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Bea Bryant remembered for love of antiques, community

By Kendra Caruso | Sep 13, 2019
Photo by: Kendra Caruso Bryant's Stove Shop in Thorndike will remain open.

Thorndike — Bea Bryant died Aug. 28, leaving a legacy of history preserved in metal.

An old train track runs through the property where she and her husband Joe lived for decades. The only use the tracks see now is day trips between Unity and Thorndike, but a stove graveyard is visable as the train passes by, with rusted parts sticking up through tall weeds.

Bryant Stove and Music Inc. houses a collection of old stoves, toys and musical instruments. Joe knew how to refurbish stoves, and Bea knew how to sell them.

However, she believed the most original or beautiful pieces were priceless, and kept them.

Even as a little girl she loved collecting things, according to her family. As one of 16 children born during the Great Depression, Bryant never had a lot of toys when she was a youngster. She once told her daughter, Julie Patterson, that lack of childhood possessions was the root of her collection habits.

“She was born in 1930, her youngest years were through the Depression, so they couldn’t really afford a doll,” Patterson said. “So, she kinda said that she’s making up for childhood. But, I don’t know — I think that she just liked to collect.”

Bryant began collecting buttons when she joined Brooks Button Club as a child. She would create designs with the buttons on paper and compete with local clubs, showing off the most interesting buttons.

She continued the practice on occasion through her adulthood, Patterson said. Bryant was a member of several button clubs, including the National Button Society.

“She actually sent buttons down to Florida to … be in a big button auction,” Patterson said. “She was a collector of many different things. And she didn’t collect for quality, she’d collect for quantity. She liked to have a lot of stuff.”

Her family describes her as a woman who knew what she wanted and always went after it. She met her future husband on an ice skating date with another man. She allegedly ditched him, collided with Joe and told him, “You’re taking me home,” according to family lore, which Patterson said she could not confirm or deny.

Bryant even wrote her own obituary with her granddaughter. Patterson wasn’t sure if she should use it but thought it was her mother’s last chance to say what she wanted.

Family photos can be seen throughout the shop. They range from old black and whites to crisp color photos spanning 60 years of marriage.

“They came from the generation where you fix it and don’t just give up,” Patterson said.

Some of the stoves repaired in the shop were featured in movies like "Lincoln," "A River Runs Through It" and Stephen Spielberg’s "Amistad."

The Bryants were two of 10 founding members of the Antique Stove Association.

Grandson Gardiner Bryant remembers running around the property as a young child. It is where he developed a love for music and the inspiration for computer programming.

“I just remember running around here when I was a little kid and Grammy and Grandpa being like ‘Don’t hit your head on a stove,’” Bryant said.

He remembers using the player piano to listen to songs that were coded on a perforated paper roll that used air to play the keys. Computer developers use a similar concept to write code, he noted.

Before her death, Bryant was deeply involved in planning Thorndike’s Bicentennial. She allowed local artists to take pieces of stoves from the graveyard to use in artwork created for display at the bicentennial celebration coming up Saturday, Sept. 14.

Patterson said she and her husband intend to keep the shop open and continue stove repairs and sales with help from family. The shop is located at 27 Stovepipe Alley in Thorndike.


Julie Patterson sits on a couch in her late parents' Thorndike stove shop Sept. 6. (Photo by: Kendra Caruso)
Gardiner Bryant checks out old photographs on a piano in his grandparents' Thorndike stove shop Sept. 6. (Photo by: Kendra Caruso)
Stoves and parts corrode among the weeds outside Bryants' Stove Shop in Thorndike. (Photo by: Kendra Caruso)
Beatrice Bryant's button collection on display in her stove shop in Thorndike. (Photo by: Kendra Caruso)
Signs for popular stove brands hang at the stove shop in Thorndike Sept. 6. (Photo by: Kendra Caruso)
An old air compressor rigged by Joseph Bryant is controlled by arms that sand blast rust off of stoves in a contained room at the stove shop in Thorndike. (Photo by: Kendra Caruso)
A model T Ford that owner Beatrice Bryant and her husband used to drive sits at the stove museum in Thorndike. (Photo by: Kendra Caruso)
(Photo by: Kendra Caruso)
(Photo by: Kendra Caruso)
(Photo by: Kendra Caruso)
(Photo by: Kendra Caruso)
(Photo by: Kendra Caruso)
(Photo by: Kendra Caruso)
(Photo by: Kendra Caruso)
(Photo by: Kendra Caruso)
A player piano. (Photo by: Kendra Caruso)
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