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Robert A. Bryan – A Modern Day Visionary
Robert A. Bryan was born in 1931 in Mill Neck, New York. He graduated from Yale University with a BA in 1954 and from Yale Divinity School with a Master of Divinity in 1957 in which year he also received his pilot’s license. He was ordained a priest in the Episcopal Church in 1958.
Like many of the great people who have contributed to this vast nation, Rev. Bryan’s (locally known as Mr. Bryan) roots originate outside Canada. His pioneering spirit comes honestly as his grandfather was instrumental in legislating Wyoming into statehood. This same pioneering spirit took him to the remote area of Canada known as the Quebec Lower North Shore, otherwise known as the “Coast”, in the late 1950s. In the summer of 1959, he became the substitute minister for vacationing clergy within the Anglican Church’s St. Clement’s Mission. During these early years, reaching parishioners in the small remote communities was by small motor boat or dog team. As a visionary and a pilot, the bush pilot ministry on the Coast was born through Mr. Bryan. The sight and sound of the legendary yellow bush plane, N369E locally known as the “69EZ”, caused people to drop whatever they were doing and congregate to a stage head, a home or church for both spiritual and social nurturing. Remote lighthouse stations and fishing outposts on rocks and islands along the Coast were uplifted at the sight of his yellow plane dipping its wings low to bring greetings or drop mail. Mr Bryan has logged more than 18, 000 hours of flying in the 48 years since he began, with more than 15,000 of these hours flown in Eastern Canada.
At the time of his arrival, the Coast was very isolated and way of life was very basic. There were no roads, no electricity and no television. Communication was by telegraph or radio telephone. Formal education was rudimentary. The 3 Rs were taught in one room school houses. There was little opportunity for young people to go to school beyond Grade 8. Mr. Bryan watched the traditional games like “gun-balls” and “rounders”, the latter played with little more then a stick and a sponge rubber ball. He was amazed by the fact that people who lived from the ocean never knew how to swim. He saw great needs and set out to change forever the education, social and recreation programs available on the Coast.
Like his great hero, Sir Wilfred Grenfell, Mr. Bryan has the wonderful ability to excite and engage many others in his vision. He successfully brought many millions of dollars to the Coast from both Canadian and American individuals and Corporations, which would otherwise not have been available.
In 1961, Mr. Bryan founded the Quebec Labrador Foundation (QLF). It started as an organization providing leadership programs for young people living in isolated fishing communities along the Quebec Lower North Shore. College students from American and Canadian Universities were recruited to take part in summer intern programs within the communities. Since the 1960s, hundreds of Atlantic Canada youth have participated in swimming, sailing, canoeing and general recreational camps: Living Rivers in New Brunswick; Grey Island School and Ocean Horizons in Newfoundland, and; Robertson Lake Canoe Camp and Maritime Training School in Quebec. In particular, camps associated with seabird sanctuaries such as St. Mary’s and Perroquet Islands, have been world renowned examples of conservation stewardship success. Swimming and water safety are now standard life skills amongst the youth and many communities are now carrying on these recreational programs. These programs have also allowed the many hundreds of interns to experience life skills of rural areas. See the Web Site, www.qlf.org, for more details on the Foundation.
In the early years prior to the establishment of the present day formal education system, Mr. Bryan was responsible for providing the opportunity for many students to further their education in outside institutions in Canada and the USA. Over the years, many hundreds of the Coast’s youth have also benefited from educational grants from QLF. This education grant program is still alive and well under the auspices of the QLF Scholarship Fund. Mr. Bryan has personally directed the raising of money to keep the work of the foundation going while serving as first its President and most recently it’s Chairman.
QLF exists today to support rural communities and the environment of Eastern Canada and New England. Programs are run by school and college students who live and work side by side with members of the communities. QLF oversees exciting international exchange opportunities for people from the region to learn and share with those in other countries. This process is aimed at better equipping them for a world in the 21st century linked through technology and transportation like never before. The Foundation places great emphasis on encouraging education and leadership in young people and creating natural resource and cultural heritage stewardship models that can be applied world-wide. The true success of Mr. Bryan’s vision is witnessed by the number of Coast youth that are now or have been themselves, interns with QLF.
Mr. Bryan was also very involved with medical services on the Coast. Medical service on the Coast arrived for people through the auspices of the Grenfell Mission and Dr. Grenfell. The remote villages were serviced by a traveling doctor, by boat in summer and by dog team in winter. In his early years, Mr. Bryan had ample opportunity to fly mercy missions. Flying people to hospital or the doctor to a patient in need, in his small plane, was often requested by Dr. Hodd in Harrington Harbour, Quebec and Dr. Thomas in St. Anthony, Newfoundland. On these missions he sometimes risked his life in fierce wind, fog or blinding snow to fly patients to hospital. Searches to find people lost in bad weather or rescue people stranded were also par for the course.
Ven. Rev. Bryan is currently the Anglican Archdeacon for the Lower North Shore. Over his 40 plus years on the Coast, he has been a friend, counselor, mediator and an all-around hero to the people. He has the ability to make people feel good despite the challenge or misery-of the moment. Often, when he flew in to villages, just having the opportunity to shake his hand and hear a friendly word of encouragement was support enough to keep people moving. He taught people to appreciate their surroundings and made them believe that the little they had was a blessing. He has also been very instrumental in recording and collecting history and cultural artifacts of the Coast.
Mr. Bryan had a vision and has lived to see it extend far beyond what he could ever have imagined. He has devoted the last 40 plus years of his life to serving the people living along the rugged Quebec Lower North Shore. Through QLF, he has helped to change forever the face of education and environmental stewardship and in particular young peoples’ view of the world they inhabit. Mr. Bryan has toiled for more then 40 years to improve conditions for humans and the environment alike and is most deserving of special recognition. Over the years, Mr. Bryan has received many awards. In 1996, he received from Quebec, “L’Ordre du Merite Nord-Cotier” recognizing his contribution in an exceptional way to the quality of life on the Quebec Lower North Shore. However, it is not just the Lower North Shore that has been touched by the energies and talents of this man. His influence is similarly seen throughout Coastal Labrador, Northern Newfoundland, and New Brunswick.
Picture 1 - Rev. Bryan and his family on the Wharf in Harrington Harbour in the 1960s, with 69EZ in the background;
Picture 2 - The 69EZ on the ramp in Harrington - Kath Blanchard, Aaron Ransom, Rev. Tony Hitsman, Ven. Rev. Bryan and Lawton Stubbert.
Date entered on Web: 13 March 2005
Updated: 07 April 2005
Thank you to the previous coordinators,
Sharon Ransom and Marc-André Gosselin, for their excellent work !
We are looking forward to reading your suggestions and comments. / Il nous fera plaisir de lire vos suggestions et commentaires.
Dernière mise à jour: 13/10/2016
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