Raymond Lee Bryant passed away on Friday, January 27 at his home in Williamsburg, at the age of 90.
Ray was born on June 3, 1932, in Smithfield, North Carolina. In his early teens, he moved with his family to Williamsburg, where he attended Matthew Whaley High School. After graduating from Matthew Whaley, Ray enlisted in the U.S. Air Force, completing a three-year assignment in Alaska. Upon his discharge, Ray returned to Williamsburg and started a career with Colonial Williamsburg. Beginning as a bus driver, Ray worked his way up to management, retiring several decades later as head of Colonial Williamsburg’s bus operations.
In 1963, Ray married Donna Fines Bryant, commencing a relationship that endured until Ray’s death 60 years later. Ray and Donna proudly raised two children: a son, Douglas Wayne Bryant, and a daughter, Deborah Ellen Sparlin.
In addition to being life partners, Ray and Donna became business partners after Ray’s retirement from Colonial Williamsburg, operating Royal Gardens Florist. Their business thrived for many years, with Ray logging thousands of miles delivering Donna’s floral arrangements to customers throughout Williamsburg and surrounding areas. Ray and Donna usually ended their days by sharing a meal at Courtyard Café, where their son Doug owned a restaurant and cooked their meals just two doors down from Royal Gardens.
Ray loved people and loved conversations, whether those encounters involved longtime friends or people he had never met before. His kindness, easy smile, and friendly laugh will be remembered by everyone who knew him. Ray craved interactions with others, so much so that he continued to deliver flowers for other businesses after he and Donna decided to close Royal Gardens. Ray was a star football player in his youth, earning the nickname “Rabbit Ray” because of his speed. He also excelled in bowling. In later stages of his life, Ray’s favorite activities included playing golf regularly with his best friend Paul Andersen and meeting up with his regular circle at McDonald’s for conversation and companionship.
Ray was preceded in death by his father, Billy Bryant, his mother, Millie Bryant, and his son Douglas Bryant, all of whom lived in Williamsburg. Ray’s death also followed the passing of his sister, Elouise Agee of Williamsburg, by less than four weeks. Left to cherish Ray’s memory are his wife, Donna Bryant, his daughter Debbie Sparlin and her husband Dean Sparlin, both of Springfield, Virginia, his grandchildren, Christopher Sparlin of Springfield, Virginia and Cindy Sparlin of Watertown, Massachusetts, and daughter-in-law Doris Bryant of Williamsburg,
In accordance with his wishes, Ray will be cremated. A service to remember Ray’s legacy will be held at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, April 15, at Bucktrout Funeral Home in Williamsburg.