Celebration of Life for Pat Bryant

Honoring the life and legacy of Pat Richard Bryant.

Born Dec. 1, 1947 in San Antonio, TX, Pat served in the Air Force and worked as an air traffic controller.

Pat and his wife JoAnne are parents to Eric and Scott.

For the full obituary, go here.

Slideshow before and after the service. The service begins at 40 minute mark.

Eulogy from Dr. Scott Bryant, Ph.D. 

“Thank you for being here today.  I’m certain Dad would be overwhelmed by the crowd and would ask, “if y’all were in the right place.”  We certainly appreciate your prayers and support.  

Dad certainly preferred to be behind the scenes.  But I would argue he played critical roles.  In the air force he served as a navigator on KC 135 refueling planes and without the use of GPS used wind forecasts, a sextant, and a bunch of charts to successfully lead his flight crew on 34 combat missions refueling USAF fighter aircraft.  After the airforce he worked in the radar room and the control tower at airports telling pilots where to go and keeping people safe.  It wasn’t until Eric and I were adults until we realized how stressful Dad’s job was.  We finally realized that when we were kids when he was at work he was working diligently and carefully to control the chaos as planes took off and landed and then he would come home and Eric and I were not quite as obedient as the pilots he worked with all day.  

As you read in the obituary he served in many ways at this church and other churches he has been a part of.  You will hear many stories about dad today but he would be the first to tell you he was far from perfect.  He, like all of us, needed a savior.  

Philippians 2:3-4 says,” Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.  Rather, in humility value others better than yourselves, not looking to your own interests but to the interest of others.” 

One of the ways Dad showed love to others is by doing things he didn’t necessarily want to do.  He put the needs of others before his own.  He was not really a sports fan, or very competitive, but he was willing to coach both me and Eric in little league when we were kids. One of the rules at the time was the coaches had to take turn as umpires in other games and that was Dad’s least favorite thing, but he was willing to do it.  

When we lived in Lubbock, he coached my tball team, the Cheetahs, and let me just say that I was pretty good at tball.  Our field didn’t have a fence so I just hit is as hard I could and ran as fast as I could and pretty regularly circled the bases for a homerun.  Dad was a pretty sensitive and caring guy and told me one time before a game, “how about you not hit is so far every time, to give the other team a chance.”  I thought that was the worst coaching advice I had ever heard in my life.  By the way, my mom would never offer the same advice.  

Dad wasn’t a fan of playing golf, but he was willing to play with mom.  Dad would rather be fixing something or building something.  He had a tireless work ethic.  Dad was raised by a World War 2 and Korean war veteran and his dad enjoyed the military life and apparently introduced Dad and his siblings, Don, Sherry, and Jan to it at home.  He had a hard time being idle.  But he would play golf with mom, and he would play games with the grandkids as well.  

I mentioned Dad wasn’t very competitive.  Reid mentioned that once when playing monopoly Dad was down to $1 and started singing, “I’m in the money, I’m in the money.”  Anna reminded me that once during charades Dad was struggling during his turn and then just started dancing which really confused his team.  When the timer sounded they said, what was that, and Dad said, “I had no clue what to do so I thought I would dance.”  One of his go to moves that always got us laughing was the Papaw dance. 

He even went on a few cruises with Mom and his siblings.  Talk about a tough task for someone who had a hard time relaxing and sitting down. He was willing to do it.  Once however, his commitment to dancing until the end of  “freebird” led to a lingering knee injury.  

When he became a deacon at Shady Oaks Baptist Church in Hurst, Dad really demonstrated selflessness.  He visited homebound members of the church and delivered cassette tapes of the sermons.  As an extreme introvert, he didn’t want to meet random strangers, but through this ministry he developed close friendships with many of the people he visited.  Here he served in a variety of ways including repairing cars and  teaching Sunday School and English as a Second Language classes.

Dad was far more generous with his time than he was with his money.  That is certainly something he taught us, how not to spend money.  Except he always gave his tithe to the church.  That was certainly a priority.  What wasn’t a priority was buying new things or replacing broken things.  Repairing broken things and fixing problems was Dad’s thing.  When something needs to be fixed, most people get on youtube, but me and Eric just called Dad.  Dad would tell you, that his methods were not always conventional and duct tape was usually involved, but more times than not he got the job done.   

