Main website Memorial Obituary Memory book

My People

The night is beautiful,
So the faces of my people.

The stars are beautiful,
So the eyes of my people.

Beautiful, also, is the sun.
Beautiful, also, are the souls of my people.


Memories of Ashley

–Mike Mosher, Dartmouth class of 1977

–nick hoagland

I say love you Ashley


I just found out that Ashley passed away. He was a good friend of my parents, printmaker Sidney Hurwitz and sculptor, Penelope Jencks. My dad worked with him at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and also on the frescoes at the Solon Meeting House nearby. I remember visiting him in the 60s in his Harlem apartment with my mom, full of every kind of musical instrument (fascinating to me as a budding musician) and art before it was destroyed by the firefighters fighting the fire in the space below. He was a regular visitor to our home in Newton, MA and made such an impression on me as a child. He was so full of love and excitement about the creative process. In later years, I only got to see him a few times, but I miss him dearly. I always hoped my now 10 year old would get to meet him, but Maine is far from Colorado....

–Edwin Hurwitz

I spent many summers on Great Cranberry, and Ashley always came to our fair. My luck was to be in charge of the table with jewelry and the “finer things”. Just before lunch I made sure Ashley got everything he wanted for the children. His smile gave joy to all who knew him.

–Isabelle Storey

Thank you to all of Ashley’s family for the beautiful memorial yesterday! I missed seeing you and everyone in person on beautiful Little Cranberry, but so appreciated the provision to tune in. My deepest condolences and admiration for your extraordinary mutual family love with Ashley that has shone so brightly to all of us through the years. What a privilege to connect with your family members individually a few years ago to glean your perspectives for the new Storyteller Pavilion. I was awe struck and humbled by Ashley’s offer to me to help design the meditative structure for his sea glass Gospel windows and puppets. That meaningful and spiritually inspiring time with Ashley, who had supported me in so many ways starting with my first day in his drawing class (his first day at Dartmouth) almost fifty years ago, is a glowing highlight in my life. We reconnected at Ashley and Henry’s amazing painting workshop in 2013, after years of correspondence, a visit to his Islesford home with my young family, and local school visits. He gave me an enthusiastic welcome hug at the workshop with a good-humored recollection of those rocky first years of coeducation and integration at Dartmouth. It made me realize how, despite his own challenges with institutional racism, Ashley had been a quiet advocate for many students like me in ways that I couldn’t comprehend back then. He exclaimed with a twinkle, “We were there together through all that!” Ashley had created a safe, nurturing place in an old-school, old-boy art department, against a backdrop of a campus with some intense growing pains. After I graduated, he was instrumental in turning the “Visual Studies” department, seemingly viewed by the college administration as little more than an extracurricular activity, into a serious fine art education that has truly blossomed in the years since. A few years after architecture grad school, I was thrilled to let Ashley know I was illustrating my first picture book. I said to him, I’m just not sure if I can decide between this and architecture. His advice: “Don’t decide! Just do what is important to your life right now!” This has always stayed with me. His multi-faceted, exceptional life and career, driven by his magnanimous heart, is a model that few people could begin to reach. But it has fueled, for the endless souls his life and work have touched, infinite creative energy, joy, and confidence. Ashley, you have inspired me once again to go forward with what is important in my life right now! “Uh huh!” Love and endless thanks.

–Julia Miner

Thank you to all of Ashley’s family for the beautiful memorial yesterday! I missed seeing you and everyone in person on beautiful Little Cranberry, but so appreciated the provision to tune in. My deepest condolences and admiration for your extraordinary mutual family love with Ashley that has shown so brightly to all of us through the years. What a privilege to connect with your family members individually a few years ago to glean your perspectives for the new Storyteller Pavilion. I was awe struck and humbled by Ashley’s offer to me to help design the meditative structure for his sea glass Gospel windows and puppets. That meaningful and spiritually inspiring time with Ashley, who had supported me in so many ways starting with my first day in his drawing class (his first day at Dartmouth) almost fifty years ago, is a glowing highlight in my life. We reconnected at Ashley and Henry’s amazing painting workshop in 2013, after years of correspondence, a visit to his Islesford home with my young family, and local school visits. He gave me an enthusiastic welcome hug at the workshop with a good-humored recollection of those rocky first years of coeducation and integration at Dartmouth. It made me realize how, despite his own challenges with institutional racism, Ashley had been a quiet advocate for many students like me in ways that I couldn’t comprehend back then. He exclaimed with a twinkle, “We were there together through all that!” Ashley had created a safe, nurturing place in an old-school, old-boy art department, against a backdrop of a campus with some intense growing pains. After I graduated, he was instrumental in turning the “Visual Studies” department, seemingly viewed by the college administration as little more than an extracurricular activity, into a serious fine art education that has truly blossomed in the years since. A few years after architecture grad school, I was thrilled to let Ashley know I was illustrating my first picture book. I said to him, I’m just not sure if I can decide between this and architecture. His advice: “Don’t decide! Just do what is important to your life right now!” This has always stayed with me. His multi-faceted, exceptional life and career, driven by his magnanimous heart, is a model that few people could begin to reach. But it has fueled, for the endless souls his life and work have touched, infinite creative energy, joy, and confidence. Ashley, you have inspired me once again to go forward with what is important in my life right now! “Uh huh!” Love and endless thanks.

–Julia Miner

Memories of Ashley are full of color, of joy, of love, jelly beans and cheese sandwiches. Ernestine Haskins, Ashley's sister, was generous and gracious to share time she had with Ashley, with me on many occassions. My times on Islesford were always magical, busy and fun. I remember waking up in the back bedroom (under the beautiful stained glass windows--early in the morning--with strangers looking in on me--because the doors were always open and people were always coming by to see Ashley--many who had never met him. I had to learn to be careful when I got out of bed to be sure I was dressed! A memory told to me by Ernestine was about the time Ashley visited her and Ken in Roxbury, when they went together, on a bus, to buy book shelves--which they did. Long book shelves. Ernestine had no idea how they would get the shelves home--but Ashley just walked up to a crowded bus and people helped him on with the shelves, made room for both of them, and off they went home. I was honored to receive annual christmas cards, notes and books (signed) from Ashley over the years, many years. And, continue to be honored by friendship with his family. Ashley's puppet book is on my kitchen mantel piece where I can say good morning to him every day, hear his voice and remember his warmth. I send my love and many hugs to all who are celebrating Ashley on his birthday.

–Melanie Barron

My mom and I met and took photos with Mr. Bryan at an event in Fort Lauderdale at the African American Library. He was extremely nice and took the time to sign many book and chat with us. Unfortunately, the photos that we took destroyed however we have memories of Mr. Bryan and his beautiful works of history/ art to pass on to future generations. Thank you Mr. Bryan for your kindness.


July 11, 2022: I will always miss Ashley. I'm so sorry I won't be able to attend his memorial service in person on July 13. I wrote the following blog post in 2011, but I think it evokes Ashley's incomparable spirit so well. My long friendship with Ashley had such an impact on my life that I wrote two other blog posts about him, one in 2017 and after his death in February. If you're interested, please visit Sending love to Ashley's family and giant family of friends... Role model #1: Ashley Bryan Posted on November 5, 2011 by sheilawill/ Renowned children’s author/artist Ashley Bryan is 88. He’s also my neighbor, well sort of, it’s a half-hour boat ride from the town dock behind my house in Southwest Harbor to his home on Little Cranberry Island. We’ve been friends for more than 25 years, and he’s always at the top of my list of people to visit when I’m in Maine every July. Today Ashley and I had a wonderful visit by phone. “I’ve got lifelines, not deadlines, for upcoming books,” he told me. “I didn’t get to paint in the garden till late August this summer.” “That’s just wrong,” I said. Ashley’s made the best use of Nancy Reagan’s anti-drug slogan, “Just say no.” That’s what the sign says taped to the dial-up phone near his studio, so he won’t spontaneously agree to go to the ends of the earth to tell stories, entertain kids, recite poetry and read from his award-winning books. The creator of more than 34 children’s books, dozens of puppets made from found beach items, hundreds of gorgeous paintings, and thousands of toasted cheese sandwiches, a few years ago after much prodding from his editor and friends, Ashley finally wrote his picture book autobiography, “Ashley Bryan: Words to my Life’s Song.” “Wait till you hear this amazing story,” Ashley said today. After presenting at a recent conference in Boston, two women came up to him whom he hadn’t seen in 70 years. Drafted into the military at 19 from Cooper Union School of Art, Ashley was sent to work in the Boston shipyards as a stevedore in 1943. Ashley drew everything around him, including two 12-year-old girls who years later turned into 82-year-old women and wanted to see him. Ashley got through World War II “with his drawing pad and his gas mask.” That’s how he survived Normandy. That’s how he kept his sanity, he says. “You know veterans don’t like to speak about their experiences,” he reminded me today. “They’re all bottled up.” Ashley first talked publicly about being an artist/soldier at a Children’s Literature New England conference on war and peace. (That must have been before his sign because he wasn’t able to say no). In the late ’90s I took my U.S. history class to Little Cranberry Island when we were studying WWII. It was a magnificent island blue Maine day in early June. Tears rolled down all of our faces by the time Ashley finished his true story. I could see that it had taken its emotional toll on him, yet he became the pied piper as we followed him down the road to catch the ferry. Ashley played his recorder. We all sang “He’s Got the Whole World in his Hands.” “The world is falling apart,” Ashley said today. Yet I felt great after I got off the phone with him. Nothing stops him: “I’m going to Kenya in January!” He’s the epitome of someone who sees life’s tough realities and the beauty that’s still there. Yeah, pass that lifeline, Ashley, you’re the most remarkable human being I know.

–Sheila Wilensky

He was the most exceptional teacher. When I taught in the First Program at The Dalton School, in the early 70’s, he supervised and allowed painting for all the children in the basement of the school. The children (I taught 3 & 4 year olds) would come into the studio with classical music softly playing, and sit down at their place at a long table covered in butcher block paper, set with muffin tins filled with paint, brushes, and large canisters of water. The children painted silently and when a child was finished a particular painting, Ashley would quietly slide it away and replace it with a clean paper. It was like a meditation for the children. He wrote the children’s names on the back of the paper. Every Friday afternoon, he would take those paintings and mount them in the most inspiring way, edge to edge, on the walls of the entrance to the school. Every Friday, he removed last week’s work and mounted the new work. I learned everything about helping a child learn about painting from Ashley and will be ever thankful to him for allowing me to witness & learn from him.

–Thank you, Aliana Scurlock

I was a member of a committee called "Authors in April" in Rochester, Michigan. Each year authors came to spend time in schools and Ashley was visiting the 2nd and 3rd grade classes and the teachers worked diligently to prepare the children for this special event. As I sat at the back of the school library, Ashley began to recite a Gwendolyn Brooks poem; one by one, young voices joined in the recitation. Ashley looked a bit surprised and completely delighted that the children could share the words. I had tears in my eyes. It was everything we hoped for in a connection to literature in these author visits. Years later I had the opportunity to visit Little Cranberry and spend a little time with Ashley and see all of the other amazing art, including the stained glass windows at the church. I treasure that day.

