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.
"My mother was quite a character. Her bohemian lifestyle in Mount Vernon was legendary. She posed for Joe Sheppard and other artists, went drinking with Blaze Starr, and hung around Morris Martick," her daughter said.
"She'd go Halloween shopping with the drag queens and then help them put on their makeup before they went to the Halloween parade downtown. It was quite a childhood," said Ms. Bryant.
Mr. and Mrs. Bryant took pity on poor students.
"I came from England in 1953 aboard the Mauretania, and after landing in New York, we drove right to Baltimore and settled into a home in Park Circle," said Judge Ward. "I got to know them through their daughter, Susan, from a previous marriage of Mr. Bryant's, whom I dated."
When the romance ended, Judge Ward kept in touch with the family.
"When I was going to law school at night for six years and working during the day, money was in short supply," said Judge Ward. "Mr. Bryant was a great cook and they were always having me over for dinner. If it hadn't been for the Bryants, I would have starved."
In 1969, Mrs. Bryant and her husband moved to Ridgedale Road in Mount Washington. After her retirement from Hochschild-Kohn, she earned a real estate license and worked in commercial real estate sales with her neighbor, Jerome Trout Jr., who was a partner in the firm of Trout and Fox.
After her husband's death in 1987, she moved to a waterfront property at Rocky Point in Essex, and designed the two homes that occupy the 7-acre site that she had purchased.
She became an active member and president of the Back River Neck Community Peninsula Association. During her presidency, the association published "Recipes to Remember From Rocky Point," featuring one of Mrs. Bryant's paintings on its cover.
"The hilarious part was that my mother did not cook and yet edited and published a cookbook. It is now in its second printing," her daughter said.
In addition to being an accomplished watercolorist, Mrs. Bryant designed all of the landscaping for her Rocky Point home and enjoyed working in her garden.
Mrs. Bryant left her body to the Maryland Anatomy Board. Plans to spread her ashes this summer are incomplete.
In addition to her daughter, Mrs. Bryant is survived by a sister, Patricia Finney of Rocky Point; and a stepson, "Whistling" Thomas F. Bryant of St. Petersburg, Fla. Her stepdaughter, Susan Pickle, died in 1994.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun