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  OBITUARY  

April 01 - 07, 2005

 

 Coastweek   Kenya


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MARY BRYANT - AFRICAN WOMAN
WHO REALLY MADE A DIFFERENCE

as Chairman of Y.W.C.A. Coast Branch
she travelled throughout the world
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Coastweek - - Mary Bryant, one of the most prominent and pioneering of African women in Coast province, died in Mombasa last Thursday.

Mary came to Mombasa in 1959 as one of the first women to marry across racial barriers before Independence.  

While in Canada, the late M. Adam played very crucial roles in bringing Multi-party Democracy in our beloved country of Kenya.

She and her husband educationist Philip Oliver Bryant chose Mombasa as the ideal place in Kenya to bring up and raise a family.

Mombasa with its multi-cultural and multi-ethnic background has always been a welcoming home from the harsh racial dichotomies found in other parts of the world.

Mary was born in Kitui on May 5th, 1936, to a headmaster, farmer and pastor, and was thus among the first van-guards of educated Kamba women.

She was a student of prominent theologist and author Professor John S. Mbiti, attended Kangundo Teacher's Training College and later taught at Mutonguni Intermediate and Kakeani Primary Schools.  

 

Coastweek - - Youthful photo-
graph of the late Mrs Mary
Bryant, proprietor of Mbingi
Farm, Utange, Bamburi.

Being the eldest in a family of eight, Mary raised, nurtured and educated her siblings, showering them with love, care and encouragement to be the achievers they are today.

Having bridged the cross-racial barriers, Mary was eager to share her newfound experience with others.

In Mombasa her first job was as a demonstrator for Kenya Power, then she took up social volunteerings positions in NCCK, YWCA, Family Planning and others.

She was the first African Branch secretary of YWCA.

Later, as Chairman of YWCA Coast Branch, she travelled extensively throughout the world, with memorable experiences of dancing with among others, Emperor Haile Selassie, walking the streets with Archibishop Makarios in Greece, and having dialogues with Orthodox Church Prelates in Moscow.  

She was instrumental as a committee member of NCCK of setting up Tototo Cottage Industries.

She also introduced the first rehabilitation project of Mombasa prostitutes, encouraging them to attend the YWCA secretarial college in Likoni which she also set up.

She was on the Board of Governors of several schools including Shimo La tewa.

Among her early friends were Mrs. Aase Sondhi of Reef Hotel, Elvina Mutua, Yolanda Firth, Maggie Gona, the late Mrs Mary Paul, Margaret Kaduda, Pam Patrick, the Okanga's, the Browns, the Fishers, the Lamkeys, and the Busaidy's.

She achieved a certain notoriety for being the first African women to drive a motor vehicle in Mombasa, a skill she later honed to open up Mbingi Car Hire Service, a fleet of vehicles in which she herself frequently drove tourists to the best spots in the game parks.

She also ran a small boutique in town called 'Elvinama' which she owned jointly with Mrs. Elvina Mutua.

Together with her husband Philip Oliver Bryant, himself a Headmaster, pastor and agricultural specialist, they bought and managed a 280 acre farm in Utange, where they had Beef and Dairy cows, chicken, rabbits, turkeys, mangoes and various vegetables.

She was responsible for sales and deliveries to the Coast hotels where Mbingi Farm was especially famous for its delicious dairy Cream.

The farm had an open door policy, and on the weekends, friends of many races and religions would come to the farm for picnics, barbecues, a swim in the pool and camping.

Likewise the couple were always ready to lend a helping hand to friends in need, several times bringing children to join their extended family.

One of those was Sheila Madoka nee Okumu, who became a third daughter to the Bryant family.

Through many sacrifices, careful planning, hard work and financial acumen, Mary and her husband were able to send their children to universities in the United States.

After her husband's death in 1984 she married Major General ES Mbilu, Commander of the Kenya Navy, where she took up the role of organizing all the social functions at Bibby House.

They had no children and separated in 1994.

For the last ten years she has continued farming, making real estate investments and visiting her children and friends abroad.

Mary was always a very gracious and generous friend, and in her Mkomani home would dole out advice and other concrete support to those in need.

Her wisdom, intellect and high sense of humour were legendary, and she was always smiling with mischievously twinkling eyes.

She taught her children particularly to be independent, strong, generous, selfless and socially responsible.

Mary went into Mombasa Hospital in January for surgery, where she developed complications and fought a long and spirited battle in ICU.

On Thursday evening with her children by her side she slipped away to eternal peace and happiness.

She will be lovingly remembered by her children Wendy Bryant-Nyamweya (Teacher, USA), Advocate Timothy Bryant (lnamdar/ lnamdar), Leah Bryant (Account Manager Spedag), and grandchildren Buffy, Moige, Sasha, llya, Nicole, Reena and Tatyana.

The funeral service was held at Mbingi Farm in Utange, where she was laid to rest while her friends paid their last respects.

 

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