–Nancy Bujold (retired librarian, formerly head of Youth Services, Rochester Hills Public Library (MI)

To the family of Ashley Bryan- My name is Virginia Hanson and I am a Pre-Kindergarten teacher at a suburban elementary school in Minnesota. First I would like to extend my deepest sympathy for the loss of your beloved family member. I’m saddened that the world has lost such a talented and wise person. I originally was searching on the Ashley Bryan website because I was compelled to tell him a story about how much my students enjoy his work, particularly the book Beautiful Blackbird. Over the last few years I have featured Beautiful Blackbird as part of a three week long project involving colors. As in previous years we read the book several times and in several ways including listening while Ashley Bryan read the story and poem on a PBS video. We also learn the show claw slide dance from the Indigo Arts website. At the end of the project the students make their own bird puppets and we retell the story as a group. That is the back story, the point that I wanted to tell him was that this year his book and message really made an extra impact on the students. Long after the project was officially finished the students continued to make bird puppets, seek out the book in our classroom library and talk about the story. Then one day a few weeks ago while on the playground the whole class came running up to me and pointed out the small group of crows on the playing feild. They were so excited! “Like in the book”, they said. I asked them if they had told the birds that they were beautiful and in unison they sang out “black is beautiful, uh-huh. Black is beautiful uh-huh”. Then they sang the slow claw slide dance song. Since then I hear them yelling “black is beautiful uh-huh” at the crows every time they see them. The actions of my students are a reflection of the real impact that stories can make, authors do not always get to see that impact. I feel confident that from now on when my students see a crow or a blackbird the affirming message that black is beautiful will pop into their heads. I understand the message that black is beautiful was the message Ashley Bryan wanted to send to young people, my students heard his message and will continue to hear it. I wanted to share that story with Ashley Bryan, I’m saddened that I couldn’t tell him myself. I’m hoping this story gives his family some comfort. Sincerely, Virginia Hanson

–Virginia Hanson

I Iearned for the first time about Ashley Bryan in the beautifully written article about him by Paul Hond in the Columbia magazine, Fall 2021. I bought 6 of his books. It felt like I fell in love so I addressed a note to him in Islesford. He wrote back! from Texas. I just bought 8 more of his books. I am giving some away to people who deserve to know him. I think he is a holy soul and send love to all who loved him and cared for him near the end of his earthly life.

–Enid Flaherty Newport, RI

A stupendously gifted man with an enormous heart and mind, Ashley always made you feel that *you* were the special one, embracing you with his loving enthusiasm and engagement. He was ALIVE! The first time I met him was at a Portland, Maine book signing in 1986 or '87, where I was a first-picture-book illustrator. I was modestly autographing books on the title page next to my printed name, as if I didn't really belong there, when Ashley leaned over and encouraged me to take up some space and sign boldly. I've followed his advice ever since. His example and message to us all: Fill your space! Live large! Wonders abound!

–Anne Sibley O'Brien

I just finished reading, admiring, absorbing, Infinite Hope. What a wonderful work of art. Thank you for enriching my life with your words and art.

–Monica Devereux

"Wake up every morning and find the child in you." ~Ashley Bryan 1923-2022 Once upon a time, which seems like not too long ago, I had the pleasure of spending a morning’s visit with the late Ashley Bryan, renowned storyteller, illustrator, artist and author. I was working at SCH Academy at that time, formerly known as Springside School for Girls. Linda Kuffler, Lower School librarian, had invited me to meet Ashely when he came to the school as its visiting author. When she told me to bring my only grandchild, Astarte, I knew that a memory-in-the making was surely beginning to happen. I could not wait for Astarte to meet and hear Ashley read his book Beautiful Blackbirdalong with the other lower school children and teachers. She was mesmerized as his voice floated into the flight of the birds, the voices of their wings and the patterns of silence as they soared. Little did I know that Ashely’s presence, his language warmth and storied voice had taken wings of its own in her imagination that has not disappeared. Our colors sport a brand new look, One touch from Ashley is all it took. Oh beautiful black, uh-huh, uh-huh Black is beautiful, UH-HUH! Come along with me as I share what happens when our elders make a strong influence on young people's lives at an early age. When Astarte was in third grade, for her school’s Live Museum, she imagined herself as a famous actress from “the old days” of her grandmother’s youth, Hedy Lamarr. When told that the challenges of this portrayal might be too much for her, she never thought of changing her choice, ultimately delivering her lines and receiving rave reviews. “After all,” my grandchild later shared with me, "Hedy Lamarr was not only beautiful but she was an inventor as well." Astarte’s reach for challenge and identity continued in her middle school years. She portrayed historical and fictional figures as part of many school theater performances, including Mae Jamison and Phoebe the Spy. As the grandchild of a storyteller, Astarte had been attending my school and community programs since she was a young child. I was not surprised when, at age 16, Astarte gave me the word that she had outgrown my programs, that I needed to let her fly in her own writing and performance directions. Astarte continued to develop her voice and depth as a writer and performer. While in high school, she performed a monologue of Sojourner Truth and was asked to give encore performances. She continued writing and performing in a workshop conducted by author, educator and social activist Lorene Carey. As part of the workshop’s “Safe Place” theme, Astarte wrote "Star's Love For The City." Her determination to broaden her outreach and skill has never wavered. All of her life, along with so many individual efforts, Astarte attended and participated in many events with the Philadelphia Non-Profit “Keepers of the Culture, Inc.” At the time I knew that whatever choices Astarte made, she would continue to define and create her voice through narrative choices and performance of her own making. In 2014 she submitted a monologue to the Philadelphia Young Playwrights. Out of 400 submissions, hers was one of 18 winning monologues performed at the Adrienne Theater’s Skybox and a Correction Center. It was then performed professionally in Philadelphia schools. Of all the monologues PYP had received over the years, "It's Okay To Cry" was the only one used for the 2018 Democratic National Convention. It also became the theme for a performance at the Painted Bride titled “Mass Incarceration.” Upon graduation and with wings of independence and hope, Astarte flew from Glenside and past Philadelphia to Virginia to attend Hampton University. She can see her Glenside and Philadelphia roots when she turns to look over her shoulder. Settling in Georgia has become the path ahead. Whenever I think of my grandchild, inevitably my thoughts turn to Beautiful Blackbird. It was a pleasure to donate copies of the book to a 3rd grade classroom at Glenside Elementary School last year. I hope the book inspires the children at Glenside just as much as it inspired Astarte, born and raised in Glenside and Philadelphia, to fly as high as their imaginations will take them. Auntie Jo Jo, The Storyteller Arcadia University Class of '04 Graduate Institute Class of '07 Oral Traditions

–Joann Frasier Dasent aka Auntie Jo Jo & Astarte

I have never met anyone with a welcoming soul, an immediate friend as Ashley. The Maine Seacoast Mission gave him their community award several years ago.The donor's dinner is a lovely event, I am sure the crowd surprised themselves by reacting with joy and shouts while Ashley buoyed them with his mesmerizing rhythms and encompassing love. My heart was grinning! Now it is crying. How blessed I feel for having even a few hugs from him.

–Sydney Roberts Rockefeller

I graduated for SUNY at Buffalo in 1986, and shortly after was hired as a children's librarian at the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library. I remember being thrilled to find Ashley Bryan's books to share with the many children who visited the library on school visits, as well as after school. The bright, beautiful art illustrations, combined with lyrical poetry, that often included "sound effects" :) immediately won the children over, and sometimes they would ask me to read his books over, and over on returning trips to the library. Ashley's books made my job of connecting children to books, so much easier. And I'm forever grateful to him for helping me to find the power, and beauty of sparking children's imagination. He talked the talk, AND walked the walk. My heartfelt prayers and condolences to his entire family; to include his extended family, and endless list of friends, former students, colleagues, and admirers around the world. Rest in Power, Dear Brother, Ashley.

–Vera E. Fattah, Parkville, MD

One of my greatest pleasures as a children's book writer, was the opportunity to meet Ashley Bryan on one of his enrapturing visits to our children's elementary school many years ago. A neighbor from Little Cranberry Island (the wonderful Pam Brooks) introduced us and my illustrator and close friend Julia Miner who had studied with Ashley at Dartmouth continued the connection. Throughout the years, we enjoyed tea in my home after his school visits, overlapped at children's book conferences where he was ever the modest, radiant superstar, and shared news on our projects. One of my career highlights was the chance to write a feature about him for The Christian Science Monitor ["Master of Found Treasures", 11/6/06] which provided me one of the best days of my life spent in his home on the island. I always learned from him professionally and ever with life lessons. That day shines in my mind as the day I learned that operating perpetually with grace and love makes harmonious room for people, for artistry, and for required duties. He was unhurried and unpressured as he cared for relatives, greeted neighbors, worked on a painting, and shared his wisdom. I was honored to nominate him for the Dartmouth College Lifetime Social Justice award which he received in 2016. Today, I am surrounded by the vibrancy of his picture book covers and the profundity of his autobiography, Infinite Hope. I have spent time this week with one of the prints I bought from him many years ago, "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot". His love of spirituals, of children, of beauty, color and community assure me that he is home now as he has always been home in our hearts. He said,“Spirituals are at the center of everything creative in Black life. They’re at the heart of it all. That under such oppression people could create such art from the mind - the only resource available to them - is staggering.... Just to hear it is to feel one’s spirits lifting. You want to share the highest reaches - the gift - of a civilization to children.” The same could be said of Ashley Bryan who shared the highest reaches -- the gift -- with all of us.

–Sara Hoagland Hunter

For Ashley’s obituary, the Washington Post used a photograph taken at a poetry reading he presented during his residency at the Montpelier Arts Center in Laurel, Maryland. The photograph not only brings back so many wonderful memories of Ashley’s residency at Montpelier, but also of the article that accompanied the photo. I invited Ashley to serve as the National Visiting Artist at the Montpelier Arts Center in the Spring of 1998. During the residency, he worked in our printmaking shop, and made several visits to the Library of Congress to research his book on African proverbs. We exhibited his large paintings in our Main Gallery, his prints in the Library Gallery, and tear sheets of his books showing the publishing process in the resident artists gallery where we also displayed his books. We sold hundreds of books. He presented several storytelling, book reading and poetry sessions for the local school children. He even recited poetry before one of our jazz concerts; the late Ethel Ennis was the performer. As an arts venue outside the Washington beltway, we often struggled to get the press coverage we thought we deserved. For Ashley, however, we were absolutely determined to do whatever was necessary to properly promote his residency. My brilliant colleague and Montpelier Assistant Director Nancy Sausser succeeded in getting The Washington Post to cover several of the events of the residency in a very comprehensive, very descriptive article. On the day it was published, I picked up several copies on my way to the Center and gave one to Ashley as soon as I arrived. The article started extremely well with a great description of his exuberance and energy, mesmerizing the children with the poetry of Langston Hughes. But then, it presented a physical description of the man himself: “The tall, cocoa-colored artist with mostly white steel-wool hair that cries out for a dab of pomade has been called a Renaissance man.” We must have read at the same pace because we both stopped and looked at each other with the same look of wide-eyed astonishment. In that instant, I was thinking- “Oh no, we get coverage from the Post, but it critiques his appearance!!??? Is he insulted?? Pomade?????Maybe it would have been better if Nancy were not so effective.” After that moment of staring at each other in shock, we both started to laugh uncontrollably. When we regained our composure, we each performed dramatic readings of the excerpt. That was Ashley. In defense of the reporter, the rest of the article was excellent. Over the following 24 years, I often dropped the word “pomade,” into my conversations with Ashley to see his reaction, and, of course, he loved that.

–Richard Zandler, Former Director of Montpelier Arts Center

Since Ashley passed away I have been re-reading our correspondence spanning 40 years. The first is from July 1981; he last from December 2020. Mostly, I am overwhelmed that with his very large circle of friends and colleagues, interests, work and obligations, Ashley invested so much time providing me with unconditional love, support and guidance, for which I am, and will forever be, very grateful. However, what I wanted to share from this correspondence is how generous Ashley was with his time serving for many years on the Fulbright Screening Panel for Painting {Ashley had received a Fulbright grant to study at the University of Freiberg in Germany) , and presenting and teaching women incarcerated at Bayview Correctional Facility, a medium security New York state prison (closed and sold following Hurricane Sandy). He never failed to find time to squeeze both VOLUNTEER activities into his super-human globe-trotting schedule. Here is one example from a January 2006 letter, which reads in part, “I’ve been working on my March ’06 schedule and note I’ll be in New York…I was thinking of the Bayview Friends and of how responsive they were to my program with them. They had asked that I return and I wondered if, on this short notice, an evening with the group could be arranged. It would be good to hear some of their own writing this visit as well as any preparation on reading fromThe Black American Poets that we might share. Do let me know what you think of this. I know it’s crazy of me to add to my schedule, but meeting with these women is special to me.”

