The Maine Seacoast Mission’s Sunbeam joined a fleet of boats circling Little Cranberry’s Bunker Cove in a somber goodbye to Ashley Bryan as his ashes were scattered into the sea. Ashley was known to the world as an award-winning author, illustrator, and artist. But too many people gathered, he was more than that: he was a friend, neighbor, and resident of a tightly knit community that called Islesford home.
Earlier that day, the Sunbeam delivered Mission staff members to Little Cranberry for a celebration of Ashley’s life. On Wednesday, July 13, on what would have been Byran’s 99th birthday, friends, family, and community members came together to honor Ashley. The Mission provided a livestream of the service for those who could not be in attendance and more than 1,300 people watched the event. During the memorial, family members and friends remembered Ashley’s community spirit, his love for the children growing up in Islesford, his famous grilled cheese sandwiches, and his ability to make everyone feel like family.
While Ashley’s impact was worldwide, his relationship with the people who lived and worked in this small sliver of Maine was truly special. To the people of Islesford, he was a loving neighbor who would help shovel driveways and pick up groceries on the mailboat. Reflecting on Ashley’s passing earlier this year, Douglas Cornman, Director of Island Outreach and Chaplain, wrote, “Ashley was the most human and humble of people. He wore his talents, recognition, wisdom, and intellect as casually as he wore his cardigan. I would be remiss if I ended without mentioning just one more of Ashley’s qualities that I admire. Upon reflection, perhaps, it is the one I admire most of all. Perhaps, Ashley’s most virtuous virtue and his most precious gift was his modeling for us that being authentically kind and giving and selfless and loving is obtainable.” A longer remembrance by Cornman, as well as a reflection by Director of Island Health Sharon Daley, can be found here.
He was an islander until the end, and it was truly fitting for the Sunbeam to see him off. Ashley’s work continues to be shown across the country with a show featuring Ashley’s paintings alongside the poetry of Langston Hughes at the Morgan Library & Museum in New York City, a show at the Farnsworth Museum in Rockland, as well as a permanent exhibit at the Children’s Museum + Theatre of Maine in Portland.