Monday, November 14, 2011

We Honor Their Memories

Once again I will reprise this story about two marvelous people.  There is some new information at the conclusion.

They met on a blind date and took an instant liking to each other. Much of their courtship consisted of hiking in the mountains of western North Carolina. She was three years his senior, a fact that brought many laughs in years to come. They were married in 1949.

He became a lawyer. A lover of animal, she became a veterinarian, rather unusual for her time. Her continued quest for knowledge led her to take courses in forestry, icythyology, and she loved and studied all things living. She would later give up her veterninary practice to take college-level science courses full time.

The lived in Montana and in New York, but their passion was for western North Carolina where they always intended to retire. The couple were true lovers of the outdoors. When their children grew up they traveled extensively, hiking some of the most rugged mountains in the world. They always stayed in hostels or inexpensive lodging because, as he said, "You meet so many more interesting people that way."

When they were in their 50s he hiked the entire Appalachian Trail from Maine to Georgia. She joined him for parts of the hike and they celebrated with champagne at the end of the trail. Other hikers were delighted with her ability to identify every tree, every bush, and every flower along the trail.

In 1990 they moved to the North Carolina mountains they loved so much.

Both photographs from the Transylvania Times

She was an avid gardener and an award-winning quilter. Their passion was hiking, especially the lesser known trails in Pisgah National Forest. They were stewards of the land, purchasing land in their community and donating it to be a nature preserve.

After 58 years of marriage they were deeply committed to one another. The continued to hike together...she in her 80s and he almost 80. They hiked at least once a week. If the sun came up, they went hiking.

Their last Christas card.

On October 21, 2007 they went for a hike in Pisgah National Forest. Their son who lived out of State was concerned when he didn't hear from them. He contacted neighbors who also were concerned that they had not returned. The son called the local police.

The car was found near a trail head here in Transylvania County. On November 9, 2007, her body was found near the trail. Telephone records showed that she had made a "911" call from her cell phone on October 21 but the signal was insufficient to relay beyond the tower. Their bank card was used in nearby Tennessee.

Irene Bryant had died of blunt force trauma to the head. Her husband John was still missing.

In February 2008 the remains of John Bryant were discovered near a forest service road in upstate Georgia. He had been shot in the head.

Evidence links the senseless killing of this wonderful and devoted couple to Gary Michael Hilton. Hilton pleaded guilty to an equally senseless murder of 24-year-old Meredith Emerson in Georgia. Under the terms of a plea bargain he was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole in 30 years.  He was tried in Florida for the murder of Cheryl Dunlap, a 46-year-old nurse.  He was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death.
[Update:   Hilton was extradited to Federal court in Asheville, NC last summer and charged with murder, robbery, and kidnapping in the cases of John and Irene Bryant. He entered pleas of "not guilty" on all counts and will be tried for these crimes in early 2012.]

But this post is not about Gary Michael Hilton. It's not even about justice. There is no justice here. There can be no justice for such heinous actions. This post is about two of my heroes...John and Irene Bryant.

They left behind a legacy of love. Love for each other, their children, their fellow man, and the future. Love of nature, love of the outdoors, and love of these wonderful North Carolina mountains. They are together once again and after four years we still grieve for them. They left the world better than they found it. Let's all take a lesson from John and Irene Bryant. Live your life to the fullest and give back to nature and to humankind.


Busy Bee Suz said...

You have shared a beautiful tribute to two wonderful people.
I remember when you first posted this, and honestly, I still think of them often.

How Sam Sees It said...

I remember when you originally posted this and thinking how terribly sad to have lost such a beautiful couple. I'll think of them today, and tomorrow, and for years to come.


Rudee said...

It's so wonderful that you keep the memory of these two alive along with updates on the justice for them. There is no excuse for these senseless deaths.

troutbirder said...

I remember it as well. At least there is the consolation that they had lived the good life....

Ms. A said...

Such a senseless, tragic story.

Wayfarin' Stranger said...

Amen! Jim

George said...

Thank you for keeping the memory of John and Irene Bryant alive. I didn't know them, but I like the example they lived.

Carol Murdock said...

I saw this story on one of the news shows, 48 Hours or Dateline. How sad and senseless these murders were. What a wonderful legacy they left. I'm so sorry for your loss.

FANCY the Red Standard Poodle said...

Hi Y'all,

My Human followed the stories about the young woman and the Bryants and said it had to be a serial killer.

Their deaths brought a change in where and how we all hike. My Human used to run "our Mountain" with me while my human Papa hiked a flatter trail and we'd meet up. Even though she has me to protect her, Papa won't let us go up the mountain anymore.

Horrors like happened to the Bryants take the joy from exploring more remote or even well traveled areas of the mountain beauty. The fact that cell phone coverage is so unpredictable gives one added caution.

Thanks for such a beautiful tribute to the Bryants. It is tragic that one is necessary.

Y'all come by now,
Hawk aka BrownDog

Jill said...

This story touched me when you first posted it. You are life to the fullest. A wonderful tribute to these wonderful people.

My Mind's Eye said...

Oh my goodness...John and Irene were truly a beautiful couple who lived life to it fullest and gave so much to this world. It breaks my heart to know such kind people had such a horrific end to their life. At least they are together now. God bless their souls, family and friends.
Hugs Madi and Mom

animal lover, quilt lover said...

I didn't see the first post about these murders. But I know about them b/c of the murder he did here in our area!!! Thanks so much for telling us more about this wonderful couple.
xx, Zoie & Fern