–An Trotter

Uncle Ashley you will truly be missed what a remarkable man you were your legacy will live on forever God bless you rest in peace


I met Ashley in Kenya at a school to which he had contributed. They officials sat beneath a tent, before the tent in rows the school children, many of them sitting in the hot sun. There were numerous stuffy officials mouthing their official words, as the children sat in the sun. The last to speak Ashley Bryan. He rose from his seat opened his arms towards the children and recited the words from "Let it Shine' - the children awoke from their obedient seats. He was speaking to them.

–Sandra Thaxter

Ashley Bryan, my very first art teacher, started me on my path as an artist and teacher of children. In the 1960s I took classes at the Art Center of Northern New Jersey where Ashley enchanted me along with all the other young students. I remember returning to his class after the summer break. Running up to his big smile and bright eyes he engulfed me in his arms with a big, big hug. In that moment I felt deeply loved and the center of his world. One day in class I was in the middle of a painting - one with a girl sitting on top of a hill. Of course I was painting the grass green! Isn’t that the color of grass?? Ashley dashed over, yanked the brush out of my hand, dipped it into red paint and dabbed it on top of my green declaring - “grass can be any color you like!” While I was a bit upset with what he’d done to my painting, I do remember being absolutely stunned and exhilarated with that “big idea” (as contemporary educators would define it). In actuality it was more of a gigantic idea: I could make things ANY color I wanted! My artist mind was altered and freed. Several years later, I had another special moment because of Ashley. To my great surprise, I received a book titled “Miracles”, an anthology of children’s art and poetry collected by Richard Lewis and published by Simon and Schuster. Paging through, I saw my linoleum block owl print (made in class) which Ashley had lent for publication. I was absolutely thrilled. Ashley’s special energy continues to impact me. He created a space for us to trust our imagination and to experiment with and delight in manipulating art materials. In my present studio practice that free flowing freedom I felt early on remains one of my touchstones. As a teaching artist in New York city schools I pass on his knowledge and mine, aiming to create safe spaces for children to make art and trust their ideas. And I remind myself that every interaction with a student counts! I know first hand the life long influence a teacher can have on her students. Judy Hoffman, Brooklyn, NY

–Judy Hoffman

I first discovered his work as I found Turtle Knows Your Name. I was drawn to the colors on the cover. During the pandemic I rediscovered his work as I was putting together a unit of African folk tales for my 3rd-5th graders. I read everything I could find by him, including his two autobiographies. I wrote to him and was thrilled when he wrote me back! His joy in creating and sharing his love of art is an inspiration. I will miss him greatly and I extend my sympathies to his family and friends.

–Amy Mendelsohn

Joy! With thanks for Ashley Bryan. He extended friendship and shared the delight he found in poetry, the natural world, stories, music and color with people of all ages in countries around the world. He was always encouraging each of us to create and to discover! What a great gift of love to us.

–Daryl Mark

Ashley used to visit Great Cranberry Island when I was a child, to visit, and collect along the beach. I remember watching him walking, focused on whatever the shore might offer for use in his art, wondering what he would find and what he would do with it. A few years ago a friend and I saw his wonderful exhibit at the Portland Museum of Art which included some of his incredible puppets. Gazing at them and seeing all the flotsam and jetsam that went into making them made me think of those days. He was remarkable in so many ways.

–Priscilla Seimer

Ashley conveyed love and exuberance through his song, words and heart-felt ability to communicate a loving tone. Thank you xoxoxo

–Sheila Geraty

It was an honor to watch Ashley sketch wild elephants in Aberdare National Park in Kenya.

–Mary Nix Hollowell

The first Ashley Bryan book that I read as a child, Walk Together Children, was published in the early 1980s. The last one, Infinite Hope, purchased when he came to visit his new center at Penn. I was 42. ("Loss" isn't quite the right word. "Irreplaceable" gets closer.)

–Ebony Elizabeth Thomas

Back in the 1990s, I drove from Northern VA to Southwest VA to attend a conference because author Lois Lowry was speaking. I remember winning a copy of her book The Giver because I had driven the furthest to attend. I also remember fondly meeting Ashley Bryan. He also spoke or rather sang with a little speaking thrown in. I learned the power of repetition that day. I learned the power of shared song that day. I learned I know had two favorite authors that day. It was so worth the 5 hour drive! Meeting Ashley Bryan that day was my biggest prize.

–Sally Donnelly

When I met my uncle I went to one of his book openings and I was inspired by his books that he has written in the 4 th grade I had a teacher who read one of my uncles books to my classmates that was a special moment I had to have my classmates read one of my uncles great inspirational books rip to my uncle Ashley Bryant 🙏🏽🙏🏽🙏🏽

–Amber berrios

I had the good fortune to be seated next to Ashley Bryan at a dinner during the early days of the Eric Carle Museum. Although at the time unaware of his valued contributions i was instantly struck by his enormous joy and engaging manner. We discovered and shared our mutual admiration of Langston Hughes and I was treated to his glorious recitations. I knew I'd spent the evening with someone extraordinary and had enjoyed the pleasure of his company thanks to the seating arrangements of Trinkett Clark.

–Kendra Daniel

Uncle Ashley was an loving, caring, joyful and a beautiful soul❤️He will truly be missed ❤️🙏🏿

–Celeste Sam3rd n Stefon’

I was never able to meet Ashley in person, but he seemed like the sun! His light, warmth and joy could be felt from anywhere. I'm working on an exhibition of his collages that will open at the Morgan Library in the fall and I look forward to thinking about him and celebrating his wonderful life and work all year long.

–Sal Robinson

May u s memory be a Blessing and an Inspiration to us all!


Truly the brightest of stars has left our world. Yet Ashley has left us so many gifts wrought with love, and he will continue to stand with us, egging us on to the love the world and each other recklessly as he did, working his mischief with that twinkle in his eye.

–Jennifer Gross

I have fond memories of Ashley from over 15 years ago when I was a fourth grade teacher at Forest View Elementary School in Durham, NC. Ashley was a frequent guest artist/author at our school. During one visit, I had the honor of being part of a small group who met with him at our principals home one evening. He was a gift to all who interacted with him. A creative and kind soul. I am now a school librarian in a different school in Durham, and happy to say that we have a nice collection of Ashley's books to share with students. I am grateful to have been able to meet him in person and to be able to continue to share his work with students and teachers.

–Paula Januzzi-Godfrey

It was a joy to work with Ashley each time he came to The Carle Museum. His warmth, kindness, and zest for like was apparent in each interaction he had. Whether it was signing books, presenting, or talking about his art one always felt his appreciation for those around him. Visiting him at his home on Little Cranberry was a day etched in my memory. His studio was an inspiration, his collections reflected his playfulness, and his welcome warmed my heart. He was a gift to us all. Rosemary Agoglia

How does one encapsulate a 30+ year friendship with Ashley Bryan from ALA & ECE conferences together in Memphis, Nashville, TN, Little Rock, AR, etc. with him as a speaker & me leading break out sessions. Prior to her death, Susie, "Soos" Valdina said, "There's no one like Ashley Bryan and all of us on the island love him." I say that anyone who came to know Ashley loved him. I certainly did! From boat trips over to Isleford for a day to visits requiring luggage, Ashley always met us at the dock.....loading our stuff in his "Choice Potatoes--uh huh" cart and pulling it to the Braided Rug or his house for us. On a visit to Isleford with daughter, Molly, celebrating her 21st b'day in 2000, Ashley helped her keep her bucket list of eating lobster every day on her trip to Maine. Fresh from the dock lobster. That's what he prepared for us. That and toasted cheese sandwiches which he also made and said was the extent of his culinary expertise. When we ate at the dock restaurant he told us stories of encouraging Stephen Hillenburg, creator of SpongeBob SquarePants, as he sat and sketched at the tables when he was on break from boiling lobsters & cooking fries inspiration for his character's story in a TV show. Ashley encouraged everyone. On our last day, he spent the day, watching the sunrise with me, gathering sea glass & teaching Molly the true art of paper mâché even getting up through the night to check the progress---we loved hearing him correctly pronounce paper mâché! He could create something from nothing and did it well. On another visit he fascinated my husband and me with his WWII stories in the segregated US Army and all he faced....not complaining just explaining, but it hurt me to hear some of it. The times he came to Memphis he regaled us of Harlem, & the Bronx and with stories of his parents immigrating from Antigua, another word we loved to hear him say. He's the reason we made sure we were able to see Langston Hughes, "Black Nativity," when produced at Hattieloo Black Repertory Theatre in Memphis & purchased a stone to honor Ashley there. When he visited Memphis, he would stay with us, often visiting classes at the University of Memphis where I had taught or elementary schools, Southwind and Lakeland, where I had been librarian as well as St. George's Independent School where daughter Molly was teaching art. The energy and spunk that man had even into his 90s! My house is full of Ashley treasures! From the heart rocks on my patio, posters and prints on my walls, and books every where to his recorded works and my "Stand of Dahlias" oil painting which he painted in the summers of 2004-2005 & sent to me in January 2006 saying---"it sang out to me of Dotsy." Mostly, my heart is filled with a treasure trove of memories and love from knowing Ashley Frederick Bryan! Proverbs 17:17a says, "A friend loves at all times." I was blessed to call him friend!

–Dotsy Liles, Friend in the Faith

Ashley Bryan's work has inspired me and touched me in so many ways. I love recommending the books he's written and illustrated and introducing people to the beauty of his work. Thank you, Mr. Bryan, you will be missed.

–Kate J

All of us at The Cooper Union, Ashley's alma mater, were deeply saddened to learn of his passing. It was an honor in 2021 to present him with the Cooper Union Alumni Association's 2021 Augustus Saint-Gaudens Award for professional achievement in art. His acceptance speech was a highlight of the awards ceremony and his words live on through the video of his speech and Nick's wonderful introduction of him, beginning at the 29 minute mark:

–Anna S. Covatta, Assistant Director, Alumni Affairs at The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art

Ashley stayed at my home when he was the guest author at our Young Authors' Conference for my children's school where I taught. It was such an honor to host him, and his bedtime story to my children was something none of us would ever forget. What a beautiful soul. He will never leave us because we have his words and his incredible energy to remain with us.

–Sue Corbin

Incredible soul. How lucky I feel to have experienced his gifts during my lifetime.

–Renee Conroy

It was such a privilege to work with Ashley on an essay for Something about the Author. Hearing his story in his own words was truly inspiring, and his clear care for young people—and encouraging them to thrive and believe in themselves—continues to lift me up. He was a light in this world, and his work and legacy continue to shine.

–Alana Joli Abbott

Uncle, such an inspiration to me, my entire life. Rest in peace, Uncle Ashley. Lots if love.

–Barry Bryan

I just read his obituary and feel inspired. What a gift from God.

