Howard & Beth Bryant Foundation
The Howard and Beth Bryant Foundation (HBBF) empowers Heppner through purposeful giving, and active engagement to ensure the community's bright, sustainable future. The Howard and Beth Bryant estate has supported dozens of community enhancement projects since its establishment in 2015, and continues with many new projects in the works. The Heppner Community Foundation (HCF) was established in 2019 in partnership with HBBF to continue to build, connect, and celebrate community by supporting economic development activities in Heppner, OR. HCF was created to address local resource needs, and help Heppner thrive as an inclusive and vibrant community.
Howard was born on June 19th, 1918 near Heppner to Madge and Glenn Bryant. He joined his older brother Earle Bryant at their home on Bruce Kelly’s ranch on Willow Creek. This ranch is where Howard would spend his childhood. He often reminisced about his walk to school and setting trap in the creek to catch beavers, weasels, and mink to supplement the family’s income. Ranch life and hard work would become a pattern for Howard.
Howard was an outstanding athlete in high school. In the true Heppner Mustang tradition, he played football many seasons on an undefeated team. Howard would point out that they were the Irish before they were the Mustangs. He went on to become a big supporter of local athletics, proven by his attendance at nearly every sporting event and through his generous donations to the programs. It is theorized that he may have attended more high school sports activities than any other individual in the history of the school.
Howard had a love for horses and horsemanship. He won the Morrow County Roping Saddle in 1955. He was lifetime friends with the top hands in Morrow County, Floyd Jones, Royce Fullerton, Ralph and Neil Beamer, and the Robinsons to name a few. Howard and several other hands established the Wrangler Riding Club through assistance with the purchase, building and maintenance of an arena in 1946. That club still exists today. His support for it never faded. He also shared his love of horses with many through his volunteer efforts as a clerk during the open horse show and the Morrow County Fair and Rodeo. You could often find Howard down at the County Fairground’s Arena offering advice. Howard contributed both time, knowledge and money to these events. He was selected to be the Morrow County Fair and Rodeo Grand Marshal in 1993.
At a certain age Howard discontinued his rodeo and horse days. Because he wasn’t one to sit idly, he and some other friends (Floyd Jones, Cornett Green) took up the game of golf. Golf became a favorite of Howard’s. weather permitting and sometimes even if it didn’t you would find Howard and either Randy Lott or Father Condon on the course playing for quarters. Howard mentioned that after decades of golf he thought that they might be even financially. Howard skill at golf is exemplified by his 170 yard hole in one on Hole number 5 at the Willow Creek Country Club reported to be one of the toughest holes on the course.
Howard was an avid outdoorsman. He was one of a group of men that developed Penland Lake. The Jones, Bryant and Green cabin, famously known as East of the Ditch hosted many friends and out of town guests. A lot of young and old friends hunted for their first deer or elk from this cabin near Penland Lake and many also have attended the famous annual clam feed. Generations have celebrated here. He happily shared his valuable hunting and gun expertise, with his friends and then with their sons and the sons of these sons. Howard was a lifelong member of the Masons and The Shriners. He is also a lifelong member of the Heppner Methodist Church. He has been an active proponent of these groups in many different avenues, as a leader, a supporter and as an advisor. These entities were very important to him for their good works for their communities and assistance to children.
Howard was a local businessman. He began as a banker. He was one the founding members of the Bank of Eastern Oregon; He was also the Bank’s first board chair. Howard was a Main Street business owner. At Turner, Van Marter and Bryant, he was a well-loved and trusted insurance agent for decades. He became a mentor to the many that followed in his banking and insurance footsteps.
Many people relied on Howard to be the local historian. He was the man to turn to when you didn’t recognize someone in a picture. The person that people sought when they needed to recall the name of an old business in town or where a canyon may be located: He was quoted in publications clarifying the locations of schools and meadows among many things. Having grown up with Bruce Kelly he was an important contributor Joann Byrd’s book; ‘Calamity: The Heppner Flood of 1903’. For his assistance, Joan gifted one of the original manuscripts to him when she completed the book.
Howard’s mother Madge was also an icon in Heppner. Famous for her garden, baking and sewing she raised her two sons independently. This was rare in those days. But she was a dedicated worker and seamstress and seemed to do this job with ease and grace. Howard reflected her high values and love all of his life. She died in 1976 leaving a heart broken son and community.
One of the most important events in Howards life was his marriage to Beth Vance in 1935. Beth was his high school sweet heart. She was his partner and support for all of his adventures. Traveling with him to sporting events, watching the rodeos and horse shows. She helped to entertain their families and enjoy their nieces and nephews, great and great great. She passed in 2009 just short of 75 years of marriage. It was a life changing event for Howard and also for his family and friends.
Howard was recognized for his dedication and generosity to his community when he was given Heppner’s Life Time Achievement Award in 2014. He was 96 years old. His love for his community had not diminished. This great achievement came to him with out the community knowing that he had already established a foundation with Heppner as the benefactor.
He intended for the foundation to begin operation after his estate was settled but financial market circumstances caused the foundation to go into effect in 2015. Howard was able to spend a little over a year directing the support and refining the goals of The Howard and Beth Bryant Foundation.
This Foundation is a testament to Howard and Beth’s regard for their town. It funds many youth activities, the rodeo, the fair, the church, the Shriners, the daycare, the golf course and many other local organizations. The Foundation has built parks and will continue to create capital improvements for the residents of Heppner for decades to come.
Howard and Beth’s love and support for Heppner will live on for perpetuity.