Dad would be the first to tell you that Bryants are prone to worry.  In fact, one of my aunts did DNA testing and had a 80% match with the Land of Worry and Despair.  Bryants are great planners and they like things staying on schedule and according to the plan.  Dad was in the perfect career as an air traffic controller as he worked each and every day to keep planes on time and safe.  

in junior high I began to have headaches on Sunday nights before the start of each school week.  Mom and Dad took me to the doctor and the diagnosis was stress.  I was just getting anxious about the week ahead.  Afraid that I had forgotten an assignment or was not prepared for the week ahead.  Dad pointed me to Matthew 6:34 from the sermon on the Mount in which Jesus said, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  That verse has really been a guide for me and I know it was one that Dad tried to adhere to as well.  Dad never acted like he had it all figured out but did point me to the One who did.”  

Eulogy Dr. Eric Bryant, D.Min.

Our Dad was very active. Let me show you a couple of short videos from 2015.

These videos were taken at Barton Springs pool in Austin when he was 67. 

Up until about Easter of this year he was playing pickleball, fixing things around the house, and mowing the lawn.

He really was active his entire life.

We have heard some great stories from family members.

As a brother

Don- Don was 7 and Pat was 5 when they found a bullet from a 22 caliber gun. They put it in a slingshot and kept on shooting it against the wall of the house until it finally went off apparently scaring them to death looking for where that bullet went.

Sherry – Growing up, he was protective of his little sisters. He liked to go rabbit hunting in the woods with Don and their cousin Bill near their house and in San Marcos at their grandparents’ house. Jan and I wanted to go but we weren’t allowed to. 

Jan – Pat was around 4 years old when his brother Don was supposed to keep Pat out of the way. Pat wanted to ride around on his tricycle, so Don put Pat and the tricycle on top of the table. Pat rode the tricycle off the table and broke his collarbone.

Pat always helped take care of his little sisters walking them to Sunday school, and helping them stay out of trouble.

Jan’s very first airplane ride she ever had was with Pat flying the plane he had rented and gifted each one of them a flight. She was scared to death and cried the whole time because she felt like Pat wasn’t a perfect car driver so how could he be a perfect pilot?!

As a brother in law:

Howie, my Mom’s younger brother went to visit my parents when they lived in Dayton. They went to Kings Island. There was a ride that rotated in a big circle. There were 4 tea cups on a saucer and there were 4 saucers. Pat and I were on the ride. Pat began turning the wheel in the tea cup, so we are spinning in a circle within a circle within a big circle. Pat got that tea cup spinning so fast Howie’s head went straight back. The only way he could get my head back into the tea cup was to lay down on the seat, but it took some effort. He doesn’t think Pat realized how fast he was able to get that tea cup spinning and just how much Howie struggled not to lose my head!

Howie’s wife Diane said Pat definitely had to be one of the most time conscious people she has ever met. If he said they would be at the house at 3:00 then that’s the exact time he would show up. Same thing went for departures. If departure time was 5:00 then eating, visiting, game playing etc needed to be done by 4:57 so that a quick bathroom visit could be done before hitting the road at 5:00. I have a feeling that being an air traffic controller was right up his alley since everything was down to the exact minute! 

As an uncle:

Kyle mentioned once playing volleyball at a family get together and he was maybe 13 or so and he spiked the ball and it hit Pat right in the face. Kyle apologized, but then every time we played for the next few years Pat would joke around when we would play saying stuff like please don’t hurt me and acting afraid in a joking way. 

Sheila mentioned how she loved how he would jump and do tricks off the diving board at the lake when she was a kid. 

She has fond memories of staying with our family when we lived in Bedford when she was about 5 and then doing so again when she was in college with one of her best friends.  She said: “Pat was a wonderful uncle.  I got to know more about him recently when Emma did a Veterans Day project on her Veteran Uncle Pat.”

Rebekah mentioned how one of her favorite memories was watching Pat and Jo Anne dance. They would kind of bounce dance and always looked so cute together.  It always made me smile when I saw the two of them dancing together. 

Mitch said: “The thing I’ll always remember about uncle Pat is how he used to always Shake my hand hello and goodbye. Many years ago I realized that I gave everyone else from the Bryant family a hug other than Pat so from then on I always made sure to give Pat a hug. He’d almost always reach out for a handshake but he was getting a hung instead. Which always seem to give him a big smile!”

