Dorothy Bryce died last week. She was 85. Though she was a member of Saugatuck Church for the last 27 years, she had deep roots here, not only because her husband, Ed, was an active member, but because she had so many good friends here. She told me that she had indicated in her will that her memorial service was to be held here.
Ed was a member of the Search Committee that called me to Westport twenty-five years ago. He remained an active member here while Dorothy maintained membership in the church that she felt helped her through a near-fatal confrontation with cancer. She believed in the power of prayer – she relied on it.
Dorothy and I were good friends. We always kept in close touch and on many occasions we shared the stage – in spring flings, special performances here and at other congregations – Dorothy’s work with the inter-faith community is one of her lasting legacies.
Our relationship was unique, since she had such deep roots here, but was actively involved in her Saugatuck congregation. Sometimes I was her minister, and sometimes she was mine. She was a mentor to many, including me. But the best word to describe our relationship was friend. We laughed together, we cried together, we shared many a lunch and dinner and we visited in the hospital with Ed, and then again when she went through a difficult health crisis five months ago.
During her 35-plus years of sobriety she was a role-model to folks doing battle with addictions; during her 50-plus years as an actress, she was an inspiration and teacher to many, including aspiring young actors as well as her seasoned colleagues. Just a couple of years ago she won the prestigious Breckenridge Film Festival Best Actress award for her performance in the film Glacier Bay. She was delighted to co-star in that film with her long-time friend Jim Noble, and she was thrilled to be recognized in this way when she was in her 80’s.
She was a charter member of The Theater Artists Workshop of Westport, formed in 1983, which is where Lory first got to know her. Ten years ago John Tolley directed Dorothy and Lory in a play here at the church.
She did more than recite the serenity prayer, she lived it. “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
There are many things I liked, admired and appreciated about Dorothy, but the thing that stands out for me is her authenticity. She didn’t have a pretentious or unkind bone in her body. She was a true egalitarian. She had a generosity of spirit that reached across all the lines that might otherwise divide; she counted priests and rabbis among her many friends. After Ed’s death she continued their financial contribution to the church, in spite of living on a very small fixed income.
In that spirit I’ll close with a very sincere thank you for your financial commitment to the church, in spite of the economic downturn that is having such a powerful effect on us all. These are the times that try our souls, to paraphrase Tom Paine: “The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.” Thank you for your support!