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Marija Bryant, hardworking Norwalk volunteer, passes away

Marija Bryant’s Facebook page.

NORWALK, Conn. — Marija Bryant, a Norwalk activist and political leader, died suddenly Saturday.

Bryant was the wife of Norwalk Preservation Trust President Tod Bryant and had just been re-elected First Taxing District Commissioner. She was active in the Coalition of Norwalk Neighborhoods Association (CNNA), recently serving on its Provisional Executive Committee. She was 73, multiple public record websites say.

The Bryants were in Vermont when she died, JoAnne Jackson wrote in an email to Norwalk Land Trust members, describing the couple as “founders and drivers of the Norwalk Preservation Trust.”

Marija Bryant, as shown on the First Taxing District website. (Contributed)

Marija Vaivads Bryant was on the Norwalk Historical Commission from 2002 to 2006 and served as chairwoman of the buildings committee, her bio states. She was a member of the Eastern Norwalk Neighborhood Association (ENNA) from 2003 to 2014 and served on its advisory Board from 2014 to the present.

The First Taxing District website states:

“Marija Bryant has taken an active role in the First Taxing District since 2004 when she joined the Parks Advisory Committee. In 2009, Ms. Bryant was elected treasurer of the First Taxing District and served in that capacity until her appointment to the Board of Commissioners in July, 2014.

“A graduate of State University of New York at Stony Brook (BS, psychology) and Boston College (MA, English), Ms. Bryant traveled after graduation, traversing Europe with a backpack and a few hundred dollars earned at summer jobs. After a year of adventures, she returned to the ‘real world’ of her hometown, Albany, N.Y., to work as a copywriter for General Electric.

“While living in Albany, she met her husband, Tod, who was working as a photographer for the city. When GE transferred her to New York City, he followed and they began to take the next steps in their careers. For Ms. Bryant, this meant leaving the corporate world and starting her own consulting business developing training seminars for US and international organizations. She has operated this business for the past 35 years – first in New York and then in Norwalk.

“Since moving to Norwalk in 1985, Ms. Bryant has been involved with Norwalk neighborhood organizations and civic organizations. She was appointed to the Norwalk Historical Commission in 2002 and served until 2006. With her husband Tod, Ms. Bryant is a founding member of the Norwalk Preservation Trust and serves as its secretary. The Norwalk Preservation Trust works to preserve the rich history of Norwalk as represented in its neighborhoods and significant buildings.”

 

NancyOnNorwalk asked Bryant for comments before the election.

“When I moved to Norwalk in the 1980s, my wonderful neighbor, the late Mary Brewer, got me involved in the community,” she wrote. “She showed me that Dr Seuss was right: ‘Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.’ So that’s why I’m running for re-election. I care ‘a whole awful lot’ about the drinking water supplied by First Taxing District Water Department and the parks and properties we care for – like the Norwalk Town Green. I care ‘a whole awful lot’ about the Commissioners I serve with, who are concerned and committed to serving the residents of the First Taxing District.  As chairman this past year, I am proud of the work we did to ensure continued progress while keeping our water rates among the lowest in the entire state.”

20 comments

Isabelle Hargrove November 18, 2019 at 5:18 pm

I am terribly saddened to read this. I had the pleasure of working with Marija on CNNA. While we were on opposite sides of the political spectrum at a time where too many people seem to make politics the end-all-be-all criterion for associating and respecting others, our relationship was an example of how little that matters when you share a common goal. Marija cared deeply about Norwalk and saw its true worth as a unique place with great character that deserves to be protected and preserved.
This weekend Norwalk lost a true advocate.
I say goodbye with great sadness.
Isabelle

Mike Mushak November 18, 2019 at 5:24 pm

A terrible loss for her family and friends and for Norwalk. She was always there for all the various events and happenings around town for as long as we have lived here, about 20 years, and it was obvious she loved Norwalk and her community to its core. David Westmoreland and I are just devastated by this news.

Marija had a strong opinion about everything, in a good way. We didn’t always agree, on things like crosswalks to the Green or which side of the street parking should be on East Wall St, to name two recent examples, but we always debated the issues in a civil manner and would laugh about it when we saw each other, and we exchanged healing hugs so many times after disagreeing that I lost count. I wish I could give her one more hug right now just to say goodbye to her on her spiritual journey.

I helped Marija and Tod with their overgrown but romanticly lush garden on Morgan Ave a few years back, and had to convince her to cut the climbing rose off the house around the front door as it attacked visitors Including me with its big thorns. It grew back by now I’m sure. I told her drawing blood was not a gracious gesture to make to guests arriving at the door, and she said “why not?” We had a good laugh over that!

I also had to cut down an old lilac in the back yard which was collapsing under its own weight which happens to old lilacs, to restore it to health and abundant blooms again. She supervised every branch I cut and when she objected to a really big trunk I was about to cut, I yelled at her to go in the house, in a friendly way I hope! It was just so stressful for her to watch an old plant get pruned, like we were hurting it, because she connected to plants on another level I think like some people do. She told me once she was just an old hippie, and I told her I could see her with flowers in her hair at Woodstock. That was Marija.

She loved nature including all the wild animals that inexplicably would show up in her landlocked backyard on Morgan Ave., even foxes and deer and hawks. It’s like they were drawn to her somehow. I recall she even said she loved the groundhogs that showed up, which I was appalled by as they are so destructive in a garden.

And the overgrown weedy nature of her yard was just fine with her, instead of a fussy manicured look. I am sure her spirit is moving through her garden now, connecting with all the wild things and spirits that inhabit those infinite realms we can’t see but know are there.

