Robert Bryan’s friend recalls his life

Robert R. Bryan, born 10 Dec 1976
Written by Dave Norton, 19 Oct 2002

Robert and I were both members of the Steiner Tsunami Aquatic Team in 8th grade, and our friendship came as a result of carpooling and 2-3 hours in the water every day. His best stroke was freestyle, and he eventually went on to become one of the fastest freestylers in the state of Utah, competing on High-School and junior-Olympic levels. After graduating from Olympus High School in 1995, he trained for the Olympics and narrowly missed the cut. Very few individuals attain the level of success that Robert did in swimming.
Rather than pursue any further Olympic goals, Robert decided to focus more on the enjoyment of the sport by participating in Water Polo leagues and by coaching a high-school team (Swimming and Water Polo) here in Utah. His "kids", as he liked to call them, loved Robert’s style, as was proven by the thoughtful "thank you" cards that individuals occasionally gave to Robert. Last year, before his team went on to compete in the State-level competitions, he colored his hair and sported a mohawk for team spirit.
Robert also had a passion for music, and as a result he participated in several local bands (primarily rock music, but also some jazz and classical) here in Salt Lake City. His primary instrument of choice for performances was bass guitar. Robert had an obsessive personality like mine, and he threw himself into practicing for hours on end—sometimes 8 or 12 hours in a single day. He set his sights high, and although he didn’t live long enough to see his dreams come to pass, he certainly achieved a level of "fame" on a local scale. Personally, I was deeply moved by his strong desire to succeed, despite the setbacks that came his way.
Rob built many castles in the sky, probably resulting from his avid reading. Rather than pursuing a corporate career, he preferred to spend his time pondering the more eternal aspects of life, and trying to make sense of it all in his mind’s eye. Indeed, for the majority of his last year in Utah, when he wasn’t coaching or practicing music, he practically lived in coffee shops and book stores. I never found a dull moment with Robert in conversation, since our interests in reading often overlapped. Although Robert and I never discussed the works of Ed Abbey before he left Salt Lake City, I presume that Robert was inspired by Mr. Abbey’s writings to join his final castle in the sky—the roped network in the Redwoods of Ramsey Gulch.
Never before have I desired so greatly for a friendship to extend beyond death. My hopes and prayers will be with Robert, and his spirit will undoubtedly affect the course of my life.


David A. Norton



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