I wrote this and it was available to take at her visitation and the funeral. There are some things I had to leave out for space, but I think it summed things up pretty well. What I will add is that my grandmother was a Maryland girl through and through who never turned down a crab feast or a fried oyster, and she always had an open door. Everyone was welcome, no one ever turned away. That's the example and the lesson that I'm taking away from this relationship, and from the experiences of the last week.
Blanche Roberta (Bertie) Wilkinson Bryan
May 4, 1918 – September 22, 2007
Blanche Roberta Wilkinson was born on May 4, 1918, at home in Silver Spring. She was, fittingly, a springtime baby who especially loved flowers and the hope of the season throughout her 89 years.
Roberta was the proud and happy daughter of William B. “Beattie” and Eva Wilkinson, of Silver Spring. Her sister Eva died as a baby but was always lovingly remembered. Her late brother, William B. Wilkinson, known to many of us as Uncle Billy, lived a long and wonderful life, and looked out for her every day of it.
Bertie graduated from Montgomery Blair High School in 1936 – a member of the first graduating class. She was a proud lifelong Blazer. She married Robert Turner (Bob) Bryan in 1946, and had four children: Bobby, Jimmy, Anne Elizabeth, and Wayne Kramer.
Bertie went back to work after her son Wayne went to school. Her professional life at Montgomery College spanned 22 years, from 1965 until she retired in 1987. She was very successful in her work with students, coordinating graduation by hand with incredible accuracy, long before computers took over. She especially loved the students who came to the U.S. from thousands of miles away, and took several of them into her heart and home. Her years at MC gained her many friends and colleagues, and a devotion to the school – especially the Takoma Park campus – that continued for the rest of her life.
Bertie lived all of her adult life in the house her dad and brother built. She was forever after “Mrs. B.” or “Mom B” to three generations of children and neighbors. Her fondest wish was never to move from her house, and this came true. Her last month at Bedford Court – still in a Silver Spring zip code, thanks - was a happy one, as she was reunited with two of her good friends from Blair who were there too. That was a great surprise and a gift to all of them. She spent the month working hard in physical therapy, but also partying with the Red Hat Club and cleaning up at Bingo.
Bertie died on Saturday, September 22, 2007, just after 5 p.m. She was conscious and cracking jokes until the last minutes of her life. She had one last cup of coffee an hour before, and told her last angel caregiver, Freda, that it didn’t need any sugar, because she was sweet enough!
Family and friends were the most precious part of her life. In addition to her husband and beloved children, she was the proud Grandmommy/GB to four grandchildren, Laurie, Bob, Anne Marie, and Katie, and great-grandchildren Bryce, Braylen, Grace and Jordan. She was the mother-in-law of Joe and Barbara . She loved her brother Billy’s family dearly, including her sister-in-law, Cecily, niece, Eve, and nephew, Jeff, and spent many good times with her dear cousin Suzie. She had countless other relatives, friends, neighbors, and classmates – all much loved and appreciated. Her son, Wayne, watches over all of us and rejoices in her presence with him in heaven.
If you knew Bertie at all, you knew her way with words, and she probably blessed your heart at least once, if not a thousand times. She might have sung for you, remembered your birthday, or gave you a table to sit at when life was unkind or there was a holiday to celebrate. She undoubtedly gave you huge hugs. She said “I love you” every day. She laughed and cried freely. Please pay her life forward with daily gifts of love and laughter. Call your mother, your sister or brother, the neighbor up the street, or anyone else in your life who may want to hear from you. Better yet, drop by. She’d appreciate it. She’ll keep on blessing your heart.
Donations may be made in her memory to the Roberta W. “Bertie” Bryan Memorial Scholarship, c/o the Montgomery College Foundation.