Former county leader succumbs

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 9, 2004

ASKEWVILLE – His heart was as big as Bertie County.

Elbert Ray Bryant died unexpectedly at his Askewville home on Sunday, ending a lifetime of loyal service to a county and a town he so dearly loved. Bryant was 68.

&uot;He was one of the most hardest working men that I know when it came to being involved in his church, his community and his county,&uot; said Rev. R.O. &uot;Buddy&uot; Denton Jr., who helped to conduct Bryant’s funeral yesterday (Wednesday).

Denton continued, &uot;He had a willing heart to become involved in a number of activities. Over the last few years of my pastorate here at Askewville Assembly of God, I saw Elbert Ray’s vision expand quite a bit as he reached out to lost and hurting people, helping those who do not know the Lord to find peace within their lives.&uot;

Making reference to the stature of his friend, Rev. Denton said, &uot;Elbert Ray was a big man, but he had a big, compassionate heart. His loss will not only be felt here in our church and our town, but all over Bertie County.&uot;

Bryant’s service to his community and Bertie County leaves some very big shoes to fill, no pun intended.

Bryant was serving as an Askewville Town Commissioner. He is a former Mayor of Askewville and also served the small town as its Chief of Police. He was also a charter member of the Askewville Fire Department, Askewville Lions Club and the Askewville Elementary School PTA.

His service extended into Bertie County government where Bryant served as a County Commissioner. In addition, he was a charter member of the Bertie County Rescue Squad (Unit 2). That countywide service did not go unnoticed.

&uot;I’ll tell you one of the best characteristics of Elbert Ray Bryant – when he tackled a job, any job, he stayed with it until it was finished,&uot; noted former Bertie County Manager Jack Williford of Windsor. &uot;Elbert Ray always strived to do what was right.&uot;

On two-to-four weekday mornings, Bryant and Williford would eat breakfast together at Crossroads Diner. There, listening to his good friend, Williford learned of Bryant’s priorities in life.

&uot;Elbert Ray gave of himself, first to his family, then to his church, his community, his county, his state and his nation,&uot; stressed Williford. &uot;He was a mighty good friend to me, one I’ll miss so much.&uot;

This &uot;gentle giant&uot; of a man also left a lasting impression on Bertie County’s new generation of leaders.

&uot;When I think of Elbert Ray Bryant I think of a natural leader,&uot; offered Allen Castelloe, former Bertie EMS Director who now serves Windsor as its Town Administrator. &uot;I hate to sound so corny, but honestly he was an all-around good guy. He was someone who would not hesitate to grab the bull by the horns and produce results. He got things done. His passing leaves a big void, one that will be very hard to fill.&uot;

As an example of his leadership, Bryant, just last week, spoke out against a plan to close three public schools in the county. His voice boomed throughout the Bertie Superior Courtroom where he challenged his friends and neighbors not to buckle against what he referred to as &uot;the bureaucrats.&uot;

&uot;We’ve had a plan that has worked here in Bertie County for well over 30 years,&uot; said Bryant at that Nov. 30 meeting, held to inform Bertie citizens of a plan that will satisfy a federal court order, one mandating full compliance in regards to total desegregation.

&uot;Why change it now,&uot; Bryant continued. &uot;You can’t satisfy the bureaucrats. Washington (DC) has no idea what Bertie County needs. What are we doing, satisfying the bureaucrats or making sure our children have the best possible education?&uot;

Bryant formerly served as District Governor of District 31-J of the Lions Club and was past president of the North Carolina Lions Association. Bryant was a board member of the North Carolina Eye and Human Tissue Bank and a member of the Windsor Lions Club. His last contribution was the gift of sight as he was an eye donor.

Bill Spivey, Mayor of Windsor and an active member of the Windsor Lions Club, praised Bryant’s work within the Lions organization.

&uot;I remember when the Askewville Lions closed their charter, Elbert Ray came and joined the Windsor Lions,&uot; said Spivey. &uot;He was very active with us right off the bat. He served in a leadership role with us, at the regional level and at the state level.&uot;

Spivey stressed that no matter the level in which Bryant was serving, he always gave it his undivided attention.

&uot;That’s what you got with Elbert Ray – his very best effort,&uot; Spivey stated. &uot;Whenever someone needed help, Elbert Ray was there. It’s men like Elbert Ray that are so hard to replace. We may not ever find someone to fill his shoes. He’ll be greatly missed in his community and in his county.&uot;

Bryant is survived by his wife of 49 years, Martha Farmer Bryant, formerly of Robersonville; daughters, Cynthia Bryant Harrell of Salisbury, MD; Martha Bryant Lane of Rocky Mount; Roberta Bryant Cummings of Tobaccoville; and Gloria Bryant of the home. He had five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Other survivors include a brother, Johnny Bryant of Williamston; and sisters, Geraldine Todd of Askewville and Ann Taylor of Fort White, FL. He was preceded in death by his parents, Carlyle and Sarah Mizelle Bryant and a brother, Julian Bryant.

Bryant retired from Georgia-Pacific after 32 years of service. After retirement, he started his own logger safety consulting business. He also was employed with Walker Funeral Home.

Memorial gifts may be made to Askewville Fire Department or Windsor Lions Club.