In later years, the spare bedroom was filled with 100+ dressed up stuffed animals. She was so proud that she donated them to the children’s ward of the hospital, so children would have something special when they were sick. The director sent her a thank you card that she stored in the family bible and read often.
She was talented at fixing up the house. Most rooms had beautiful vinyl wallpaper.
Mom catered for many years, again with the help of many hands (some not so tiny). She made and decorated spectacular wedding cakes. She would place wax paper on a metal “pedestal”, holding it down with a dob of frosting. Then she would start making a flower. One petal at a time. Then she’d gently set each one in the freezer to set, before adding it to the cake.
To Dad’s knowledge, Mom was the only person to get her GED in Maine in one night, with no formal preparation. She walked into the local high school and explained that she needed her GED. They started to give her the material to study and she explained that she needed it right then, so she could go the real estate school with Dad that night. This is a woman who left home at 14. Mom said she would read every book she could get her hands on, borrowing lots of library books. Mom also taught herself as she taught her children. The lady administering the GED test stayed late that night so Mom could finish and have it graded in time to go to real estate school.
When Mom was 40 she got her GED, real estate license, driver’s license and had her 8th and final child.
When Dad was Town Manager of Readfield, Mom developed the accounting system for the town (with no formal accounting experience).
Mom was active in the Kents Hill Methodist Church and sung in the choir. Mom always loved doing for others, especially those less fortunate. For several years Mom and Dad have sponsored a child through World Vision. Mom loved receiving the updates on his progress and was proud of the difference she made.
Mom had the most beautiful rose garden at their home in Readfield.
She was a self-taught artist, specializing in oil paintings on canvas. She loved painting nature scenes. She often had clouds in her paintings and always tried to hide something in the clouds like a dragon or cat’s face. She always loved finding things in the clouds and taught us to do this as children, laying out on the back lawn. She did take some art classes and the instructor soon asked her if she’d like to help teach the class; she had a real gift.
In her professional career I believe Mom was most proud of her work at Avon. Mom was a sales representative, back in the day when Avon was sold door to door in a set territory. She excelled in sales and become assistant manager followed by district sales manager. Mom wasn’t just good at sales, she was great with people. She motivated them by encouraging them and getting to know them personally. More than once she lent the start up money to women who needed a break. She invested in people, and they worked hard for her. She won Circle of Excellence 2 years in a row. She had to beat one amazing year with an even better year, and she did it. I’m certain Mom would have gone on to even greater accomplishments in Avon but unfortunately, she became sick and had to retire early. Mom was so proud of the trip she earned to Switzerland in 1986. She ate at the revolving restaurant where a James Bond 007 movie was filmed and rode on the Orient Express.
Mom and Dad’s travels included all of New England, Massachusetts, California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Florida, Hawaii, and Australia. There were many family camping trips in Baxter State Park and days at ocean, Reid State Park.
Mom loved Bingo and later the penny slot machines. She’s the only person I know who had almost as much fun anticipating the win as she did the win. “Oh, I’m in for 9. Let it shine with number 9”. She would get so excited playing the slot machines that at times she’d have a crowd watching her. Her excitement was contagious. You’d think she’d won the jackpot, but she was simply in bonus or winning a few dollars. She enjoyed the moment.
Mom loved animals and caring for animals. In addition to many cats and dogs over the years, she had Chippy the squirrel, Lucy the goat and Clarence the duck. She loved telling stories about these animals and elaborating just a little to make it even more fun. Mom loved butterflies and wolves.
Mom reconnected with her Aunt Mary (her mother’s sister) after many years. Aunt Mary lived in Windsor, Nova Scotia and she and Mom were instantly close. We had many family trips to see her.
There is so much more to tell about Mom’s life. It would be wonderful for others to share a special memory or story; either a new one or expand on something mentioned. I’ve written very little about each event and mentioned almost no one in particular because I don’t want to leave people out and I want to hear the stories as you remember them. Thank you.