In loving memory of Dr. William S. Bryant (November 9, 1943 - August 5, 2019).
The Last Resort never would have been published without Bill Bryant.
Shortly after his article about John C. Goodlett appeared in the Kentucky Journal of the Academy of Science in 2006, Billy—as I had always heard him called—got word to me that he would be talking about the paper at a meeting of the Anderson County Historical Society. Since I was working in Lexington at the time, I contacted Bobby Cole, my dad’s good friend and fellow architect of Camp Last Resort, and offered to take him to the meeting.
When we arrived, I saw that at least one more of my dad’s Lawrenceburg High School classmates was there: W. J. Smith. It was a remarkable evening of two generations sharing stories and reminiscences. I was astonished that, more than 40 years after his death, my dad’s contributions to the scientific community had prompted both Bill’s article and this hometown gathering.
They’re all gone now—Bobby, W. J., George Jr., Lin Morgan, Rinky, John Allen, Jody—and now Bill Bryant is gone, too.
Before the article was published, I had had no idea that Bill was working on it, no idea that he had been talking to my dad’s old colleagues (Reds Wolman, Alan Strahler, and Sherry Olson, for example). I now understand that Bill had discovered the very correspondence between my father and his Harvard Forest mentor, Hugh Raup, that I reviewed in detail just last month.
In short, I had no idea that there was still any interest in my father or his work. But what I learned was that Bill knew more about my father than I did.
Twice he led me out to my dad’s old camp on Salt River. I had never been there before. It had evidently never occurred to anyone else in those 40 years that I might like to see the place that was so special—almost sacred—to my father.
A few years later, as I worked on the book, Bill patiently reviewed various sections for accuracy. He encouraged me. He believed what I was doing had value.
He also nudged me to include more about my mother in the book. I remember Bill visiting our home in the 1970s, talking with my mother, going over materials related to my dad’s work. I didn’t fully understand then what his interest was. But he was obviously taken with my mother’s intelligence, her courage, and her struggles to raise two daughters alone.
In the end, though, I couldn’t figure out how to incorporate more of her story into The Last Resort. I promised Bill I had another project dedicated to her. It pains me that he’ll never get to read the novel I wrote about her father. Bill loved reading fiction and he loved history. I think he would have been interested in my telling of this Kentucky tale.
I feel, in a way, that I’ve lost another family member—yet one more of the few remaining connections to my father. Just as I wrote recently that I wish I could have walked the woods with Pud and gleaned a thing or two from all that he knew about its inhabitants, so I wish I could have walked the woods one more time with Bill.
8/10/2019 08:17:07 am
This is beautiful Sallie! I was so shocked and saddened by my lifelong friend's passing, He was a remarkably intelligent and loving person that I will dearly miss. We were lifelong friends and they are so very hard to lose. Bless you dear Billy!
Julie Cole Wilson
8/10/2019 09:56:19 am
Sallie, I never possessed any previous knowledge of Bill’s extensive professional history other than being aware of the fact that he had been a professor of some sort...I assumed it was history. After reading his obituary, I now understand the deep connection you had with him. He was an extremely accomplished man who left an incredible legacy.
8/10/2019 11:09:36 am
That was a very poignant article about very bright and most interesting man. It was great to read his article about your dad and his scholarly work. We will miss him
9/9/2019 12:59:34 pm
Sallie, thank you for sharing. I know that my father talked about his friendship with your father, especially their shared years at Sand Spring. I was always amazed that two fellows from little Lawrenceburg City High, graduating from UK at the same time earned their department's highest honor. I doubt that any other school could boast that achievement. Daddy never mentioned it, but I discovered it while going thru his 'box' seeing the graduation program.
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