–Margie Peterson in Minnesota

A little over four decades ago Ashley became my drawing teacher, but along with drawing, what I learned from him was a beautiful way of being in the world. His drawing classes were a highlight of my college years. The poetry of his words, the dance of his hand gestures, the resonance of his voice as he encouraged us with cries of “Coraggio!,” the inspiring stories he told such as that of Hokusai hoping to finally know how to truly draw at age 100 …these are all indelible memories of Ashley. When I discovered his books in the children’s section of the Hanover Bookstore, I went to him for advice on becoming a children’s book illustrator. The generosity of his time was immeasurable. In subsequent years I became a school librarian and we would connect at children’s literature conferences as well as when he was in the Philadelphia area doing programs at Linda Cuffler’s library in the Springside School. I’ll never forget the time the librarians and other attendees at a conference were lulled by Ashley’s initial gentle and soft-spoken nature as he was introduced, but when he launched into a full-voiced rendition of a Langston Hughes poem they were literally lifted off their seats. I knew what was coming, so was prepared. Visits to his home on Little Cranberry Island were magical experiences, especially once we had our children with us. It was uncanny how the puppets made from materials he found on the beach would come alive on his hands. The light coming through the beach glass windows depicting the four apostles cast the Maine light into another dimension. And of course, seeing the latest book project in process scattered over the table was like seeing a conjuror at work. He signed his letters with Peace, Joy, and Love – and those all came from Ashley in powerful, life-affirming waves. That became all the more remarkable when we learned about what he had experienced earlier in his life and the infinite hope that he embodied. Well, throughout life’s twists and turns I never became a children’s book illustrator (perhaps I will at age 100), but an Ashley-inspired sketchbook continues to be a daily practice. Ashley lives on in all of those many fortunate people whose lives he touched.

–Walt Cressler

He is a true patriot in poetry. I met him at mount Kenya Academy in kenya.He was a great inspiration to many children and me as a teacher remember him vividly.May his soul rest in peace

–Elijah Nguyo

We all should strive to live our lives more like Ashley Bryan, what a better place this world would be!

–Benjamin Sapp, Director of Mazza Museum

He came to Maryland and inspired and delighted us with stories, art and of course--poetry! I shall forever cherish my signed copy of the book What a Wonderful World. Great artist and a beautiful soul!

–Elisa Wrenn

Ashley Bryan came to Reading the World, the educators and authors conference at USF designed and powered by Alma Flor Ada, and immediately lit up the conference hall. "Langston HUUUUUGHES" reverberated down the hallways, and he, lit from within, filled all of us with his light and artistry. What a gift.

–Tracy O Heffernan

One day back in 2014, I was asked by Polly Guth to go boating. I was with my daughter, Claire. We ran from Sutton over to pick up a friend and her two boys on Great Cranberry. The fog rolled in quickly and thick, and I was not very comfortable running Polly’s boat. We needed a place to spend the afternoon. We jumped over to Islesford and called Ashley. He welcomed us into his house and that afternoon he gave art lessons to our kids as Polly cheered everyone on. The experience left an indelible impact on everyone present. My daughter still remembers the day clearly and talks about it as one of the many reasons she loves art, storytelling. A moment in time that will live on for lifetimes.

–Rob Snyder

To have been able to hear so many wonderful unique stories of how Ashley Bryan’s legendary talents touched the world, all by way of his family for sure he’s loved & living on through many hearts.

–Yvette Olivieri

Here is a tribute to Ashley Bryan written by one of my students, a young man who knew Ashley as a child when he visited ( more that once) in one of Atlanta’s inner-city schools. The student chooses the teacher ( not vice versa) - And the poet chooses the poet. This tribute brings me to tears: In Memoriam of Mr. Ashley When Ones Race is Done You will find me there under life’s sycamore tree With an aged book in hand Surrounded by tomorrow’s gifts Bright eyes and wonderful smiles Curious about everything With fingers and hands raised toward the sky … Minds filled with questions and answers to questions unasked As life has given me so much, and so I return the gesture Love for love, compassion for compassion, And in the idea that “This is God’s work” Come sit with me awhile As the evening is upon me My book, my writings, my teachings, my sharing of the story of love My burden I lay down. I lay me down as well. Until I rise anew Augustus Larry Mccolley

–Kemie Nix, Children's Literature for Children

Is it possible to post photos?


I remember returning to Dartmouth after taking a year off to attend art school in Aix-en-Provence and wondering if I had done the right thing. I knew I had, when I walked into the first day of painting class with Ashley Bryan. Immediately he captured our hearts and minds and inspired us! Every class was pure joy because of him. And I’ve been so grateful for his friendship since, faithfully answering letters with encouragement for the past forty years! I treasure the memories of the few times I visited him in his home on Isleford. Going there always felt like a pilgrimage. Ashley you live on in our hearts and I’m so grateful for your friendship and for your amazing gifts that you so generously shared with the world.

–Marrin Robinson

I was not one of the fortunate ones to have known Ashley for decades, though as I work on a major retrospective of his life and work, an exhibition to take place in the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts at the University of Pennsylvania, scheduled to open in February 2023, I have begun to meet the many iterations of Ashley over his lifetime, always thoughtful, always engaged, always immersed in art, poetry, music, and always creating community wherever he went. His was not an easy life, thought it may appear so to some. The many challenges he faced and fears he felt informed the trajectory of his life and his art. I first met Ashley not through his books but through his archive, at least the portion of his archive that was then stored in a fine arts facility in Boston. Visiting the archive in April 2018 with Nick Clark and my colleague David McKnight, I was blown away by what I saw. Correspondence that covered decades; drawings from his childhood; photographs of his time in Europe; original artwork for his many book projects; two volumes of drawings, with reference to book, chapter, and verse, for an illustrated edition of the Bible; all of these and more treasures were housed in the many boxes we looked through that day. Here were the documents that told the story of a twentieth-century African American artist and poet struggling to understand himself and his place in the world. At that point, I wanted to meet Ashley and so my colleague (and husband) John Pollack and I decided to take a trip up to Little Cranberry Island in May to visit for a day. Nick arranged for the visit and I invited my sister Cheryl, her sons Brendan and Nicholas, and Brendan’s girlfriend Kathleen along for the trip. We packed a lunch, met Nick at the mailboat, and headed over to the island. The day was magical and made an indelible impression on the young folks, who continue to speak about that experience. We were all smitten! Excitement at the thought of bringing Ashley’s archive to Penn and sharing it with the world led us to write the proposal that the Ashley Bryan Center accepted in 2019, following a visit by Ashley in January of that year. He and members of the Center’s board wanted to meet the people and visit the place that would hold his history as well as introduce Ashley to the Kislak Center and the Penn community. Ashley, himself, was excited when he discovered that Marian Anderson’s papers were also housed in Kislak. After all, he fell in love with Marian Anderson and her music as a young man and attended her concerts whenever possible. It was a delightful visit and, though we didn’t know it at the time, only the first of two that year. During the summer of 2019, David, John, and I spent a week on Little Cranberry locating archival materials throughout Ashley’s house and spending time with Ashley. Of course, there was always a stream of people coming through the house, and we had a chance to meet them as well. Some were old friends, others were visiting for the first time. Plans were made for shipping materials from Boston and Little Cranberry to Penn in the fall of 2019 and for the celebration of his new book, Infinite Hope, in early December. While we didn’t expect that Ashley would be able to make the trip from Houston, he insisted and it was a wonderful reprise, with a school visit and various interviews to fill the days at Penn. Of course, the pandemic hit in early 2020 and plans for processing the archive and planning the exhibition were put on hold. In the fall of 2020 processing finally began, and the exhibition, first planned for 2021 and then 2022, later moved to early 2023, once we recognized the time it would take with few working in the library more than one or two days a week. Needing to select some additional items for the exhibition and to decide what other materials, including some paintings and puppets, would come to Penn, John and I returned to Cranberry Island last summer to do so, but more importantly, to see Ashley again, and we are so glad we did. Ashley told everyone who came in that we were “his librarians,” a moniker we are grateful to have bestowed on us. More recently, other institutions, including the Morgan Library and Museum, the Eric Carle Museum, and Colby College, have recently come seeking to borrow some of Ashley’s art for their own exhibitions, so Ashley will be widely celebrated in the months and years to come. Ashley, we will miss you, but you will live on forever in our hearts and minds. I will do my best to do justice to your legacy in 2023.

–Lynne Farrington, Director of Programs/Senior Curator, Kislak Center, University of Pennsylvania

Ashley's been a dear friend and mentor for 43 years to me. I first encountered Ashley as a student at Dartmouth and after taking that drawing course with him. I made a commitment to take his courses when ever he was on campus, which was once a year. Beyond the art, Ashley taught me about teaching, the full capacity of goodness in the human spirit, history, and so much about living an authentic life. His nuggets of advise and wisdom have been touchstones for me throughout these decades. When I started teaching art fresh out of college, Ashley was my model of excellence. For anybody who experienced Ashley, it was clear that he was a passionate renaissance man. Nobody could articulate and express the spoken word like Ashley. He was the essence of grace and humility despite several encounters with institutional racism; he always chose the high road. I feel blessed that my family has had the opportunity to spend time with him at his home and when he was performing in various venues. Ashley will always be a gift to the world. I will so miss his voice, the twinkle in his eye, his laugh, his beautiful creations; he was such an incredible person.

–Jay Mead

Oh I am heartbroken to think he is not here with us but know he is Joyful somewhere else. I had the privilege of meeting Ashley and working on some of his projects when I worked at HarperCollins children's books. He always spoke to me like I was his friend. I shared his poetry with my children and my family. One of my very favorite things was introducing his art and poetry to my dear friend and artist Tom Luckey. He was a sculpture of interactive climbers for Children. Tom shared Ashley's wonder of the world and folks. An accident left Tom a quadriplegic in his mid 60's. But his spirit was a strong and joyful one. Tom would call me on Skype back in the day. I introduced him to Ashley's poetry. He would have me read them over and over again. Our very favorite one was "The Black Birds Party." Just saying the words of Ashely Bryants poems lifted the spirits and colored our imaginations. JOY! JOY! JOY! Rest in peace dear brother. You continue to inspire. May God Bless your beautiful Soul.

–Angela Corbo Gier

Ashley’s message to the world was always a call to LOVE. Love more, love harder. I’m so grateful to have met him, and to have witnessed how one man could profoundly affect so many people through poetry and art, though his own courage and truth.

–Alexandra Kennedy

Several years ago, I visited Islesford. I also visited the Congregational church there and saw Ashley's beach glass windows. Just outside the church, there was a home, and at that home, there was a cat resting in an old Garden-way cart. My daughter knew Ashley, and talked long with him about creating. He stressed the importance of creating every day. Persistence! Joy! I have worked on a painting of that cat in the cart for years beyond that visit. Each time I set in to working on it, I remembered Islesford and Ashley's advice about creating. As I worked on it, I had a vision of his work and the lovely atmosphere of a summer on Islesford. Just today, I learned of Ashley's passing. I finished that painting last week.


Uncle Ashley, I am honored to have known you through Barry and Yolanda. We began with Yolanda bringing your books to work. We met at many of your literary and art events. It was always a pleasure. I am a lover of books and all aspects of the literary arts, visual arts and the performing arts of which Uncle Ashley ( He allowed me to call him Uncle) was a griot and a scholar. I will miss him. But he has left an archive for all to enjoy. Rest in peace Uncle Ashley and Thank you for the legacy.

–Denise A Penn

To me Ashley was the essence of warmth and creativity. Whether it was watching him paint Emerson’s Garden or listening to him recite a poem at literary evening, he always brought a sense of joy and wonder to whatever he did. I have particularly fond memories of being his student in the IDR Painting Workshop during the summer of 2016 that he taught with Henry Isaacs. Ashley always appreciated each student’s creative perspective, and I was so honored to get to learn from him. More recently I’ve enjoyed watching our four-year-old son connect with Ashley and his world of toys and jellybeans. I am so grateful for all that he gave to the Islesford community. We will miss him always.

–Melissa Axelrod

Mr. Bryan visited the school my kids were attending in the mid-90's. I was so impressed with his presentation and the way he related to the kids. A few years later I took a Multi-cultural Children's Literature class and during one session the teacher was holding up some books and I commented that one looked like Ashley Bryan's illustrations. She looked at it and confirmed it was. His illustrations are one of a kind!

