Mary Ellen Smith Bryan age 81, was born in Alamosa, Colorado, at Alamosa County Hospital, on February 14, 1942. She grew up in the small town of Sanford, Colorado, proud of her heritage and to be a Sanfordite. She was the baby of the family and seemed to enjoy that place in the family very much, especially in her early life. One of her fondest memories was that of climbing into her father’s truck and standing next to him as they drove the short few blocks to town every morning. The routine destination was Al’s Bakery for an ice cream cone and orange soda before Dale dropped her off at Grandmother Smith’s or the babysitter for the day.
Mary Ellen followed in her mother’s and older sister’s footsteps to pursue her passion for music. She chose the violin as her instrument. From a young age she was taking lessons at Adams State College in Alamosa. During her years taking lessons and pursuing a college degree in music, she made many lifelong friends and acquaintances that helped and supported her throughout her career and obstacles in life.
At the age of 12, Mary contracted the dreaded disease of Polio. From August of 1954 until Thanksgiving of 1954 Mary spent her time in recovery and rehabilitation at St. Francis Children’s Hospital in Colorado Springs. Through years of recovery, surgeries and learning to walk again, Mary excelled in school and music studies. She spent her Junior year of High School at Box Elder High when her mother took a position at Intermountain in Brigham City, Utah. She enjoyed this experience but was glad to return her Senior year to graduate from Sanford High School.
Mary graduated from Adams State College with a degree in Music Education in 1963. She packed up her Volkswagon bug and moved to Utah when offered a position of Orchestra Director at Orem Jr. and Lincoln Jr. Highs in Alpine School District. A few years later she became the Orchestra Director at Kearns High School in Granite District. Mary was determined to make her program top notch, connecting with high level musicians throughout the state. She fought hard for her students and they loved her for it.
After taking a leave of absence from teaching, to work on a Master’s Degree from University of California at Northridge, Mary returned to Salt Lake to finish up her degree from the University of Utah. It was at this time that she was diagnosed with Lymphosarcoma. Her diagnosis was determined to be terminal, but she fought hard and won the battle.
During the time of her recovery she took the opportunity to further her music education through private lessons and playing in local orchestras. She had the privilege of playing the Bach Double Violin Concerto with Maurice Abravenal and the Utah Symphony at Abravenal Hall in Salt Lake City. This was a great honor for her. Her picture and articles about this concert were in many newspapers around the country. She later traveled with the Symphony to her beloved Adam’s State College to perform with Mr. Abravenal once again.
Soon after her battle with cancer, she met the love of her life Rielly Bennion Bryan. They were married on April 7, 1973. It was a miracle for their little family when Michael Lynn Bryan was born and they were able to adopt on October 10, 1979. Through Mary’s love of her husband and son, they were a tightly knit family, going on many adventures together. They enjoyed exploring new places together, especially in the Northwest and Yellowstone. Mary and Rielly were able to travel frequently to fun places that she loved to talk about, but her heart was with her home and family. She was a dedicated wife and mother.
Mary is especially known for tenacity to make it through tough times. She was tough in spirit, but tiny in stature. She was known for her love of others and her kind words and deeds. Her nieces and nephews love her dearly as she loved them. She was always supportive of events in their lives. They could always count on her to be there for them. Her nephew David, was her birthday twin. She was at the hospital on her birthday waiting anxiously, when he was born.
Special thanks to caretakers of Mary Ellen at Peaks Memory Care. They were so kind to her. Her hair was always braided so pretty and make-up applied, even though time to care for each patient was short. We hope that they know she loved them.
Mary Ellen is preceded in death by her husband, Rielly Bennion Bryan, her mother and father, Ellen Jones Smith and Alfred Dale Smith, sister Karla Dayle Smith Haynie and brother Ross Warren Smith. Survived by son Michael Lynn Bryan, nieces and nephews and sisters-in-law.
A Memorial Reception will be held for Mary Ellen on Friday, September 8, 2023 from 2-4pm, at Memorial Murray Mortuary, 5850 South 900 East, Murray, Utah 84121. In lieu of flowers Mary Ellen would be thrilled with contributions to Cancer Research.Service Information
Celebration of Life
September 8, 2023 at 2:00 - 4:00PM
Memorial Murray Mortuary 5850 South 900 East, Murray, UT