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Mrs. Irene Bryant, St. Joseph Parishoner, Survivor

Mrs. Irene Bryant
Mrs. Irene Bryant
Tribble Photography

The Lord has to be good after what I’ve been through. He brought me and kept me.

My mother died on August 3, 1925, at 33 years old. I was six. After that, my father put one of my sisters, two of my brothers and myself in the Bessie Allen Orphanage at 6th and Walnut in Louisville, Ky. I stayed there until I was 16 years old. It’s where I learned to do things. The Sisters there taught me to read, organize myself and become productive… it made me smart. I stayed there until I was 16 years old. Then I was placed at Good Shepherd at 8th and Walnut, also in Louisville. It was a home for older children run by Good Shepherd Sisters. The Mother Superior there was a nun named Sister Isabelle. She had a big influence on me. She would see to the priest… make sure everything was organized and ready for Mass; serve the priest his meals and other things. I was her helper. She and I formed a good relationship. She taught me things, and I listened to her. I was
still a little colored child but worked side-by-side with the sister that was in charge. Looking back, I guess she saw something in me. Thank God she did, because times were horrible for coloreds; Jim Crowe and whatnot, let alone an orphaned colored child.

When I graduated from high school at 17, I was put out to day work. My first job was at the
Netkims family. They lived at 1735 Harvard Dr. (Louisville). They had three children. I cooked, cleaned and took care of them for $8.00 per week.

One day on my way home from work, I met a couple at the bus stop that was from the place that I was born, Richmond, Ky. I talked with them, told them about my background. Praise God, they knew my people and my story. I just knew that the Lord was looking after me. I had developed a belief and a trust that in spite of my circumstances, everything was going to be all right.

I went back to Good Shepherd, packed my bags and left with those strangers. Folks back then; you could trust them. They took me to my Aunt Lee’s house. My mother’s sister! I had never met her, and she had never met me, but she took me in and I experienced the love and security of a family for the first time in my life. It gives me chills to think of it.
I didn’t stay with Aunt Lee but a few weeks; because she knew that my oldest sister lived in Cincinnati. When Aunt Lee called my sister, she came to Richmond and got me. I arrived in Cincinnati in January 1937, smack dead in the middle of the great flood and the great depression.

I was delighted to be with my sister, so I settled into life in Cincinnati. I went to church at Holy Trinity. I found out that Sister Isabelle lived in Cincinnati, working at Girls Town in Finneytown. My soon-to be husband and I went to see her. She had really been my mother-figure growing up and I loved her. She told me to go see Father Busemeyer at St. Joseph, so I did.

I met Father Busemeyer and found him to be the first white person I had ever met to treat everyone equally. It didn’t matter to him what color you were, he was a fair man. I joined St. Joseph Catholic Church and have been a member ever since.

Before I was married, Father Busemeyer checked my husband out and gave the OK for the marriage. We raised three children together.

My husband owned a fruit and vegetable stand on the Findley Market. I worked at Children’s Hospital 33 years and eight months preparing formula and delivering it to the infant ward. Ain’t God good? I learned that small kindnesses and generosity means everything. The Sisters that took care of me as a child, raised me in the church at the orphanage, and the way I was reunited with my family is a sure sign of the grace of God. I am blessed to live this long, and my faith sustains me.