–Susan Davis, Library Media Technician in CA

The night is beautiful, so was the face of Ashley. The stars are beautiful so were the eyes of Ashley. Beautiful also is the sun. Beautiful also was the soul of Ashley Bryan. Thanking God for allowing me to meet such a humble, talented and gifted human being. I will continue to share his legacy with the world. Good night and I can't wait to see you in that great getting up morning.

–Auntie Jo Jo and all the children, storytellers and poets who were graced by your presence.

As I read through these wonderful words, these vignettes, I see what I already knew. Being in the presence of Ashley was a place where a person could feel the connectedness of us all. He communicated to everyone he met that as humans we all have an incredible capacity for love and goodness. He did this through poetry, enthusiasm and an energy that rivaled the sun. I will be forever grateful for the time I spent working for The Ashley Bryan Center to assist in the preservation of his art. I once heard him say, "We survive through storytelling." Those words have bounced around my soul in many different ways, but today they remind me that Ashely's inspiration will go on and on.

–Carla Carpenter

A one of a kind, that is Ashley. I’ve been blessed to have seen him in person a few times, always an upbeat, happy loving soul that magically spread his love especially though his wonderful hugs!

–JoAnn LePoer (“JoJo”)

Ashley was my mentor. As a young man in medical school with an interest in the arts, I used to travel to Islesford where my aunt had a home. Helen Hellman and Ashley Bryan were close friends who met in Aix-en-Provence FRANCE. Ashley lived in my aunt's home when he was on the island, and we spent a lot of time over the years together. On my aunt's property was another "structure", and on the 2nd floor Ashley had his studio with puppets made of seashells, drawings, paintings and stained glass. Later, upon becoming more famous he built his own home kiddy corner to my aunt's home. Ashley inspired me in writing a book of poetry and drawings entitled "A Moment's Song Is All I Sing" and another illustrated book, "What's Up, Doc?" Ashley was part of our family, and his "way" has continued to influence me through the years. Ashley visited many of my friends and relatives over the years and spoke at the memorial service for Aunt Helen at the cemetery where she was buried behind her home and garden. WIthout Ashley in my life, I would have been a different person.

–David P Kalin MD MPH

It is so amazing to read peoples’ memories of Ashley, every one unique. I am so grateful to have known him, and have so many wonderful memories: dinners at our house featuring Dark and Stormy (ies), musical evenings at the Dock with Ashley sketching the musicians, Ashley visiting Cambridge and coming with me to my poetry class, offering encouragement and kudos to everyone, (even the teacher); sitting with Ashley in the Pavilion and talking about his beautiful stained glass; gardening at the Pavilion while Ashley painted, and it goes on and on. And always, as Dan said, there would be a poem, perfectly attuned to the moment, recited in his sonorous voice with so much love and conviction. He was one of the greatest gifts in my life, and brought joy and love to everyone he knew. How lucky we all are to have had Ashley as a friend.

–Emily Axelrod

So much love is what he shared so kindly. Always joyful always strong always alive in my heart. Will miss the times spent together but so grateful for every moment. I have been so blessed to be a part of his family. Till we meet again at your breakfast table I will continue to be inspired and keep you close to my heart.

–Yolanda bryan

This is the man who held a book in his hands and smacked it, so the words would land and took the room with such command you were forever changed, from when he began. Rest in peace, art, & love infinite, Ashley Bryan

–Samantha Berger@BergerBooks

For many years now, once in spring and once in fall, my beloved handspinners group, the Wednesday Spinners, have taken the mail boat from Northeast Harbor out to Islesford for a day of spinning and time together. Many years ago, we would meet at Kathleen and Bob Bowman's house. In later years--until COVID put a stop to it--we have been gathering at Sue and Richard Hill's. There was always soup and an abundance of food to share; and--when he was in residence--Ashley would join us for lunch. Sometimes he would bring the working copy of his latest book to share with us. Sometimes he would tell stories or recite poems. Once, knowing of our deep interest in all things fiber, he brought a collection of beautiful fabrics from a center he was working with in Africa. Always, it was a joy to see him. He lit up the room with his smile and filled the space with his familiar voice, reading, reciting, laughing with us. We were often invited to tour his remarkable home. I think we spinners all hope that we will return to our regular gatherings on the island once COVID has passed, but our time there will be a little--no, a lot--emptier knowing that Ashley won't be joining us for lunch. We, collectively and as individuals, have been wholly enriched by his presence in our lives over the years. The world has lost an amazing being, but his spirit will live on in our hearts and minds. Deepest condolences to all of Ashley's family and his immense circle of friends. Peace. Love. Joy.

–Penelope Olson, Wednesday Spinner

I met and knew Ashley Bryan through his dear and very close friends Nancy Andrews and Dru Cobert. They both are great teachers of various arts at College of the Atlantic on Mount Desert Island and worked with him on many projects. (Another great story someone else will tell). They introduced me to his fascinating (pack-filled with art and treasures from around the world) house and to Ashley who made us lunch, He is a treasure and very kind and welcoming to anyone and everyone living or visiting him on Little Cranberry island - (A 20 minute boat ride from MDI). My very favorite art pieces are his puppets. Each is uniquely made and often attached with wonderful stories. He is inspiring to the world and should be better known. He smiles a lot and performs. He has written and illustrated many books - mostly for children. All people and all ages are his “My People". A national treasure!

–Susan Griffiths

I send sincere condolences to his family at this sad time. It was such a gift to work with Ashley Bryan on his WW2 memoir Infinite Hope, and then to finally meet him was an absolute joy. It’s is such a heartfelt and meaningful book from this amazing visionary that I will be forever proud of. Rest in Peace Ashley! -Irene Metaxatos

–Irene Metaxatos

The last time I spent time with Ashley was summer 2018. I popped in to say hello and Sarah Corson and his niece were just sitting down to enjoy a cup of her homemade corn chowder. Ashely asked me to join them and, I declined as I was unannounced. The 3 of them insisted, so I joined them. It was a precious visit; little did I know just how precious it would be. I will miss everything about Ashley, but mostly, I will miss his epic heartfelt hugs. Ashley, be confident that I will always focus on joy and I will always celebrate the child in me - that is your legacy.

–Biz Houghton

Ashley Bryan visited our Library, Langston Hughes Community Library and Cultural Center, a branch of the Queens Public Library, years ago and presented to the school children of our neighborhood, in the courtyard. His presentation was wonderful, the kids loved it, and we all felt very honored to have him visit. His books were inspired. I love his cut paper illustrations, his books of poetry, and his more recent autobiographical work for children. Thank you for all you contributed!!

–Alexandra Power

There is hardly a day go by that I don’t hear Ashley at some point. Shouting “helllllllllll-ohhhhhhh” from his kitchen, whispering excitedly, “push that button, look what this one can do”, with a giggle over a new toy, or “I’m almost finished with this sea glass panel, come take a looooook…” Over the past few years he would point to one of his creations and say, “I made that, can you believe that IIIIIIIIIIIIIII maaaaade that?”, speaking not out of hubris but over true wonder that we are each capable of creating such beauty in the world, and it’s a miracle!!!!!! When I would ask him how he kept at his work… he was always busy with book projects, paintings, sea glass panels, puppets, or “cooking coffee”… he would say, “I don’t want to show up at the pearly gates, stand in front of St. Peter, and have him ask me what I have been up to …. And have NOTHING to say!” Well Ashley, I imagine you and St. Peter are still talking. The treasures you left us with are innumerable. And beyond the creative works, how can we count the ways that you bolstered us all up, inspired us, gave us hope, and helped us train a keen eye on the wonders within ourselves, in each other, and in the world.

–dru colbert

It may be a well worn cliché, but Ashley Bryan did literally light up a room. He made everyone so happy. That voice! That spirit! Go out and read his books. Study the art. Study the man. Ashley celebrated the joy of life, because that was what he was. Pure joy! Ah, the vibrant colors of his work! And that smile! The first time I heard him speak, I asked him afterwards if he would speak at my funeral. I thought he would live forever. And he nearly did! What a wide, varied, brilliant legacy he has left us. The best way to honor him is to enjoy his work. He would have asked for nothing more and nothing less. Good bye, dear Ashley! You will make the angels smile.

–Michael Patrick Hearn

At every event I attended where Ashley was a speaker , the energy in the room and the warmth and the love increased a thousand fold as soon as he began with "My people" It was as if he was surrounded by a circle of light, life and joy and that circle increased to include everyone in the room and beyond. RIP you giver of life and love and joy.

–Edie Ching

Ashley was deeply loved by everyone at Mount Kenya Academy in Nyeri, Kenya. The students adored him. We shall miss his exciting visits. Rest in eternal peace Ashley Bryan, our friend.

–Mount Kenya Academy

I remember meeting him more than once on Little Cranberry. Very cordial and easy to converse with. A fit man that took care of himself. An exemplary man who embraced love and kindness.

–Ernie Wood

I am one of the lucky people to have spent time with Ashley Bryan. Several times in my life I have had the honor of spending time with him on some book tours I had been on. I especially remember spending a wonderful day with him in Little Rock, Arkansas. A wonderful woman had invited us to her area to talk to children about why and how we both wrote and illustrated children’s books. There he was, Ashley, with that twinkle in his eye and a marvelous grin. One night he suggested that we should go to a small restaurant in the area he had discovered that made incredible fried cat fish. What a great evening! We talked and laughed about all the wonderful times we had spent having time to share talking to children. What a wonderful audience they could be! Ashley told me he had just had his 80th birthday and how amazed he was to have hundreds of people show up on his much beloved island to celebrate. That was no surprise to me…knowing Ashley. What a delight it was spending time with him. He gave me a great honor showing up at The Gilly Museum in South West Harbor, Maine, where I was talking about a book I had just published with Holiday House. I was so excited to see him there, knowing how difficult getting from one island to another can be. I told him I couldn’t be more honored for him to show up. We continued to visit at author tours and conferences and catch up on things. Ashley…I will always remember you, your love for life, that twinkle in your eye and, of course, your magical grin.

–Gail gibbons

I have a very dear friend who has a family cottage on Cranberry Island and on a weekend visit there she took us to Ashley’s home to meet him and see all of his amazing artwork. He welcomed us with open arms and very graciously gave us a tour of his incredible home. It was during that tour in his room of puppets that I was deeply deeply touched by how these amazing creations came to life the moment he picked one up. I was moved to tears at that moment because I felt the pure joy from his amazing gift. He saw my tears but continued on with the tour and at the end simply came up to me and gave me a hug. It was one of the best hugs I have ever received! I feel blessed to have had this experience and will never be able to put into words how deeply it impacted me. I will forever remember his kindness and think of him often.

–Sue Worthing

I met Ashley at the Plum Creek Literacy Festival some years ago. I remember him as being so kind and caring, and taking the time to talk with me, just like he was a long-time friend. I love his beautiful illustrations and inspiring writing, and own many of the books he wrote or illustrated. I will continue to cherish these books and the time I met Ashley for all my life.

–Judy Ripke

One year I was at the ALA convention in Orlando and I was invited by an author to drive across the country from Chicago to Maine to meet Ashley Bryan, as she did so every year on his birthday. I hardly believed that offer to be serious but when I was sure that it was, I swapped phone numbers with the author, but ultimately my anxiety at such a brave feat to travel across the country with one famous author to meet another one overwhelmed me and I backed out. I actually drove across the country three times that summer, each time to visit my daughter who was playing at Tanglewood. If I had sacrificed just one of those visits I would have been able to meet this remarkable man, I should have just taken that risk and lived in the moment and taken that drive... but I didn't. Some time later I attended the Newbery Banquet where "Freedom Over Me" received an honor, and watched as this wonderful man overpowered the person helping him off the stage, and through his sheer willpower boomed his Langston Hughes out over the ballroom, no microphone. I no longer live in America but always wanted to go back and make that trip - I am still determined to do so one day, but this remains my most important lesson in seizing your moments with both hands when they are offered.

