Johnnie Mathew Bryant Jr., 90 of Wilmington, N.C., passed away peacefully on June 28, 2016, following a bold and fulfilled life.
Johnnie was born on July 21, 1925, in Bolton, N.C. He was the youngest of six children born to Johnnie Mathew Bryant and Novilla Francis O’Berry.
Johnnie’s family and friends know him best as having a heart of gold with a hilarious sense of humor that spanned nine decades. He loved meeting new people and putting a smile on their faces, whether by way of joke or prank. Johnnie balanced a great personality with a strong work ethic that remained throughout his life. He began his life in Wilmington when his father, who worked in the lumber industry, was promoted to work for Godwin Lumber and relocated the family from Bolton, N.C.
As a young boy, Johnnie learned the woodworking trade from his father and worked as a telegraph courier in downtown Wilmington. At 17, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy during World War II. He was cross-trained and worked in many areas of the Navy, including submarines, Special Forces Beach Patrol and Operation Crossroads in the south Pacific. Outside of special operations, he was proud of the responsibility he had being a navigator as a quartermaster, 2nd class.
After his naval service, Johnnie returned home and studied at Wilmington College. He met his first and third bride, Mary “Bebe” Bryant. They began their life together and started a family, bringing Debbie and Matt into the world. Later they ended their first marriage and he married Hulene Bramlett. Out of their union, they brought Brian and Traci into the world.
For most of his adult career, Johnnie was a regional manager with Armour and Phaelzer Brothers Meats. When he returned home to Wilmington, he was a multi-site commercial HVAC specialist for York International. Even after retiring, he continued using his carpentry talent and endless technical skills independently because he could not refuse a friend or loved one in need.
When Bebe and Johnnie reconnected and were married again, she put him to work by drafting her designs and creations on paper and he would measure, cut and execute their many “projects.” They were a dynamic team that built furniture, crafts, instruments, homes and more. Johnnie’s love for navigating the water did not end with his naval service; he spent many quiet hours on the water fishing.
He was preceded in death by his wife, Mary “Bebe” Maples Bryant; a brother, Earl Bryant; and sisters Maybelle Lewis, Alva Corbett and Mildred Fredere.
Johnnie didn’t care who you were or what you did in life – everyone was someone to him and he always made the time. He had a quiet but strong faith in God, and his legacy lives on through the lives of those he encountered. His family extends their greatest appreciation to his caregiving team as well as hospice staff and volunteers.
He is survived by his sister Adelle Potter; four children, Deborah Jean Hartley (Bill) of Vilas, N.C., Johnnie Mathew Bryant III and partner Simone Mosca Grace of Carolina Beach, N.C., Brian Keith Bryant (Teresa) of Winnabow, N.C., and Traci Bryant Lewis (Benjamin) of Goldsboro, N.C.; and many beloved grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
The family will receive friends from 6 to 8 p.m., Tuesday, July 5, at Coble Ward-Smith Funeral Service, 3915 Oleander Drive, Wilmington, N.C. Funeral services will be at 1 p.m., Wednesday, July 6, at the funeral home, with interment following at Oleander Memorial Gardens.
In lieu of flowers, the family respectfully requests donations be made to the Lower Cape Fear Hospice.
Condolences to the family may be offered at www.coblewardsmithwilmington.com