As a cousin:

Matt said: “Pat always made us feel welcome at the family gatherings. He always made it a point to greet us and ask me “how things were going at USAA”.  I will miss him in the family volleyball games, as well as Dale and my Dad. They always added laughter and competitiveness to the game.”

As a Dad:

As Scott said, our Dad was quite engaged for a Dad with such a stressful job and in a way some dads wouldn’t.

Chaperoned youth events.

Disciple Now – teens sleeping over at the house. Our Dad coming out in his sleep shirt to get the teenagers to get quiet and go to sleep. Our Dad didn’t realize he was standing right above Eric’s friend Craig’s face. Fortunately Craig was not wearing his glasses! The next morning he woke up the groggy teenagers with this:

“Frankenstein” by Edgar Winter

And then there was what I like to call vacation Dad. He was so much fun and so funny that his mother-in-law called him “The White Bill Cosby” which was quite a compliment back in the 1980s.

Some of you may know some of the stories I’ve shared about how my Dad and I misunderstood each other as I was growing up. 

How he told me I was too old to hug him good night at around age 11 or 12 so I had to shake his hand good night.

How I wasn’t allowed to grow my hair long in high school. (If he only knew then what we all know now).

How he wanted my fiancé to call him Mr. Bryant even though my Mom had told Deborah she could call her JoAnne.

How we got in one of the biggest arguments the night before my rehearsal dinner. He started yelling at me about coming home so late so I thought I would start yelling at him to show him how ridiculous he was being for overreacting. That didn’t work. Once I started yelling I couldn’t stop! Eventually we were right up in each other’s faces before my Mom intervened and started yelling at us to stop.

We both went off to our rooms. I was so upset. It took me a long time to calm down. I was thinking I would get married and move to Seattle and never come visit or never let him come visit us. Or he wouldn’t get to meet his grandkids. Or even better, we would have our kids call him Mr. Bryant!

After I finally calmed down, I prayed before bed and realized I needed to go apologize. 

He responded: “I’m just having a hard time saying goodbye.”

I’ve shared those stories over the years to help others come to peace with their Dad just as I did. 

My Dad showed his love through his actions. 

  • He would be the one who would drive me to the airport through a storm so I wouldn’t miss my flight. 
  • He was the one who expected more from me than I even knew was possible. Perhaps why that’s why Scott and I both grew up and got our doctorates.
  • He was the one who made sure we went to church every Sunday.
  • He was the one who taught us to laugh when we could – even when things weren’t going our way.

Several months ago, as my Dad was struggling with his memory, I asked him: “How do you handle not remembering?”

He said: “You just have to laugh about it.”

This is exactly what his Mom used to say and we quoted her saying that at her memorial service!

We love funny stories, especially about the embarrassing things that happen – the more embarrassing the better. In fact one of my coping mechanisms in life was when something bad happened to me, it wouldn’t be long before I would think – oh this would make a great story at the Bryant’s’ Thanksgiving lunch!

My Dad loved movies where everything was falling apart – like The Money Pit with Tom Hanks or Planes, Trains, and Automobiles with Steve Martin. The more things got worse the funnier it was to him! Nothing better than hearing my Dad laugh!

Here’s an example of one of those moments when he showed us how to just laugh when he forgot something. My parents spent the night at our house in our daughter Trevi’s room who was a gap year missionary in Paris. My Dad woke up disoriented and thought: “what am I doing in a teenage girl’s room?” And then he started wondering: “And who is this sleeping next to me?”

For my Dad what usually takes years happened over the course of just a few months. It was hard to see his rapid decline, but we are glad we had many chances over the summer to say goodbye and that he isn’t suffering anymore. 

Through this, my Mom, Scott, and I want to especially thank Don, Sally, Sherry, Glenn, Jan, Howie, and Diane for all the visits, meals, and helping my Mom care for my Dad these last few months. My Mom was heroic but she couldn’t have done it without the family and the medical professionals that helped.

As hard as this last year has been, my Dad gave us some really memorable and funny moments too.

From brother-in-law Glenn

Sherry volunteered to watch Pat on one such occasion when Pat needed to be watched overnight plus the following day at our house in San Antonio.  Now it just so happened that Sherry had previously also volunteered to help out with her grandkids in New Braunfels for the same day that Pat would be at our house.  No problem, Glenn, the brother-in-law, was by default volunteered. 

