Royal Canadian Legion Branch 293 in Port Alberni lost an active and dedicated citizen in 2020. Don Bryant, who passed away in October, was someone who was known and highly regarded for his avid services to the Legion, the Alberni Rescue Squad for 42 years, and for his continuous assistance to the seniors of the Valley.
Born in Port Alberni before the Great Depression 92 years ago, Bryant followed his father’s steps by volunteering as a member of the city’s Legion, serving as vice-president and president of former Branch 169 for several terms.
(Port Alberni once had two Legion branches, No. 169 and No. 55. They amalgamated and formed Branch 293 in 2011.)
“My dad, Harry Bryant, came to Canada from England with my mother at the beginning of the 20th century, and went to the front line during the First World War, and so did my two older brothers who fought in the Second World War. I was too young to be recruited,” Bryant said during an interview held on his 90th birthday.
“I was born on Adelaide St. in Alberni and attended Alberni Elementary School on Burke and Elizabeth, past the train track.”
As a young man, he began working in a logging camp and later as an employee for the Ministry of Highways, a job he kept for more than 40 years, driving trucks, graders and other types of road improvement machinery. He proudly said that he was part of the crew that built the highway to Ucluelet and Tofino. “Before the construction of that road people used to go to those communities by boat.”
During his life, he witnessed many changes in the Alberni Valley. “Johnston Road was the only way to get to town from Victoria in those days, and at the bottom of that road, turning left and crossing the bridge, was the way to get south to Port Alberni.” He also said among other many changes and events seen in his lifetime were the amalgamation of the two cities, Alberni and Port Alberni; the Tsunami of 1964; the construction of many roads, buildings and places of interest such as Harbour Quay; the city halls; the pulp and paper mill; the hospital and Legion buildings; the Capitol Theatre, which was built on the land owned by his grandmother (who also owned a boarding house where the old Arrowview Hotel used to stand) and more.
Bryant was recognized and applauded by many for his involvement in the community, along with his Legion peers, by providing financial support to the seniors and their causes. As president of now-defunct Legion Branch No. 169, he helped present regular donations, (from fundraising activities, bingo games, the Poppy Fund, etc.) to residents and tenants of seniors homes for their comfort, enjoyment and well-being, as well as to other non-profit groups such as “Meals on Wheels”.
“The donations are for the comfort of seniors to be used for items normally not covered by the operational budgets. This is part of our mandate,” he once stated.
For several decades Bryant and other Legion members, through their visiting committees, paid regular visits to veterans staying in the hospital, or living in long-term care homes as well as shut-ins.
As a family man, Bryant was always ready to assist his children. “ When we needed him, my dad was always ready to help. We relied on him every time,” says Deb, his oldest daughter.
He was the grandfather of four and great-grandfather of five. “He adored them!”
“One of the activities we enjoyed the most as young kids was going to the bush with him to cut our own Christmas tree. We had lots of fun, but I think he had more fun than anybody else,” says Donna, his middle daughter.
Although the family did not go on frequent long trips, except one the family made to visit their mom’s relatives in Alberta, they used to go on camping excursions on the Island, which at times included fishing, berry picking and boat rides to Bamfield as part of the Legion’s fundraising activities.
“My father was a man who always put his family first. A great provider for the family,” says Linda , his younger daughter, also a Legion member.
“I have enjoyed being part of and working for the Legion all these years and especially helping others in the community,” Bryant said.