Historian Bryant remembered for her passion for the past

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 30, 2010

Longtime Ironton and Lawrence County historian Virginia Bryant died Saturday morning at King’s Daughters Medical Center after a short illness. She was 82.

Bryant, an Ironton native, was a backbone of the Lawrence County Historical Society and a prolific writer of local histories, especially concerning the Hanging Rock Iron Furnaces and one of its most famous ironmasters, Nannie Kelley Wright. She was also instrumental in organizing the recent 100th year celebration of the Lawrence County Courthouse.

“This is a great loss to our community, not only to our church and the museum, but the community as a whole,” said Kay Rader, known for her portrayals of Nannie Kelley Wright in the museum’s Historical Walk and other functions.

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“She knew so much about the history of Lawrence County,” said Rader, who called Bryant her mentor.

Besides her writings on the furnaces Bryant teamed up with Sharon Kouns on a book about the physicians of the county entitled, “Medical Professionals: A History of Those Who Have Practiced in Lawrence County, Ohio.” That work was a fund-raiser for the restoration of the historic jail in Burlington.

“She was a noted historian, who took a really deep interest in Lawrence County and the city,” Nancy Livingston of the historical society, said. “She wanted everybody to know their history.”

In 2005 Bryant was The Tribune’s Citizen of the Year, receiving more nominations than any other person.

“We have really lost an historian,” Joyce Rambacher, longtime society volunteer and docent, said. “Anything you wanted to know, she either wrote a book on it or could reel it off.”

The current president of the historical society is Bob Cleary, whose civic association with Bryant dates back to the 1970s. Cleary, now an Ironton City Councilman, worked with Bryant often during his tenure as mayor of the city.

“She was something really special to me,” Cleary said. “She was absolutely the best historian for Ironton and Lawrence County. She has always been right there anytime I would need anything for the city, she was right there. She was always so full of enthusiasm. Her eyes would sparkle. She will be sadly missed. She has been a wonderful person for Ironton.”

Bryant’s funeral is scheduled for Wednesday at First Baptist church in Ironton.