–Sue Conolly

Wherever he was, Ashley lit up the room. In 2019 we were doing a program at the Kislak Center at the University of Pennsylvania where his archive is housed, and after connecting everyone with his inimitable call and response of "My People," the QandA proceeded. His editor Caitlyn Dlouhy was in attendance and asked him about when he was in Scotland [en route to Omaha Beach and D-Day] his desire to learn some Scottish poetry. Without missing a beat, Ashley began reciting a Robert Burns poem complete with brogue. I had the pleasure of looking out at the audience who looked on in wonder and awe. That was Ashley. For me it has been more than a privilege and pleasure to have worked with Ashley for almost thirty years, culminating in helping the Ashley Bryan Center secure his well-deserved legacy. He is with the angels

–nick clark

I first visited Ashley Bryan in 2011 with fellow artist friends. Later that year, when teaching at College of the Atlantic, I visited again with students. We were welcomed as family and began pulling out pots and pans and roasting chicken and vegetables and cooking greens where there wasn’t recent evidence of big, messy cooking. What greater pleasure imaginable than sharing a table with Ashley while talking about storytelling? At the end of this visit after the pots and pans were restored, and at the end of every visit, I left carrying more food for thought than I brought, of the life-joy and wisdom and artistic insights Ashley imparted. One of the greatest moments of my life was eating ice-cream with Ashley Bryan. No one ever enjoyed or extended pleasure of a single drop of life as he could. And somehow, with everyone and their Aunt and their Aunt’s friend, and the friend’s of these friends visiting, Ashley’s work wasn’t impeded. Love and gratitude blooms for a magnificent friend whose life was art, and whose incredible works remain with us. I absorbed the power of the oral traditions, thanks to Ashley's wonderful offerings of poetry, call and response and our conversations. His earthly presence will be missed and memories cherished.

–Lisa Leaverton

The world has lost an incredible person in Ashley Bryan. As curator at The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, I'm both honored and humbled to care for his remarkable art. Ashley, over two decades, generously donated 160 artworks from 35 titles. We have cut paper collages from Beautiful Blackbird, tempera and gouache paintings from The Adventures of Aku, linoleum prints from Walk Together Children: Black American Spirituals, numerous pencil studies, and more. I’m proud The Carle will continue to care for—and share—his beautiful art long into the future. Ashley’s work has been a recurring presence in the museum’s galleries since its earliest days. We’ve organized three solo exhibitions: Ashley Bryan: Beautiful Blackbird (2003); Painter and Poet: The Wonderful World of Ashley Bryan (2005); and most recently, Ashley Bryan in Song (2021). The Carle also assembled and traveled the exhibition Painter and Poet: The Art of Ashley to the High Museum of Art in Atlanta (2017) and the Portland Museum of Art in Maine (2018). Ashley will be one of 20 artists featured in the museum’s upcoming show, Celebrating Collage: A 20th Anniversary Celebration. His stories and images will continue to inspire and educate. May Ashley’s indomitable spirit reverberate for generations. Ellen Keiter Chief Curator The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art

–Ellen Keiter

One of The Very Best Souls on this Planet and Plane of Existence has Left us. Ashley Bryan. February 4th. I wrote following on his Nephew's fb post: Thank You for sharing your Uncle with all of us. I knew Ashley since I was a Toddler. He has always been one of my Most Favorite Souls on this Planet. I will never forget any of the visits my Family and I had with him on Little Cranberry Island in Maine. I am So Sorry for your Loss. My Thoughts and Prayers are with You and your Family. 🙏❤️🕊️ Rest in Peace, Ashley. Thank You for bringing So Much Joy and Light into So Many of Our Lives. We will Miss You.❤️🕊️

–Kelley Keane-McAlexander

I will never forget the time I got to meet Ashley Bryan with my classmates on Little Cranberry Island .We were a small group teachers fortunate enough to take a summer course on Maine children's books authors . It was such a privilege to meet such a creative and gifted man. He not only inspired us but he opened his home to us and impressed us with his kindness, I will never forget this special [ day and the wonderful soul he was.!

–Joanne Frecker

Ashley, I knew it was your time coming, chosen on the day I lost my Father 15 years ago. I burned a candle for him all that day, not knowing it was for you, too. You did just so well here, moving so many of us so deeply for so long. Children loved you, artists, cultures, everyone. You got in front of an audience and rose them to their feet, crying and laughing at the same time. Now you must rest. Thank you for using your famous grilled lunch sandwiches in your studio at Dartmouth College as an excuse to inspire me each and every time. Monet was always the subject, reading Rilke poems to me in German, (they sounded so much more real than in translations), and there was always poetry in the cheese sandwiches you made the exact same each time. They were so nourishing because you made them. Love, Lorna

–Lorna Ritz

Dear family of Ashley, I met dear Ashley Bryan on Cranbury Island with his dear friend Henry Isaacs when I had the extraordinary privilege of attending their workshop in the town, dock, and shores of that most special place of theirs and their spirits. My heart and life has been indelibly warmed by their painting, humble talks and association with those who cherish their art and the ability to share and teach those who love being with and learning from artists. My particular joy was meeting Ashley and learning of his humble and precious gifts of his spirit and his art to the world and particularly to those with whom he came in contact to be influenced by and to influence. My love to dear Ashley and his blessed family as my sorrow in his passing is replaced by the joy he has given to my living in creativity and art.... May all of life's love and respect be with Ashley and his family as the years and experiences progress with us all, with love and gratitude, Elinor Anne Spencer

–Anne Spencer

Nikki Grimes (she/her) @nikkigrimes9 · Feb 5 Replying to @tinahoggatt Ashley Bryan was love walking.

–Nikki Grimes

I met Ashley Bryan when I was providing supply church leadership for the congregation in Islesford one summer. I always asked him to read the Scripture because he did it so beautifully. When he said Thus Saith The Lord, well, it was like hearing the very voice of God. Then we discovered we shared so much--the love of art and poetry and a passion for justice and inclusion. One of the first programs I put together at Oranbega Retreat Center in Orland, Maine, was a presentation of Ashley, his art, his life, his beautiful spirit. He so richly blessed us all. I am sad that he has gone from us now in body, but his spirit will live on and his legacy will continue in the love and dedication so richly witnessed already on this site by so many people, each of whom knew Ashley as a dear, loving friend and inspiration. I wrote this poem for him last year. Ashley’s Irises Your irises, blue like mine But darker, dancing to purple Among shoots of green, With deep pink petals, Glow in the light, become The background to my day, Living behind my head To manifest and mend The storm in my heart My many-petaled yearning for The peace of things that grow. Your dark eyes see the light Of earth and sky in balance. Shaken and held by paint here laid By your hand, tender and brown So skillfully, we too find our Balance: the blood of Antigua And the caretaker’s broom Against the presumptuous fruit Of Britons raped by Vikings In a gentle professor’s seed. From our failures, all our flowers spring. Remember our meeting? you in the pew Making the church shake With the voice of the prophet Ancient, humble, and full of joy, Not reading but being the Holy Word, Me in my pulpit hearing you For the first time, and knowing As if for the first time, God Is the artist on whose brush Our souls and not our skins endure? All this in a sheaf of crowded color! Petals in sunshine and shadow, leaves Leaping up and flowers, flowers Ready for anything, ready to pierce Each day with beauty and a life with joy. Thank you for the beautiful black light Of your eyes, your irises teaching Mine to see the cloud in the corner No match for the riot of blossom That is our common life. Teacher And pupil, your purples preach Love’s human, rooted, iridescent truth.

–Jenny Reece

My twin sons and I first met Ashley 20 years ago at a Children’s Literature New England event in Toronto. He was pleased to hear that both boys would be attending Cooper Union in the fall and talked of his appreciation for that institution and how it had encouraged his art career. Whenever we met again, and it was many times, he always inquired after their progress as artists. When we visited him at his home in Little Cranberry, he talked to them seriously about his life as an artist. To me, his will always epitomize the truly creative life. His generosity of spirit, keen insights about life, graceful welcoming of all he met, and joyful outlook are gifts he has given us all. I will treasure his books, my limited-edition print of “My Lord What a Morning,” and memories of our friendship for as long as I live. I am blessed to have known this gentle, beautiful, soul. Rest in peace, love, and bright beauty, Ashley

–Elizabeth Poe

Ashley was one of the most beautiful souls I ever encountered. He radiated kindness, warmth, goodness, and joy. I was always touched by it in his presence, even in an auditorium filled with hundreds of people. Whenever I saw him at events, I went to him for an embrace hoping some of his irrepressibly joyful spirit would rub off on me. I do not if he remembered me, but he always received me with open arms. I am so grateful he graced this Earth with his presence for ninety-eighty years and so sad knowing that there is one less bright light illuminating the darkness in this mean old world. Thank you, Dear One, for blessing this world with your presence and all the beautiful creations you left us to treasure.

–Edward Sullivan, Oak Ridge, TN

May his soul rest eternally in peace. Last week we were talking about him. What a great soul he is. We will always remember him for the great works he did. We love him and he will be an angel guiding us. His spirit will be forever with us. HAMBA KAHLE, Ashley.

–Gcobani Zonke, Ubuntu Pathways. Port Elizabeth, South Africa

Ashley Bryan by Patty Simon Last night I got the news – Ashley Bryan passed away. For years, all of the “Newton Ladies” had been holding their breath. When will we lose our beloved Ashley? When I read the text, an overwhelming sense of loss came over me. It was also selfish. As an artist, Ashley was my top mentor. He showed me the way to be a true artist… one that made art joyful and relevant. He did this by his example of working on a variety of mediums, all at the same time. There is a window of energy that one medium uses up. How do you go on with your day of creativity? By doing it the Ashley way… jumping from illustration to puppet making to stained glass to flower painting to making your home your own museum, to sharing your table with anybody and everyone. In a way, Ashley was my cheerleader. Just by his example he gave me a profound gift… how to be an artist. His death hit me hard. So hard that I became more curious. Ashley was soooo many things to so many people. His child-like enthusiasm was contagious and awe-inspiring. His talent was overwhelming. His success as a children’s book illustrator was beyond measure. His place in the world of racism and black history was decades in front of others. His awards. His approachability. His arms raised up on the dock seeing you off. But, it hit me as I went to bed, what I had really lost in Ashley… his “pure of heart” love of everyone and everything and his goodness. There are not too many people who have this quality. Its pureness, I mean. He was truly a candle in this world. He was the counterpoint of all we see on the news. He helped balance the woes of the world with wonder and delight. He had a radiance that we were all drawn to. Spending an afternoon with him, literally, filled me up for the year. I only hope that it was reciprocal in some way for him. I woke up early this morning in Ashby and do what I do every day… I look out to the first light of day, rewarded by the rainbow pastels of the dawns first light. Sheer beauty. Today, that beauty is Ashley saying, “Good Morning, what delight will you find and what good can you add to this world today?”

–Patty M Simon

On 9/11 Cynthia and I were at our home on Islesford. It was early in the morning and a group had assembled in our family room watching television. Ashley was there. At a certain point he stood up and recited Shakespeare’s Sonnet 64. I wish I had made a recording. Obviously, we all cried. It is amazing that Ashley had memorized probably every poem he had ever read, but even more amazing that he always had a perfect poem for a given conversation or situation. Shakespeare Sonnet 64: When I have seen by Time's fell hand defac'd BY WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE When I have seen by Time's fell hand defac'd The rich proud cost of outworn buried age; When sometime lofty towers I see down-ras'd And brass eternal slave to mortal rage; When I have seen the hungry ocean gain Advantage on the kingdom of the shore, And the firm soil win of the wat'ry main, Increasing store with loss and loss with store; When I have seen such interchange of state, Or state itself confounded to decay; Ruin hath taught me thus to ruminate, That Time will come and take my love away. This thought is as a death, which cannot choose But weep to have that which it fears to lose.

