In Bryan’s name

Hundreds of hats, each adorned with the name of Patricia Anthony’s beloved son, are warming baby’s heads from Boston to Haiti, Asia, and West Africa

By Christy Nadalin
Posted 4/10/21

The story of Bryan Anthony’s hats actually begins with his shoes.“When Bryan passed he was living with us,” said Patricia Anthony of Bristol, Bryan’s mother. “He had a …

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In Bryan’s name

Hundreds of hats, each adorned with the name of Patricia Anthony’s beloved son, are warming baby’s heads from Boston to Haiti, Asia, and West Africa


The story of Bryan Anthony’s hats actually begins with his shoes.

“When Bryan passed he was living with us,” said Patricia Anthony of Bristol, Bryan’s mother. “He had a lot of shoes, about 60 pairs. I didn’t know what do do with them — a lot of places are funny about taking shoes. But then I saw this thing about shoes for Haiti, and of course that’s a place that really needs them. I imagined someone walking into a job interview, or even getting married wearing my son’s shoes. And I thought that would be wonderful.”

Through a former colleague at Mt. Hope High School, where Patricia worked with Special Education students until her retirement a couple of years ago, she heard about Ken and Mary Watkinson of Bristol, who have for many years been making a difference in Haiti with their organization, Haiti’s Child. Patricia reached out to the Watkinsons. “They talked to me about losing their son, and Mary told me that sometimes it’s helpful to do something in your son’s name.”

Patricia gave Mary packages of hats to go to Haiti, and some made their way to Togo, in West Africa. Others Patricia donated to the hospital in Providence, and a nurse there, who was originally from Armenia, sent some to that Asian nation. Still others have been shared locally. “I’ve given them to Bryan’s friends having babies, and recently went on Buy Nothing Bristol (a Facebook page) and thought it would be nice if some babies around town were wearing Bryan’s little hats.” Recently, a friend of Bryan’s from KMS, now an employee of Boston Children’s Hospital, collected some to bring there.

Smile that 'lit up a room'

Bryan Anthony was in elementary school when his family moved to Bristol. He attended Rockwell School, KMS, and LaSalle Academy before studying communication and marketing, graduating from URI, and pursuing a successful career in sales in New York City. “He was an exceptional young man with a smile that lit up a room, and he had a silver tongue with ladies of all ages,” said Patricia. “He was so smart and had amazing jobs in New York City, then he was home here in Bristol for the last year and a half of his life.”

“He loved this place. He took drives in Colt State Park, where he would join pick up soccer and baseball games, and he especially loved the little beach at the bottom of our street where he would walk our dog,” she said.

Then Bryan passed away, suddenly and unexpectedly, in February 2019, at the age of 35.

“People who say time will heal, and you need to get over it — they have no idea what they’re talking about. You wake up every day with that pain and you do what you have to do,” said Patricia.

Knitting as therapy

“This is what I do for now,” said Patricia of the dozens of little hats, some with stripes, others with little embellishments like crocheted flowers, each one a little work of art; and each completed with a tag reading: “In memory of Bryan P. Anthony, Ne Obliviscaris.”

That’s Latin for “never forgotten” and it’s an exceptionally fitting phrase as Patricia is a Campbell from Scotland, and the phrase is part of her family’s crest. The P is for Bryan’s middle name, Peter. “My father’s name, and also for the rock in the Bible,”Patricia said. “Bryan was a rock. I always felt so safe when he was with me.”

Knitting was something Patricia had done years ago, but hadn’t picked up her needles much, until the summer of 2018. “Buddy, my dog of 15 years had been fighting Cushing disease,” she said. “He and I stayed in all summer in the air conditioning and that’s when I started to knit again. I wanted to knit small things because of the heat and that’s why the baby hats came about.”

Her husband and sons loved them, and kept asking her what she planned to do with them. “I said I’ll find something,” Patricia said. Then Buddy died in the fall, and Bryan passed a few months after. Not long before meeting the Watkinsons, a grief counselor also suggested Patricia find something to do in Bryans memory.

“It all became clear to me and I knew Bryan was guiding me,” she said. “I found all these connections, bringing me together with people who otherwise I would not have known. I allow myself to be open to his messages.”
Ultimately, it’s not the meditative act of knitting, or the little hats that warm so many little heads, that give this meaning for Patrica — though those are both certainly added benefits. “It’s that label. It’s his name and that someone might look at it and wonder who Bryan Anthony was. Honoring his life helps with the pain. So I picked up my knitting needles and started knitting and one hat turned into hundreds.”

Though the grief is often overwhelming, Patricia does other things to help cope. “I keep journals where I write how I feel, I write poetry, and sometimes I write to Bryan.” She also gives herself permission to say no, and to change her mind. “You have got to be truthful with yourself,” she said.
Her grief had also changed how she understands others.
“I’ve found that I appreciate things so much more,” she said. “I don’t jump to conclusions about other people because I have not walked in their shoes — I think we all have to be more accepting of others.”

“Even though I lost my son, wonderful things still happen in life. There’s a reasons for everything and I try not to blame. I’ve never asked God why he took my son.”

Another experience that brought Patricia comfort was a meeting with a local medium who was able to reach Bryan. Knowing nothing about the hats, she shared something that really struck Patricia. “At one point she said I don’t know what this is about. What is it with all these hundreds of babies he’s looking after? His angel wings are enormous.”

“Bryan loved babies, and he had such a special way with them,” said Patricia, smiling through tears. “So how can I stop?”

Bryan Anthony

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