Remembering a real role model

Published 5:40 pm Friday, June 14, 2024

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There’s not many days that go by without me pausing to think just how fortunate I’ve been in life.

Raised by two loving, God-fearing parents, sharing space with two equally loving siblings (even though my sister, Cindy, would often call me names), and surrounded by what can best be described as a “community cocoon” that featured other family members and close neighbors, that’s the definition of a perfect life.

Then, upon reaching adulthood, my life takes another fortunate turn in meeting this special woman from Bertie County who would become my wife. She furthered my good fortune by giving birth to our daughter, Danielle, who, 29 years later, places the proverbial icing on the cake by giving me a grandson, Brody Ray Harrell.

All this just makes my life complete.

It also makes me appreciate all the sacrifices my mother and father made for me. My parents both worked hard to ensure that myself, Cindy, and younger brother Tommy had a better life than they did. My parents didn’t make a lot of money, but richness is measured in many other ways. We didn’t go hungry; we had new clothes and shoes; and we had good manners. We went to church every Sunday and enjoyed a simple vacation each summer at White Lake….no frills, just a ton of fun and a lifetime of memories.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my dad (Ray Bryant) over the past month or so. I guess it’s because he loved watching baseball…and was pretty good at it himself in his younger days. He would be so proud of his great grandson, Brody Ray, who has really blossomed this year as a baseball player. Brody’s dad, Brandon, has worked with him a lot to improve his play as have Brody’s coaches in the Cashie League in Windsor who have used him in the outfield and the infield. He even got to pitch his first game this past Friday night. He allowed a couple of hits and walked two batters, but got out of that jam by throwing a runner out at first on a sharp “comebacker” to the mound and struck out the final batter.

While Brody’s hitting and fielding have improved, what I’ve noticed the most is his love of the game. He encourages his teammates. He always hustles as he runs onto the field, and runs off. And, what really warmed my heart this past weekend, was after he named to the 10U All-Star team, Brody approached his coaches, shook their hands, and offered his thanks.

As I watched Brody play, my mind wandered back to having “catch” with my Dad in the front yard or him showing me how to throw a curveball or working with me on my batting stance.

Then, on Saturday afternoons, we’d sit and watch the “Game of the Week” on TV, typically with Dizzy Dean and Pee Wee Reese as the announcers. Believe it or not, but back then there was only one baseball game shown each week on TV (not unless it was time for the World Series). That’s a far cry from what we witness today….multiple games per day/night on multiple networks. And if you missed anything you can watch the highlights on several sports networks or search the Internet for scores and game stats.

My Dad was great teacher about life. He instilled in me the importance of dedication and discipline. He taught me about character and respect. He developed the work ethic I still have today. He taught me how to lead by example; how to give 100 percent at everything you set out to do; and never, ever be late to show up for an assignment.

Perhaps most of all, Ray Bryant taught me how to love, and how to be loved.

I’m hopeful to be half the man my Dad was. I’ve worked to help provide for my family. I’ve given my love and support to my wife and my child. I’ve tried to give the best advice possible when called upon to do so.

And while I lack great mechanical and/or carpentry skills, I attempt – to best of my ability – to keep our home and vehicles in good working order. If all else fails, I can call “Mr. Fix-It” (my brother) at any time of the day or night.

I consider myself as a tough guy, perhaps not physically, but from a mental standpoint. I guess it comes with the job, having to deal with issues that impact our little corner of the world and dealing with a multitude of personalities.

Perhaps I could have followed in my father’s footsteps and worked in Soil and Water Conservation. But for some reason or the other, there’s “ink” in my blood and there’s always a story to share.

Dad and I did share the love of a good joke or funny saying. He had a great sense of humor and was always quick-witted. Here are some of his favorite sayings:

Light travels faster than sound. This is why some people appear bright until you hear them speak.

If I agreed with you, we’d both be wrong.

War does not determine who is right – only who is left.

When tempted to fight fire with fire, remember that the Fire Department usually uses water.

You do not need a parachute to skydive. You only need a parachute to skydive twice.

Middle age is when you have stopped growing at both ends and have begun to grow in the middle.

The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.

Happy Father’s Day this coming Sunday. If you’re lucky enough to still have him around, show you dad just how much he means to you. If he has passed, take some time on Sunday to reminisce and share with others just how lucky you were to have such a great role model in your life.

Cal Bryant is the Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at or 252-332-7207.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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