–Dan Lief

A visit to my school in Old Town-magical! He spent time walking around the halls and carefully looking at pictures our students had made. So gracious, so friendly and such a wonderful person. His books are his legacy.

–Sharen H. Wilson

Ashley was a truly beautiful soul --warmhearted, creative, overflowing with vital energy and love of life. I feel blessed to have had him as a friend, and will treasure my time spent with him...

–Rabbi Michael Feinberg

I think the year was 1999 or 2000. I was tasked with being Ashley’s ride to and from his San Francisco hotel during Reading the World. Here he was an established member of children literature royalty and he wanted to know about my classroom in Oakland. He treated me like an old friend - I’ve never forgotten his compassion and joy. I’ve tried to carry it with me wherever I go. Thank you, Ashley, for enriching all our lives.

–Peter Stiepleman, Columbia, MO

I am glad that his love of art, children and people was fully appreciated and recognized during his lifetime. And that this article so beautifully described his legacy, just a few months before he passed away. We continue to cherish the many beautiful memories we have of him on the Cranberry Island, Maine, as well as in Houston. My mother in law, who is an artist and close friend of Ashley, introduced us and my young daughter to him and we got to meet him several times on a very personal level. His inspirational books, poetry, happy flowers paintings (one of them hanging in our bedroom to brighten our days), handmade puppets, endless zest for life, finding joy in simple things and contagious positivity and humor will never be forgotten. Rarely someone is able during one’s lifetime to touch so many hearts with love, creativity and positivity. We will miss you dearly, Ashley. We have you in our hearts forever.

–Ana-Maria, Frank & Alina

my memories of Ashley are endless. without a doubt, one of the greatest privileges of my life was knowing the fabulous Ashley. an early memory was a beautiful Maine day, 32 years ago.I was sitting on our porch with Ashely as my children were playing on the rocks. Luke yelled mom,"I hear a whale blow". Ashley spontaneously broke into song .. belting out "what a wonderful world" .a magical moment and only one of so many with the magnificent Ashley. Rest In Peace dear Ashley

–marci lief

Ashley Bryan was onstage at the Carle. Must have been 2009. And I was there in the audience, listening with others, a librarian studying Reggio Emilia, the approach to pre-k that looks to listen to children and follow their questions into inquiries…and he mentioned “the joy of communicating” and at once I was struck: I didn’t feel that. That was what was missing. The only thing needed. I will find those stained glass windows. I’ve been meaning to do that. Memory eternal to a man whose words lodged themselves in my heart.

–Sara Lissa Paulson

My deepest condolences to Ashley's family, his nieces and nephews, and to Vanessa whom I met during both my visits to Ashley's home in 2018 and 2019. He knew how blessed he was by the love of his family. I feel so lucky to have spent time with him-just four days over two different summers. Nick Clark asked me to photograph the interior of his home, and Ashley welcomed me so sweetly. I am deeply saddened by his passing. What a great soul, a great artist, and a great human being. I got to talk with him about so many things over the days I spent photographing: we talked about art making, Rilke, Roy DeCarava, his love of Christina Rossetti, his travels. I heard him recite a Wordsworth sonnet which he loves and keeps always in his heart. I was there when the proofs came in the mail of his most recent book, Infinite Hope. That publication seemed especially thrilling for him. I got to watch how eagerly he greeted all the visitors who came in the door. There was always food on the table: donuts, gummies, fruit--whatever the latest guest had brought. And always, he welcomed the visitors to sit and talk. I witnessed his ease and graciousness. He loved the art made by all peoples from all lands; his collections are inclusive, eclectic, with particular love for the art of his people. His home is a temple of sorts to the spirit of creation seen in the objects on every shelf and in the rich library of books he has gathered over a lifetime. The house itself is a work of art. I wish it could be saved and become a study center for students from all of Maine's colleges. Ashley Bryan will be missed by so many people. Our consolation is that he left behind so many extraordinary books, paintings, sculptures, collages. I will always remember him and always be inspired by his life, his kindness, and his art.

–Parrish Dobson, photographer

“Come in” was the loud, welcoming shout we first heard in the summer of1994 after knocking on Ashley’s door. At the time we didn’t know this was the standard greeting from this gregarious man to all who found their way to his home. Our two young African American children were entranced by toys, artwork, puppets and sea glass windows. It was as magical for them as it was for us. Since then, we have made a Pilgrimage to Islesford nearly every year, even after our children were grown and gone. Ashley was like an uncle to them. In that first year our son, who had been enjoying his books and audio tapes since the previous summer acted out “Anansi the Spider” in front of Ashley. Uh Huh! Since then, we have introduced our grandson to Ashley’s books. In 2017, when Ashley was being honored at the High Museum in Atlanta, we were privileged to attend the festivities and watch our grandson climb into his welcoming lap. We feel honored to have been included in his very large extended family and know that the mail boat ride to Little Cranberry Island will never be the same.

–Stewart Ketcham, Vermont

I first discovered the amazing Ashley Bryan while visiting Maine in July, 2018. I went to Islesford one day and inquired when I got off the ferry about what I should be sure to see while there. I was directed to Ashley Bryan's gallery and was enthralled with what I found there. So proud of my discovery, I went back to my friends staying in Lamoine and shared my discovery. They made it a point to go check it out and because my directions weren't great, wound up knocking on his door and being invited in by the man himself. He gave them a tour and welcomed them as only someone as gracious as he was could. I've been envious of my friends ever since but so glad to have known about this amazing artist and man. The world is better because he existed and gave us so much beauty.

–Mary W Garren

We were visiting George and Kathleen Bowman on Islesford when Ashley came by to say hi to their cat “Miss Kate”. We were introduced and Ashley invited us to see his house and toys. It was magical. Over the years when would see him on the island or at a function. He was always so full of life. We have lost a really wonderful person. May choirs of angels sing him to his rest.

–Lynne Wooby and Eric Muller

The most creative artist i have met in my life with a heart of good and a gift for story telling. It was an honor and privilege to have interacted with him.

–David Schoeder

From the time I was a little boy I considered Ashley a friend. My summers as a child were spent on Islesford with my family. My father was born and raises there. It was and still is my special place and Ashley was one of the many reasons why. Once a week Ashley would invite island kids to his studio’s lawn where he taught us how to create sea glass paper mache stain glassed sun catchers. His only request was they we all bring a few pieces of sea glass to contribute to the lesson. I become an elementary school teacher and my annual field trip was an overnight trip to Islesford ( Little Cranberry Island) with groups ranging from 20 to 50 kids. Ashley, if home, always provided my students with an incredible tour of his home/studio. My kids were in awe of all he had to share! Incredibly if he wasn’t home he graciously offered his home for me to guide the kids through!!! I have been retired for many years and still have former students from decades ago contact me to talk about Ashley. This man touched many lives over his long and productive life leaving behind a long legacy for us to remember him by.

–Mark Morse

Ashley was a light in everyone’s life that had the great good fortune of meeting him in person or through his art. I am honored to be organizing an exhibition of Ashley’s work to be held at the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland this summer. It gives me great joy to know his work will be shared with many new audiences, as well as those familiar with his art. Ashley lived his words, “If you put art into the world, you will get beauty in return.” Thank you, Ashley, for all you have given. Rest in peace and beauty.

–Suzette McAvoy

He was so giving, of his time, his art and his love. We only met him twice, once when he was around 90 years old on the Islesford dock, where his radiant light outshine the sun! And on a chance visit to his home a few years later, he stopped what he was doing--a meal with family--to show us around his studio like old friends. He proudly showed off his subway poster that was just going up around New York that summer, and told tales of his beachcombing and creating sea glass art and found object puppets. His prolific writing, craft and storytelling late in life was so inspiring that we recently chose Freedom Over Me for the annual gift to 8th grade alumni from the elementary school we founded in New York City. We are so glad that his legacy will live on, in Little Cranberry and around the world. Thank you, Ashley. Beautiful indeed.

–Steven Evangelista and Margaret Ryan

What a privilege to have known this wonderful man! Ashley was truly a great human being. I remember first encountering him when I visited a gallery on Little Cranberry. I had cone to Maine to teach Kindergarten at the intake pioneering Waldorf School in Bar Harbor. There were many lovely sea and landscape paintings in the gallery abd then -- boom-- Ashley's gorgeous bright bold wonderful wirjs. "Who's that. " I immediately wanted to know. ?" Not too long after that I took my class over to meet Ashley. He met us at the dock and lead us to his house with call and response . We sang for him, too. Since then, whoever I traveled and found interesting handcrafted toys, I sent them to Ashley. He always sent a thank you note in reply and that grew to a little correspondence. I treasure his letters. I had hoped to introduce him to special friends and to continue exchanging notes. What a remarkable man and what a great great gift to have known him.

–Sharon Lazerson

So many many poems still in my head. Ashley was a regular at children's literature conferences where I enjoyed his presentations, admired his voice and his poetry recitations, and appreciated the way he always included his audience. Of the many special experiences I recall, one that sticks in my head is a 2005 trip with him and three other friends from the children's literature world, as well as my daughter, and two grandchildren, then 6 and 8. We all drove from a Children's Literature New England conference in Cambridge to Western Massachusetts where The Eric Carle Museum was putting on their first exhibition of his works. He graciously led us through the exhibition. He was so open and gentle with the children, patient with their questions, and generous with his time and attention. He will be warmly remembered by people who knew him professionally and personally, and I am grateful to be one of them.

–Kathy Isaacs

I had always thought of Ashley as my neighbor because, that is exactly what he was, my next door neighbor. I would alway see his easel set up in his yard painting his lillies or him tucked up on the hill capturing Lil's garden. Ashley also taught us island kids his papier mache seaglass stained windows when I was about 6 years old. When I was about to leave for college I asked my mother for one of his prints as a birthday present to bring with me to college. She went to his house and he picked out a print of children jumping rope, and told my mother it reminded him of me and my brother jumping in the mud puddles in our driveway. I hung the print up in all of my apartments and it always took me back to the island. I also remember getting Infinite Hope as a gift, and cracking it open and reading it all immediately. There were so many things I had never known about my neighbor. When I was working at the Islesford Dock Restaurant, I remember a beautiful painting of Ashley's, it was a group of soldiers from his time in WWII. I spent a lot of time that summer admiring that painting. Then, I started working for the Ashley Bryan Center this past fall. I felt that I really got to know my neighbor through spending time in his home, seeing all of his paintings that he never tried to sell or advertise, his in-progess works sitting in his downstairs studio, and hearing stories I had never heard before, like him sketching Pablo Casals after breaking his vow of silence. I was recently talking to my father about Ashley, and he told me that Ashley had also taught him to make papier mache stained seaglass windows when he was a kid. Ashley was a great neighbor, artist, teacher, and an inspiration to all who had the privilege to know him and make memories with him.

–Emma Fernald

My late wife Noushin and I had the honor of meeting Ashely several times while spending time at my cousins' family home (I sometimes think it partly my home too) on Little Cranberry Island off the coast of southern Maine. We were fortunate enough one afternoon when my cousin Katy’s husband Danny (again thank you Danny) took us out on his lobster boat with Ashley one afternoon. We enjoyed some (literally) fresh lobster right on the boat and an afternoon of great fellowship with Danny, Katy and Ashley. Ashley taught me more about what it means to be a human being in one afternoon than I had learned in a lifetime. I never met a person whom I so instantly felt comfortable being around. I barely knew the man, but I feel like he was a longtime friend. I could go on, but everyone already knows what an inspiration Ashely was to so many. I am proud to have known Ashley for a short period of time and so glad Noushin was able to meet him. I could see the impact she also had on Ashley while we visited with him in his home one sunny afternoon on the island. Keep reciting your poems from above Ashley.

