On Friday, June 7, Vernon Carlton Bryant, Jr., 91, was granted an answer to the question that formed the title of his memoirs covering a life rich in global travel, lasting accomplishments in his field of architecture, and a devoted family he raised on Mercer Island, “Where Do We Go From Here?” The ultimate answer may remain a mystery to the many friends and family grieving his peaceful passing, but all are united in their belief that he had a tremendous impact at every stage of his life’s journey.
Born on September 29, 1927 to Vernon “Cub” and Helen Bryant in Lincoln, Maine, young “Carl” had most of his childhood experiences in Syracuse, New York with his most vivid memories of athletics, street games, wartime rationing and an unusual childhood interest in bridge.
His family later relocated to Birmingham, Michigan. There he completed high school and enrolled at Michigan State, where his spirited nature was a match for the cheerleading squad. A postwar draft notice that landed him in the Presidio of San Francisco briefly interrupted his college education.
He returned to Michigan graduating with a Bachelor of Architecture degree at University of Michigan, which he capped with an 18-month backpacking trip across Europe and Northern Africa with his best friend, Jim Tomblinson. This adventure would be the start of a life-long passion for travel and adventure that ultimately took him to over 90 countries.
Following his travels as a young man, he returned to the Bay Area to begin his career as an architect and soon after met Mary Jeanne Fraser, who became the love of his life. Carl and Mary Jeanne married in 1956 and settled into an Eichler home built among cherry orchards in present-day Silicon Valley, raising their three children.
While in California, Carl was an instrumental figure in School Construction Systems Development (The SCSD Project) which created an innovative, flexible and prefabricated architectural building system that spawned international interest in systems-based architecture. The project was applied to a prototype mock-up still in use at Stanford University and twelve schools across the state of California – some of which received AIA design awards.
Carl relocated to the Northwest in 1972, where he designed and built a home on Mercer Island for his family and opened his own architectural practice in Bellevue, Washington. His work is represented through custom-designed homes on Mercer Island, Bellevue and Seattle, along with major facilities for universities and the state in New Mexico, California, Washington and Alaska. Carl volunteered his time to the Sunnyvale Planning Commission, Mercer Island Planning Commission, Mercer Island Design Commission, Mercer Island Arts Council and the Seattle Art Museum. He was a member of the Mercer Island Rotary Club and a Stephens Minister for the Mercer Island Presbyterian Church.
Carl’s early interest in athletics and bridge continued until the end of his life. He swam daily until his late eighties and played bridge with his community of friends at the Bellevue Athletic Club until recently. He was an avid photographer and received national recognition for his work at the 1964/1965 New York World’s Fair. Carl was a big arts patron, holding season tickets to the Seattle Repertory Theater for over 40 years.
Carl leaves behind his three children, all of whom carry on different facets of his legacy: architect David Fraser Bryant and his partner Larry Schlessinger of Seattle, winemakers Andrea Paige Stevens and her husband, Timothy Stevens of Bellevue, and landscape gardener John Lancaster Bryant and his husband Ken Perantoni, of Seattle. He shall be missed by his sister, Carolyn Lepard of Ann Arbor, MI—his longest travel companion—and devoted nieces, nephews, godchildren and friends.
Services will be held at 2:00 p.m. on Thursday, June 20 at Queen Anne Lutheran Church at 2400 8th Avenue West in Seattle with a gathering following at Carl’s favorite restaurant, Café Lago in Seattle. In lieu of flowers, please make donations to the Seattle Repertory Theater or arts organizations of your choice.