David Robert Bryen
David Robert Bryen passed away peacefully with his family at his side on September 20 in Cape Town, South Africa, seven months after his cancer diagnosis.
David was born in Bozeman, Montana, on June 6, 1948. He spent his early years in Montana and Wyoming, where his father was a Baptist minister. When he was in high school the family moved to Oregon. David lost his mother, Florence, to polio when he was four. He lost his father, Walter, to a heart attack when he was fifteen.
After listening to years of his father’s sermons, David concluded that he was meant to be a preacher himself. In 1970 he graduated from Southern Oregon College with a degree in Psychology, and in 1973 received a Master’s degree in Pastoral Counselling from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Chicago. Ironically, the two years at Trinity were sufficient to cause him to leave his Christian faith behind and move in a different spiritual direction.
In 1971 he met Gloria Swink and after a four-year long-distance relationship, they married in Chicago in 1975. They lived there until David could not take being away from his beloved Oregon with its rocky coast and mountains any longer. He found a job in a counseling center in Portland and the couple moved to Oregon in January 1978.
David and Gloria both loved being by the water and in 1983 they started building a cabin on a small lake in the Oregon Coastal range. With their children, Karis and Calvin, they spent many happy hours on the water and beside the campfire.
After 35 years as a psychotherapist, David retired in 2010 and he and Gloria moved to Ajijic. Soon he was involved in building sets for the Lakeside Little Theatre and BRAVO! Theatre. He spent hours in his shop building furniture, canes and drink coasters.
David was the coordinator of Open Circle for five years, as well as a presenter more than ten times. With his efforts, as well as that of his hard-working committee, Open Circle’s popularity grew, and by the time it was handed over to the Lake Chapala Society speakers were scheduled for an entire year in advance.
David loved woodworking and the community of men who worked with wood. He loved riding his motorcycle, teasing those he liked, writing poetry, traveling, drinking margaritas at 4 p.m. on the terrace, and chocolate any time.
Above all, he loved discourse, sitting on his terrace having thoughtful conversations with friends, sharing his deep understanding of the soul and its workings. The material world simply provided him with a way to connect with others to hear their story and offer his own.
David wrote two books: “Riding off the Edge of the Map,” a true story of his misguided motorcycle trip in Copper Canyon, where he experienced the external realities of being lost, a damaged motorcycle, and the inner journey, his conversation with himself, as well. He also wrote “The Man Loves the Wine She Serves Through her Body,” a compilation of poems written almost entirely while sitting on the dock at their Oregon lake cabin.
David was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in early March 2023, and when it became apparent that his cancer was terminal, he was determined to get Gloria settled in Cape Town near their daughter before he passed. They sold their home in Ajijic in May and arrived in Cape Town with five suitcases on June 2, 2023. The family had almost four months together before he passed away. The cancer took his body but could not touch his mind, his kind spirit, or sense of humor.
He is survived by Gloria, his wife of 48 years, his two children, daughter Karis (Bryen) Nafte, her husband, Eytan and their daughter, Mae; and his son Calvin Bryen, his wife, Belle, and their son, Nico, as well as siblings Lois, Ruth, Roxie, Wally, Becky, Beverly, and Barbara, and their families. Someday his ashes will be spread on a hillside in Montana, next to those of his brother Jimmy.
A memorial gathering for David will take place on the grounds of the Lake Chapala Society on Sunday, November 12, from noon to 2 p.m. Those who wish to share in his memory are welcome to attend.