PARIS — It was exactly how Timothy John Bryant wanted it – hundreds of family members and friends gathered Saturday at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School to celebrate the man who touched all of their lives. There were a few tears shed, but more importantly, there was lots of laughter.
The 59-year-old Paris resident and longtime SAD 17 employee lost his short battle with cancer on Dec. 12. His family had booked the high school to host a fundraiser to help pay for his ongoing cancer treatments and show the community’s support and appreciation of his service as a coach and caretaker of the Don Gouin Athletic Complex, according to Superintendent Rick Colpitts. But he died before the event could be held and instead the high school hosted his funeral.
“Everybody loved Tim and we are deeply saddened by his passing,” Colpitts wrote in an email.
He was called “Timmy” or “Bry” by those close to him. On Saturday, a long line stretched through the cafeteria waiting to sign the guest book before entering the Dr. Mark S. Eastman Auditorium for his funeral. Prior to the service, his niece, Kim Hamlin, fondly recalled her uncle. She remembered taking walks in downtown Norway with him during the spring and summer and noted what a stellar guy he was.
“It’s hard not to like him,” Hamlin said, quoting another family member. As she spoke, a slide show featuring photos of Tim flashed up on the auditorium’s screen.
Tim was born on April 1, 1956. Both the Rev. Don Mayberry – who presided over the service – and Tim’s obituary noted not only was he an April Fools’ baby, he was also born on Easter Sunday. He informed everyone he met of this and it’s an event that probably hasn’t happened since, Mayberry said.
“Tim’s roots were deep in this community. He left town once in a while but he wasn’t happy about it,” Mayberry said to laughter from the auditorium. “He loved that small town feel of families and neighbors filling the stands, cheering on the hometown team.”
The reverend noted the strong connection between the high school and Tim, adding he was a student athlete who graduated from Oxford Hills in 1975. He worked in area over the years, but he was most well known for his “dream job” and pristine care of the Gouin Complex, which he maintained since 2002.
“He lived near the field, kept a close eye on the facility and was directly involved in its maintenance and upkeep,” Colpitts wrote. “In a sense – it was ‘his field.’ His commitment to the students and the Gouin Complex can be measured by the hundreds of Facebook messages that have been posted since his passing was announced.”
Mayberry had another way of putting it.
“Pride isn’t a big enough word. He was nearly obsessive about the care of the fields, as well as the front lawn,” Mayberry said. “And it was his work and he took it seriously.”
Tim coached so many teams over the years – including numerous ones for his three daughters Stephanie Piirainen, Lindsey Piirainen and Karen Catalano – that he and his family lost count. Catalano spoke for herself and her sisters.
“He gave us a competitive spirit and the desire to work hard. He would assure [us] everyone made mistakes, even him. To us though, he was perfect,” she said. “He has that charm to make you feel like you’ve been hanging out all week.”
Catalano noted that Bryant always would keep tabs on his friends and family. This included his colleagues at the high school.
SAD 17 Athletic Director Jeff Benson said Tim exemplified service and leadership and Tim made him a better person. He noted the five s’s of sports all fit his colleague – stamina, speed, strength, skill and most importantly, spirit.
“He was the epitome of Viking pride. Anyone who wore green and gold – he was the person it meant the most to. On behalf of our athletes and coaches … we have lost a true Viking,” Benson said. “While the cancer may have dampened his body, it never dampened his spirit.”
When Benson last saw Tim, his handshake was a firm as ever, he said.
“To quote Tim as he would so graciously say when he left everybody, ‘Peace,’” Benson said as he flashed the peace sign before leaving the podium.
Tim’s family asked those in attendance to share a favorite story or memory of him. Kingston Brown was friends with Tim’s daughter, Stephanie, and recalled the family’s welcoming household. Brown wrote he doesn’t know his biological father.
“Tim was a prime example of what a loving father should be,” Brown wrote through a slight sniffle. “I am a more of a man to this day because of that example set by Tim.”
In addition to his daughters and niece, Tim is survived by his sister, Toni Hamlin, his brother, Terry Bryant, and his wife, Lona Bryant, his former wife and favorite nurse, Deborah Bryant, another niece, Charlotte Bryant, and his grandchildren Demetria, Vincent and Brielle Catalano and Pia Germaine.
A pick up basketball game was held in the high school gym after the funeral and celebration of life. Tim will be buried in a cemetery in Buckfield with his parents John and Betty Bryant. A committal service will be held at a later date.