Helen Marie Kinsey Bryant was born to the now deceased lovingly reliant parents (John Arnold and Famie Kinsey) in High Point, NC on April 10, 1932. After a courageous, “never give up” battle with cancer, Helen passed away peacefully, with family by her side, on November 29, 2023 in Cary, NC. She leaves behind her husband, Kenneth M. “Charlie” Bryant, three children (Debbie Warren, Ken Bryant, and Gary Bryant), her devoted extended family, and an extensive network of friends.
Helen and Charlie met at High Point Central High School and became both high school and lifelong sweethearts. They were married for 71 years; as a team they met the challenges of life, family, and career with determination, energy, and an undying affection for each other. Their mutual respect and fun-loving spirits drew people to them in diverse places. As a coach, businessman, and Executive Director of the Wolfpack Club for many years, Charlie depended on Helen to be his partner and anchor as together they met new people, organized and hosted events, traveled far and wide in their work world, and welcomed anyone into their comfortable circle of care. It is impossible to know how many Hospitality Suites she organized, set up, and hosted during those years. And there was always her invitation, “It’s so good to see you; come in; have some food and a drink.” Then she squired the new faces around the room, introducing everyone and establishing connections.
Helen was also famous for her presence at Carter-Finley stadium. In fact, her tailgating spreads were legendary! She kept the tailgate going while Charlie in his role with the Wolfpack Club wandered the parking lot, answered questions, listened to stories (maybe a few complaints and observations), and developed a few stories of his own to share with Helen, family and friends. Who can forget Helen’s chili, snacks, crock pots full of tasty morsels, and always the offer of ice, a Wolfpack cup, and a beverage…to consume on the spot or to take away. It was easy to spot Helen & Charlie in the Carter-Finley parking lot because there were crowds around them eating, laughing, and hugging each other. And Helen was at the center—her social skills on display as she amazingly remembered folks’ names, their families, their friends, and their life plans. If you entered the tailgate not knowing Helen, you came away knowing that you had made a new friend who would welcome you back any time.
As a long-time Wolfpack fan of all sports, Helen watched many of the student athletes grow up, find themselves in life, and contribute to the wider world. Her ring-side seats in sporting venues as well as in these young folks’ lives provided her with a love and acceptance of athletics and its power to stimulate a rich life. Just three days before her death, she asked to watch the pre-recorded (by Charlie) NC State-UNC-CH football game of Nov. 25th. She insisted on not knowing the score so that she could enjoy the game as a new viewer and “whoop it up” at her leisure. What a perfect culmination of her love of football and all things WOLFPACK!
Helen was a self-described “introvert,” but no one would ever suspect it. She challenged herself to reach out to others; she was a unique listener and genuinely cared about what others had to say. Student athletes, coaches, business friends, extended family members, colleagues always mention that she meant so much to them while they were in school, as their lives progressed, and as they maintained long friendships. Helen passed this social skill, her listening skills, and her open, outgoing extra effort along to her children. To this day, if you meet Debbie, Ken, or Gary, you will come away with a smile, a story, and a hug—knowing you have a new friend!
Helen had a number of hobbies that enriched her life. She cherished spending time at the family home at Sunset Beach, loved golf and played until she was 89. She even played 127 rounds during one year, and she had 3 hole-in-ones! Undoubtedly, some of Helen’s happiest days were on the course with her golfing buddies, having lunch, and then revisiting their round later in the day by phone. Helen also loved gardening; she cultivated beautiful plants and flowers with the same care she cultivated family and friends. She was an expert, talented seamstress and even taught lessons on occasion as her children were growing up. Above all, Helen was a voracious reader! She read over 2000 books and could discuss each one with enthusiasm and insight.
As Helen and Charlie’s family expanded, Helen experienced great joy in being “Nanny,” as her grandchildren and great grandchildren called her. Her feisty spirit endeared them to her, and they honored her by listening to her guidance, relishing in her fun-loving spirit, sense of humor, and that unmistakable Helen snicker. In her last days she had the opportunity to both give and receive the unconditional love that only special grandparents and grandchildren/great grandchildren share. She will be in their hearts forever.
Helen Bryant was not just a strong woman, wife, partner, mother, grandmother, aunt, and friend. She was an unconditional friend to those in need! She embraced everyone she met, encouraged them to live their best lives, and provided a dependable backstop. You could, without hesitation, depend on Helen to say, “Of course, you can stay here tonight,” with never a question or judgment, but with a smile and full heart.
Helen is survived by her lifetime love, Charlie Bryant of Cary, NC; her three children and their spouses, all of Charlotte, NC: Debbie Bryant Warren (Parks), Ken Bryant (Nedra); Gary Bryant (Stephanie). She will be dearly missed by her grandchildren: Jennifer Swearingen (Kurt) of Charlotte; John Warren (Pam) of Knoxville, TN; Ashley Deal (Stephen) of Miami, FL; Will Bryant of Raleigh; and she will remain in sweet memories by her great grandchildren: Dylan Swearingen; Katelyn Swearingen; Taylor Warren; Bryant Warren; Jackson Deal. She will remain in the hearts of her many nieces and nephews who basked in her genuine interest in their lives.
Indeed, to know Helen Bryant was to love her!
Per Helen’s wishes, the family will hold a private celebration of life. In lieu of flowers, the family ask that donations be made to the NC State University Wolfpack Club or to the Cary, NC based Read and Feed.
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