A Life's Story

January 11, 2020

Outstanding educator led with care, compassion

Decades of full-time, night and summer school endeared Art Bryant, 85, to generations of students

By: Gabrielle Piché

 

SUPPLIED</p></p><p>Art Bryant</p><p>Art and his wife Bev pose for a picture at their grandson Kyle's wedding on May 20, 2006.</p><p>- for Passages feature by Gabrielle Piche / Winnipeg Free Press 2019</p>

SUPPLIED

 

Art Bryant

Art and his wife Bev pose for a picture at their grandson Kyle's wedding on May 20, 2006.

- for Passages feature by Gabrielle Piche / Winnipeg Free Press 2019

His students called him "the Friendly Giant" because of his imposing stature and his kind demeanour.

They also called former Winnipeg high school counsellor, teacher and coach Arthur (Art) Bryant "remarkable," "compassionate," and "a true legend," among the flood of comments on his online obituary.

 
 

Some impacted by Bryant's 45-year career said they wouldn't have graduated without him; others said he'd called them years later just to catch up, and they were touched by his consideration.

Bryant was born in Russell in 1934, and grew up on a farm near Inglis, going on to earn a bachelor of science in agriculture at the University of Manitoba.

One day at university, he saw a sign reading: "Do you want to teach?"

Intrigued, Bryant decided yes, he did. And in September 1957, he began studies for a bachelor's degree in pedagogy.

His first teaching job was at Isaac Newton School in 1959, launching a 45-year career with the Winnipeg School Division. In 1960, Bryant moved to Churchill High School, spending the next 20 years there as a teacher and counsellor.

The 6-6 educator stood out, says Carolyn Langille.

Bryant was her homeroom teacher at Churchill. After Langille's dad died when she was in Grade 10, Bryant went out of his way to be a support.

"He would see me in the hall (and ask): 'How are your brothers, how's your mom?'" Langille said.

Bryant left an impression on Langille's peers, too — her graduating class bought him a briefcase and wrote him a poem.

"I can't remember the poem, but I do remember the heading was 'Mr. Bryant the Friendly Giant,'" Langille said.

Langille and Bryant kept a friendship for decades. Bryant made Langille and her brothers framed collages with pictures from their lives, and he and Langille traded food during the holiday season.

Langille gave a eulogy at his funeral in August; Bryant died a week after his 85th birthday. There were roughly 500 people at the service.

"I don't know anybody that didn't like him," Langille said. "Everybody loved him."

Bryant was Churchill High School's first football coach (earning him a spot in the school's hall of fame) and remained involved with the team long after, said current Bulldogs coach Yussef Hawash. "He was one of the best and kindest coaches."

Bryant later transferred to Kelvin High School, where he stayed for 14 years.

On top of his full-time job, Bryant also taught night and summer school. (He was the night school principal at St. John's High School, and he taught biology and chemistry at the University of Winnipeg Collegiate's summer school for 40 years.)

The only summer he took off between 1960 and 2000 was in 1964 — to study science at the National Science Foundation in Denver, Colo. Bryant also took a year off while at Churchill to earn his master's degree in education.

Even after retiring in 1994, Bryant continued to work. He was a substitute teacher for 10 years, and he helped coach basketball at Kelvin.

There were over 500 people at his retirement party, said Bryant's daughter, Susan.

"A lot of the stuff he did, we didn't even know he did," she said. "Even at the funeral, people came up to us and told us stuff that we had no clue about."

She and her family said reading the comments on his online obituary was eye-opening.

"We knew he was a great, kind man, but he was very humble," Susan said.

Bryant married wife Bev in 1958 — they were together for 61 years, until the day he died — and had five children: Carol, Lori, Susan, Paul and Ross.

The family says Bryant never forgot a name.

"He'd always run up to the store and get something for Mom, and he'd come home two hours later and say, 'I saw this kid that I taught'... I'd say, 'Well how old was the kid?' He'd say, 'Oh, 70,'" Lori said.

Susan gave a eulogy at her dad's funeral. She asked her mom what Bryant's legacy should be, and Bev replied: kindness, forgiveness, thoughtfulness, and the Golden Rule.

"I think that Golden Rule is a great way to remember him," Susan said.

Bryant would collect tabs from soda cans and donate them for wheelchairs. He tended to the flower patch at Kirkfield Park United Church for 10 years. He made cabbage rolls during the holidays and drove across the city to deliver them.

Art's daughter Carol summed it up in one sentence: "He gave a lot."

gabrielle.piche@freepress.mb.ca

Gabrielle Piché

Gabrielle Piché
Community Correspondent — Headingley

Gabrielle Piché is a community correspondent for Headingley. Email her at gabriellepiche15@gmail.com

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