Marija is home now, one with nature, but she will be greatly missed by everyone and every creature she ever touched, and she lives on in so many good memories and in our hearts.

Barbara Meyer-Mitchell November 18, 2019 at 5:28 pm

Her loss comes much too soon and unexpectedly. She was kind, intelligent and so committed to Norwalk. She will be missed. Our hearts go out to Tod and her whole family.

Elsa Peterson Obuchowski November 18, 2019 at 5:47 pm

It’s impossible to find the right words to express how shocked and saddened I feel at the loss of my good friend and esteemed colleague Marija. She certainly did care “a whole awful lot” about our community, and gave selflessly of her time and talents to make it a better place. She leaves a shining example for the rest of us to follow.
Deepest sympathy to Tod and the rest of the Vaivads and Bryant families.

Alex Knopp November 18, 2019 at 8:26 pm

I treasure my almost 30 years of friendship with Marija and Tod. Marija began her community activity as the kind of quiet and unassuming volunteer who works in the background to get things done. As Mayor, I wanted to give the historic preservation movement in Norwalk a big push and asked Marija to use her skills on the Historical Commission along with such other outstanding preservation activists as Gail Wall. Over the years Marija was willing to take a more visible and active role in non-profit groups and in electoral politics. I’ve always been amazed that it was around the time that Marija encountered difficulty in the physical act of speaking that she really found her voice as a community leader and elected official in the First Taxing District. After former Mayor Zullo passed away, Marija asked to have coffee with me to discuss whether she should seek to succeed him as the District’s Chair. I strongly encouraged her to do so. She made the bold and courageous decision to seek the position and performed its duties in an outstanding manner. Recently she was working very hard with the District, the City and the Norwalk Public Library to ensure that the Library would eventually be abe to utilize the District’s property at 3 Belden Avenue for library purposes just as the District had done so generously with the original Library building at 1 Belden Avenue. In these recent discussions, Marija was always a voice of reason and a model of patience as the controversies of Wall Street development raged around her. How fitting it was that on the Saturday before the election she held her campaign fundraising party at the Library’s new Blue Teapot Cafe! I’ll miss our chats over cups of strong coffee at Cafe Aroma on Wall Street and will always remember warmly Marija’s sincere and genuine desire to do good in our community and the world.

Harry Rilling November 19, 2019 at 8:16 am

Maria was a wonderful, caring woman who loved our community. She worked tirelessly giving so much and asking nothing in return. Her energy and passion was an inspiration for us all. She will be missed.

Brad Craighead November 19, 2019 at 9:16 am

Our Neighborhood has lost one of its principal advocates for historic preservation and civic responsibility.

Recently re-elected as a First Taxing District Commissioner whose responsibilities included stewardship of the Green and many of Downtown Norwalk’s parks and open green space, Marija Bryant was instrumental in founding the Norwalk Green Association.

Her vision for both promoting and protecting the historic character of our unique Norwalk neighborhood will continue to serve as the foundation for building community amongst our diverse base of constituents. Thank You Marija.

Bradford P. Craighead
Norwalk Green Association

Shelley Phillips November 19, 2019 at 10:42 am

This is so sad! I’ll always remember her kindness to my dad, James Mathewson, who was born in the house the Bryants live in. She had kept the toys he had left in the back garden 80 years previously and let him play with them again! Also gave us a full tour of the house when we just showed up one day.

Kate Tepper November 19, 2019 at 11:55 am

I am so saddened to know that Marija has passed away. She will be such a great loss to our whole community. Always charming, thoughtful and intelligent, she set a great example to us all as an activist who achieved a great deal and did so with civility and consideration to everyone, whether or not they agreed with her.
Tod, please accept my condolences for this tragic loss.

Buford Barr November 19, 2019 at 3:46 pm

We all know our time will come. But it is always so painful to lose a smart, vibrant, caring soul like Marija. I worked with her at General Electric. See was alway fun to work with and was a major contributor to the birth and growth of our international programs. Thanks for everything, Marija. It was a pleasure. Rest well.

Philip Walker November 19, 2019 at 6:05 pm

I am deeply saddened. I have been somewhat more distantly acquainted with Marija than others here. What I do recall is a gracious, committed and energetic energetic person. I count Marija and Tod as friends and colleagues in preservation. Preservation in Norwalk is one of Marija’s living legacies. This office and my wife join me in our condolences to Tod.

Steve Mann November 20, 2019 at 7:42 am

We were shocked and saddened to hear of Marija’s passing. RIP, and sincere condolences to Tod and the family. We spent an all too short time speaking at a luncheon last year, and I wish it had been years sooner.

Denyse Burns November 20, 2019 at 9:20 am

My friend and colleague was truly an special lady. We worked together on many projects over many years.
I will miss you dear friend.
Todd , you are in my thoughts .
Denyse Burns

Darlene Coker November 20, 2019 at 10:51 am

I have worked with Marija for 20+ years in her consulting and training business, and have been her friend for as long. She loved Norwalk deeply, and I’m so happy to see that the feeling was mutual. I am still in shock, and am missing my friend.

Diane Keefe November 20, 2019 at 11:17 am

I am adding my voice to the chorus of those shocked and saddened by this news. She was a committed public citizen and activist and public servant in the best sense of those words.
What I will miss most was her personal warmth that Mike Mushak described so beautifully. I will miss her smiling, welcoming way whenever we saw each other and her sincere curiousity about “How’s life?”.

Rarely is a person so widely loved but these testimonials witness to what a positive force she in the world she was.
Todd, I am so sorry. Words can’t begin to express it.

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