Honestly, I had some apprehension.  Could Pat and I keep up a conversation for a whole day?  Unlikely.  I knew that he got pretty antsy when his beloved JoAnne was gone.  Could I assure him that she would return?  Maybe.  Then I came up with a plan – pool at the Senior Center.  I asked Sherry about that idea and she told me about how growing up the Bryant siblings had a pool table in the basement and that Pat used to play.  Maybe the plan was not totally bad.

So Pat spent the night at our house and all went well. Sherry fixed breakfast for us all, then she got in the car and left Pat and me alone for the day.   Pat and I drove to the Senior Center where there are 3 pool tables.  We got there very early, and thus we were the only two guys playing pool.  I soon realized Pat was pretty good and that even though he hadn’t played in many years, I did not need to “let him win.”   He could win on his own.   More old guys started showing up to play and pretty soon all 3 tables were occupied.  Then I saw ‘Big Bob’ walk in and head toward our table.  Big Bob is the best player there.  He asked if he could play the winner.  Pat beat me that game and so I introduced Pat as my brother-in-law to Big Bob.  Pat got the first shot and the game was on.  Pat was shooting hot and Big Bob was brought down a notch that day, losing to Pat, the new kid at the Senior Center.

The rest of the day was great, barbeque for lunch, an afternoon of TV and sparse conversation, and the return of his beloved JoAnne that evening.  Sometimes getting volunteered is such a blessing.

From sister Sherry:

Sherry mentioned how we moved our Dad into the memory care center on September 1st. She went to visit him a few days later. 

They were just getting ready to serve lunch and everyone was sitting at the tables.  He seemed so happy to see me and as soon as I walked up to him, he said “lets dance!” I said sure and he danced me around all the tables.  No jumping or bouncing, just smooth good dancing and lots of smiling. 

Pat and JoAnne came over to the rent house that Adam and Sheila had rented in July. He was antsy and it was hard to get him to stay still but Hays who is 2 years old started handing Pat toys and they enjoyed passing them back and forth.

From my Family:

Deborah and I started coming over on Tuesdays to watch my Dad. To give my Mom a chance to get out of the house. 

Even as the diseases progressed, my Dad still wanted to be active. So often I’d have to jump in to convince my Dad not to get in the car to drive. 

My Mom told her that he once asked her: “why do you get to go out having fun while I’m stuck at the house visiting?”

Trevi asking him the meaning of life type questions and his answers.
She asked: “What were you most proud of?” 
He responded with “Becoming a Christian.”
She asked him what do you want to be remembered for?
He said: “I got better.”

Lately we’ve felt a lot like my Dad felt just before Deborah and I got married. “It’s just so hard saying goodbye.”

But We Have Hope

But what brings me great hope is that this life is not all that there is!

One of the greatest things my Dad passed on to us was his faith. I’m grateful for the strong work ethic, the example of faithfulness to his wife, family, friends, and church family, and the ability to tell a funny story even when it’s about the hard times in life. 

Because isn’t that what life is? 

Life is filled with beautiful moments and with tragedies. 

We’ve had so much support for our family and friends. We are so very grateful for the kind words, the emails, the texts, the messages online, and for the prayers. In one of those texts, I was sent a quote. After the tragedy of September 11th, Queen Elizabeth II said

“Grief is the price we pay for love.”

– Queen Elizabeth II

It’s devastating to lose someone you love, but we have faith this life is not all there is.

The faith my Mom and Dad passed on to me and my brother is the faith I hope to pass on to my children and to their children, and it was the faith my parents learned from their parents. 

And it’s a simple faith and a beautiful and redemptive message. 

American churchianity has gotten in the way and confused things. The message of Jesus is not about aligning to a political party. It’s not judgmental or hypocritical.

It’s about how out of tragedy can come joy.

The message of faith is that God created us and loves us and gives us freedom. 

In that freedom we make decisions which either bring more light into the world or more darkness into the world. 

And God has intervened. He came to rescue us from the darkness, and His name is Jesus.

Jesus taught us how to live 

Jesus demonstrated how to love others – including the overlooked and the outcast.

Ultimately Jesus rescued us by dying on the cross – taking upon Himself the darkness and sin and evil of our world and that has infiltrated our hearts.

But death could not hold Him down as He rose from the dead on the 3rd day. 

And Jesus is Alive and invites us into a relationship with God. 

God invites each of us to bring the tragedies of our lives and let Him bring something beautiful out of that. 

And faith can be the firm foundation on which you build your life to withstand the winds that come and go in life.

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