Helen Bryant

Helen Bryant ( / October 17, 2013)

Helen E. Bryant, a former Hochschild-Kohn department store manager who later worked in commercial real estate sales, died March 10 of bile duct cancer at Beach Haven II, her Rocky Point home. She was 91.

"I'd describe her as a very strong woman who through the years had responsible positions at Hochschild-Kohn. She and her husband were good solid people," said former Baltimore Circuit Judge Peter D. Ward, a friend for nearly 60 years.

The daughter of John Lichti Sr., a Marine gunnery sergeant, and Helen Foster Lichti, a New York socialite, the former Helen Elizabeth Lichti was born in Hawaii, where her father was stationed at Pearl Harbor.

She was raised in Staten Island, N.Y., and spent summers at family cottages on the Choptank River and Indian Creek near Cambridge.

In 1936, Mrs. Bryant and her family moved to Cambridge, and two years later when she was 16, she graduated from Cambridge High School.

After graduating from high school, Mrs. Bryant moved to Washington, when she took a job at the National Remembrance Shop at 14th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, a gift and souvenir shop that her maternal grandfather, Ward G. Foster, co-founded.

In addition to the gift and souvenir shop that was operated by Foster & Reynolds, the business also included the Ask Mr. Foster travel agency, where Mrs. Bryant worked in sales.

"This is where she learned retail business," said her daughter, Katherine "Kitty" Bryant of Rocky Point.

While working as an expediter at the old Bendix Radio plant on Fort Avenue in Locust Point during World War II, she met her future husband, Wallace A. Bryant, whom she married in 1947.

Near the end of the war, they moved to New York City and later to Tampa, Fla., before returning to the city and settling into a home in Forest Park.

In 1949, Mrs. Bryant began her retailing career when she took a job at Hochschild-Kohn's Edmondson Village store. She then was promoted to silver buyer at Hochschild's flagship store at Howard and Lexington streets.

"She became pregnant and planned the delivery of me, her only child, between the September home sale and the October home goods sale as there were no provisions for maternity leave at that time in 1957," said Ms. Bryant.

In 1959, Mrs. Bryant and her husband purchased a rooming house in the 800 block of St. Paul St.

"We lived in an apartment on the first floor and they rented rooms by the week that had bathrooms down the hall," her daughter said.

Mrs. Bryant's husband, who earlier had been a waiter at the old Miller Bros., oversaw the operation of the rooming house and cared for their daughter, while she continued her department store career.

She was promoted to china, glass and gift ware buyer, associate furniture buyer, home furnishings coordinator and head of Hochschild-Kohn's design department.

Mrs. Bryant eventually became manager of Hochschild-Kohn's Belvedere Avenue and York Road store, Reisterstown Plaza store and finally the North Plaza Mall branch, from which she retired in 1981.

During her years at Hochschild-Kohn, she became a close friend of Walter Sondheim Jr., who was the store's vice president and secretary and a noted civic activist.

"She was very close to Mr. Sondheim, who always spoke of Helen in very glowing terms," said Judge Ward. "She really was a delightful person."

While living in the city's Mount Vernon neighborhood, Mrs. Bryant was an active member of the Mount Vernon Improvement Association and was active in historic preservation.