Thursday, September 27, 2018
5:00 PM to 7:00 PM EDT
Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes
6080 Stadium Drive
Kalamazoo, MI 49009
Food and beverages will be served.
At the family's request memorial contributions are to be made to those listed below. Please forward payment directly to the memorial of your choice.
Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.
Life Story / Obituary
A friend of many and a stranger to none, Billy Bryant was beloved by everyone who came to know him. Upon meeting this special man, one couldn’t help but love his outgoing and fun-loving nature. From his very beginnings it was clear to see his zest for life in everything he did. It didn’t take much to make Billy happy, but simply being in the presence of family brought him the greatest joy and doing the things he loved best. He was a great husband, good provider, loving and caring father, an awesome grandpa and a best friend to many. He was truly loved and will be missed.
On March 27, 1964, in the bustling city of Los Angeles, California, Billy Ray Sr. and Carol Janice (Williams) Bryant welcomed the birth of their son, Billy Ray into their arms. Life wasn’t always easy for a young boy like Billy growing up in the inner city. At the age of 10 he moved to Kalamazoo, Michigan to live with his grandmother. We don’t decide the cards we are dealt with in life, and although good and sometimes not so good, Billy took what he was dealt and made the most of the life for which he was blessed. A very special memory held dear was having taught his brother, Lamont how to tell time when they were kids.
Living with his grandmother gave Billy the stability he needed. He attended Kalamazoo Central High School where he was a valuable basketball player for the Giants. Throughout his life, Billy liked sports in general, especially baseball, football and basketball. He was an avid Lakers fan, a diehard Cowboys fan, and a HUGE Michigan fan! Sports would always play a role in Billy’s life in some way or another, especially enjoying it with the family he treasured.
After high school, Billy shared a relationship with a young woman for a time and from that union he was blessed with two beautiful sons. He enlisted in the U.S. Army, having served for a while, but when his son, Nathaniel sadly passed away, he left the military altogether. Billy worked at various establishments here and there searching for his niche. During this time, he enjoyed the friendships of many and spending time with family.
Billy’s life changed dramatically when he realized his true soul mate was actually a long time acquaintance. He initially met Dora when she lived across the street from his grandmother’s house. Friends with her brothers, he often played basketball with them at Rockwell Park in their neighborhood. As time went on, he’d randomly stop by Dora’s apartment in his green Cadillac for short visits, but one day they decided to rent a movie together. Something seemed to click on that fateful day, and for the next 25 years, they were together since!
In 2005, Billy and Dora were happily married at the Church of God Pentecostal in Kalamazoo. Billy had Nathan and BJ from a previous marriage and with his wife Dora, they were blessed with Brittney and Braylon. Having Dora in Billy's life was only the beginning of wonderful things to come. They were so in love and loved being around each other. They were best friends. When he smiled or laughed he would light up a room. He was always there and never missed a birthday party or family gathering.
He had heart for children and loved spending time with his family. The month of June was family vacation time for the Bryant household. Some of their exciting destinations included Disney World in Florida, Michigan Adventure and Cedar Point where Billy was thrilled to enjoy the roller coasters with his son. They also played basketball in their driveway together at every opportunity. It was always a comical sight whenever Billy attempted to cut his son’s hair. He’d joke about not knowing where to start, and would do so with one guard, and then gradually work his way down to smaller guards. Later when blessed with grandchildren, Billy loved nothing more than getting down on the floor to wrestle with them. Holidays were always special in their home and birthdays were celebrated by going out to eat.
While his children were growing up, Billy worked at Tendercare as the Maintenance Supervisor. He later went back to school and in 2012 he acquired his GED. The proudest achievement of his life, this too was yet another pivotal turning point in Billy’s life. Billy simply beamed by this accomplishment and together with his family they enjoyed a big celebration at Applebee’s Restaurant.
Billy continued schooling to earn his CDL to drive trucks which led to a job with Kendall Electric. For the last nearly seven years, Billy worked third shift in the warehouse with just one other person. He particularly liked it that way as there was no drama or messing around. Billy was like that; go in and get the job done! He was a hard worker his whole life through and loved providing for those entrusted to his care.
Of course, sports continued to be front and center in Billy’s life! He coached his son’s rocket football in Portage and the team even went on to Waldo Stadium that year to play in the championship game of which Billy was proud. He participated on a bowling league for a while and his family enjoyed watching him play. In fact, as a family they enjoyed bowling together where everyone always tried to beat Dora! Billy was constantly watching SportsCenter on TV and never changed the channel or even turned it off for that matter! Billy absolutely loved going to Michigan games and was right there in the stands at the last one against WMU. When his family bought him Lakers’ tickets for his last birthday, Billy was so excited and really looked forward to seeing Kobe Bryant.
It was easy to see that he loved sports, but when it came to movies, The Godfather was at the top of his list. He’d watch it every time it was on TV and all three sequels, right in a row. Five Heartbeats and the Temptations were other favorites. When it came to music, he was into R&B and jazz. Although he didn’t play any instruments, he could sing . . . or at least try, according to Dora! There was one thing that really irritated Billy and that was his neighbor’s cat. He had it in for that darn thing as it always crept over the top of his garbage cans.
While Billy leaves so much to be remembered, he lived by way of example and taught his children well. He always said to give it your all in everything, and don’t do anything half ass. An example he used was the time he started changing the brakes on his car. He had only changed half of them when it became too dark and he was too tired to finish that night. The big lesson was when his daughter, Brittney went to pull the car into the garage and couldn’t stop. He believed in doing what your heart tells you to do and what makes you happy. Billy was a very strong hearted man and very understanding. He was always there with a listening ear and a strong shoulder to hold you up, but if you asked for his opinion, he always spoke his mind and would certainly give it to you.
Billy Bryant was a strong man who loved his family beyond measure. He worked hard, appreciated the opportunities he was so blessed with, and was an awesome person and friend to everyone. The memories he leaves behind are a legacy of perseverance, faith and dreams held close. Although he will be deeply missed, Billy will be remembered with joy.
Billy Ray Bryant, age 54, died on Tuesday, September 18, 2018. He was preceded in death by his parents; one sister, Rena Bailey; and one son, Nathaniel Bryant. Surviving are his wife of 25 years, Dora Bryant; four children: BJ (Ida) Bryant, Nathaniel Bryant, Brittney Wogoman, and Braylon Bryant; four grandchildren: BJ, Natalie, Ahlayla, and Aariyon; one brother, Lamont Dees; and a host of aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins. Special acknowledgment to his best friends Bernard Edmonson, Ramone Wogoman, and Andreas Garza. Visit with family and friends while sharing food and refreshments on Thursday from 5pm-7pm at Betzler Life Story Funeral Home, 6080 Stadium Dr Kalamazoo (269) 375-2900 where services will be held Friday at 11am. Burial will take place Mt. Ever Rest Memorial Park South. Please visit Billy’s personal web page at www.betzlerfuneralhome.com where you can archive a favorite memory or photo and sign his online guestbook before coming to the funeral home. Memorial contributions may be made to Kalamazoo Gospel Mission.