–Hugh Murphy

When Ashley first came to Islesford, and was seen wandering along the shore picking up flotsam and jetsam, our curiosity was piqued, and we wondered who this strange man could be? First he offered art classes to the island children, making lovely Sun catchers of sea glass set in papier-mâché. Then he invited the entire island to a puppet show of African folk tales told in that marvelous dramatic vocalization he taught us. We all fell in love with him on the spot, and that love affair continued and will continue forever. Ashley embodied what it means to truly live in the Spirit. The joy and love he radiated, his openness to and acceptance of all people, irrespective of differences in age, gender, race or ‘clan’, was an inspiration. He epitomized that famous passage on the nature of true love found in St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian Church: I Cor 13:1-13. We’ll remember him always.

–Dedi Whitaker

So many memories--Cooking for Ashley with Vera Williams at Islesford; Returning to Ashley's house in Islesford to find people waiting to meet him,a frequent occurrence; Ashley doing one of his wonderful programs at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh; an evening at our house with Ashley and Vera Williams talking about Ashley's experiences in the Army. Through his books and in person Ashley gave children of all ages the meaning of being African American and being a storyteller. He created story and shared poetry in a unique way that enriched us all.

–Amy Kellman

I remember meeting Ashley for the first time at the Center for the Study of Children’s Literature at Simmons College. He was so approachable and welcoming. When he “presented” the poetry of Langston Hughes, Eloise Greenfield, and others the audience became part of a very special community. He will live in all our hearts.

–Mary Beth Dunhouse

I had the great luck of knowing Ashley in a couple of different ways. I first knew him when I was young and lived on Mount Desert Island and worked at the local newspaper. Later I moved to New York and worked at Simon & Schuster in the children's division, which proudly published his children's books. Every time he visited the office was a celebration, but November 4, 2008 was especially joyous. He had voted in the presidential election that morning on Cranberry Island and then came to New York to our office. There, we all found out that Barack Obama had won the election. When I saw him, I got one of the famous Ashley hugs, but this hug was a great one. He signed a book for my boys and the date of November 4, 2008 was in ALL CAPS. It was a great day. The world has lost an amazing, wonderful person.

–Lisa Donovan

In the summer of 2017 our friends invited us to Little Cranberry Island for a week-long vacation. We had no idea that it would turn into a wonderful opportunity to meet the magnetic Ashley Bryan. Ashley’s energy and spirit was nothing like I had ever experienced. Ashley had the ability to pull out the child in all of us with such splendor and generosity. Through his work he had the uncanny ability to send incredibly positive messages to Black children in particular and all children in general. I was a witness to his delicate balance between storytelling and driving a new narrative of the Black community. I will never forget him, nor our time with him. Thanks Ashley for your wisdom, your joy and reminder to ALWAYS hold in us, our child spirit.

–Saundra Thomas

65 years later, I still remember Ashley's class in the summer on Islesford for kids, and loved making paper mache and sea glass hangings. He was such a kind, gentle, talented person.

–Anne Morse

I am so saddened to learn of Ashley’s passing yesterday. I am grateful for a peaceful transition, and send condolences to Ashley’s wide circle of family and friends. I had the great pleasure of getting to know Ashley’s incredible body of work in the past year when in my work at The Boston Pops Orchestra, we collaborated with Ashley’s colleagues at the Ashley Bryan Center to present his illustrations from “What A Morning: The Christmas Story in Black Spirituals” as a multimedia performance with David Coleman’s joyful arrangement of spirituals for orchestra and chorus titled “The Good News Voyage.” More than 50,000 people saw Ashley’s vibrant work projected with music at Symphony Hall this December, and thousands more attended a virtual concert. The Boston Pops was honored to be able to share Ashley’s art and connect it to the music that he clearly felt so deeply. There is so much musicality in his work, and it was not a surprise to learn reading “Infinite Hope” how inspired he was by his time sketching Pablo Casals and the orchestra in Prades in the 1950s, and how it inspired his work. We were delighted when Nick Clark shared, from Ashley’s archives, the journal pages from Ashley’s trip to a Boston Pops concert at Symphony Hall in 1943 while stationed in Boston. What a special connection across time to see his sketches and read his remembrances! I am sad that I never got to meet Ashley in person and tell him how much it meant to us to get to celebrate his art, but grateful we had his blessing and got to share the joy he brings with so many. I was struck by Ashley’s last words in his documentary “I Know A Man” and I have saved them, and these times, they are inspiration for me: “I have everything I need to face a challenge,” Ashley observed, “and I want to face it as naturally and deeply as I can-- and as honestly as I can-- and in that way I'm always singing out praise and thanks.” Thank you, Ashley.

–Amanda Severin, Artistic Administrator, The Boston Pops Orchestra

My memory of Ashley Bryan is his voice. Snatches of the poems he recited at CLNE over the years slip into my mind and always contain a sliver of happiness and wisdom. When I heard of his death this morning he came to me speak-singing Eloise Greenfield's poem "Things." I've still got it Ashley.

–Sarah Ellis

Thank you for inspiring me and my first and second grade learners to experiment in the artistic process after reading and connecting with your picture books. Your work will continue to nourish and spark the intellectual and imaginative spirit of all ages!

–Celia Cruz

I met Ashley Bryan a few years ago on Little Cranberry. What a beautiful man and a great artist. He gave me a big old hug which I carry with me to this day.

–Joan McCandlish

It was probably about 10 years ago, I was walking to the store on Islesford when a woman came up to me. SHE ASKED IF I knew Ashley Bryan. I said of course I do. She asked if I knew where he lived and if, by chance, he was on the island. I poi Ted to his house and said, "If he is home, the upstairs door will be open." She nodded and was turning to leave when I stopped her and pointed down the road. He was walking toward us. Her eyes were huge as she saw him. He stopped to say hello to me and I said, "Ashley, this woman was just asking about you." Without missing a beat, he broke into a huge smile, spread his arms wide, gave her a warm hug and started talking with her as if she were an old, long lost friend. They walked to his house arm in arm. That's how I will remember him. Greeting people, no matter who they were, as though he'd known them his entire life. I am so blessed to have known him for as long as I have.

–Kate Savidge

Everybody took care of Ashley. I had arranged for him to speak at a PLA in Kansas City. My husband was supposed to pick him up and he forgot. I went into panic mode because we had lost Ashley and I had never told him the hotel’s name. I finally checked with the hotel and there was, all checked in, relaxed and ready to go. He was magical for sure.

–Therese Bigelow

I was a narrator on the Sea Princess tour boat during the time Ashley's work was on display at the Islesford Historical Museum. Ashley made a point of being at the museum almost every day when people from our boat arrived on the island to visit the museum. His energy, enthusiasm and generosity of spirit pervaded the atmosphere and left an indelible mark on everyone who had the great fortune of meeting and experiencing him.

–Mike Furnari

Love! Love! Love!

–Hazel Mitchell

Summer, 1999: I happened to be visiting a friend's daughter in Southeast Harbor, and she suggested that we meet this awesome artist she had come to know a bit, who had a most gorgeous idiosyncratic little house on Isleford. We dropped by, we were there for four hours. Hundreds of toys, Ashley-made and otherwise, the surreal puppets he made from found items from the sea & forest - that he *animated* for us on the spot - and I was transfixed by a series of four stained glass windows he's been working on, dedicated to the Four Archangels, Gabriel, Michael, Uriel & Raphael, the evidence of their creation on his kitchen stove, along with the kettle. I bought copies of all his children's books that he had on hand, breathed in the tender sweetness of his spirit, and felt blessed having shared space and time with a beautiful creative Black man, who in his love & devotion to our peoples, opened minds and hearts wherever he went. Asé Ashley Bryan, rest in beauty & love.

–Demita Frazier

So very grateful to have experienced his performances of his work and also the wonderful exhibit at the Portland Museum of Art where I had the opportunity to meet him and thank him. Deepest sympathy and condolences to his friends and family.

–Ann Patch

I am bereft to hear this sad news and feel like a clear light in this world has gone out. But Ashley has left us all with his huge creative spirit and I am so thankful for this. My memories of Ashley go back a long way, as he made the trip to my school in Northeast Harbor many times for our annual Arts Week. The children loved him as he recited poems and told them stories that helped them to know who they are in this world and how to dream big. I made many trips out to Islesford to see Ashley over the years for wonderful visits and shared picnic lunches together. I have many lasting memories of Ashley. One of my fondest was an afternoon spent cutting paper shapes in his studio and making animal and creature collages together. I made one for him and the one he made for me hangs on my studio wall where I see it every day. Another cherished memory is staying over at his house after seeing a play on the island and waking up in the little guest room with the beautiful beach glass windows (and his disciples Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John watching over me.) Ashley taught us so much, and my prayers today are that his love and spirit remain strong and present in us all. Rest in peace, dear friend.

–Carol Shutt

Ashley Bryan is truly unforgettable. One memory stands out. Oakland University awarded an honorary doctorate, and as the recipient, he was asked to give a speech to the graduates. As many know Ashley began with the Langston Hughes’ poem, “My People.” The audience responded loudly to his prompts. After that, he recited poetry that was fit for the occasion. He also called for audience response to several. One of the faculty on the stage leaned over to me and said it was the best commencement speech she had ever heard. (By the way, he was invited back to Oakland University in one of the following years to speak to the undergraduate commencement.) I loved Ashley for his art work, powerful readings, and storytelling. Aspects that come to the fore was his deep humanity, his passion for the music of poetry, his generosity, and the sense of peace he radiated. I will miss him but never forget him.

–Jim Cipielewski

Waking up to to the sound of Ashley’s recorder. Jumping out of our bunks to follow him as he strolled the shore collecting beach glass. Thank you Ashley for all the peace, love and joy.

–Marie Locke

Oh dear Ashley! You are My People, the most remarkable human I've ever known. I've been thinking of you a lot lately. I told my five-year-old grandson I hoped he would get to meet you this summer. I'm so sorry he won't but he will hear about you and I will keep reading your books to him. Ashley's books represent his phenomenal legacy of love. I have so many wonderful memories of Ashley -- going back more than 40 years -- like when he came to the first workshop I gave, at the University of Maine -- when I recited "Honey, I Love" and he clapped and clapped in support. When I owned Oz Books I once asked him how he was so patient and nice to everyone. "People give so much to me, I want to give back," he replied. Ashley's inscribed "Voices of New York" giant poster hangs in my new Minneapolis apartment. His memory will be a shining light of how to live, always. Sheila of OZ

–Sheila Wilensky

I will call it a lost Opportunity, I had that Ashley collected Marionettes as I also do , I lived off island and was downsizing. I wanted the marionettes to go somewhere.. as they had names and had been mine for 25 years. I had called over to the center and asked if they wanted them . I received a yes I package them up off they went to their new last place . A few few weeks later as I am still downsizing I received a call. A beautiful soft voice was on the other end. It was Ashley, asking me to tea at his house OMG ..... as hard as we tried to get it together we never could and I had just wrote today saying we should do that. Then I saw this as I thought we are both getting older . That is my missed opportunity . To have meet this man to exchange thoughts . But we spoke a great memory in my life’s walk . He made joy .

–Peggy Kelehan

Chance meetings are the most memorable, especially when one shares the backseat of a car, on the way to a dinner, with a humble artist. I shared a conversation about creative endeavors and next meetings, realizing that the man glowed with the calm wisdom of years, and knowing he was legendary before I even knew his name. A light is gone.

–Linnea Heaney

Even as I am saddened by his passing, I rejoice in a life well lived and productive almost beyond the imagination. I had the very good fortune of spending time with Ashley on Cranberry while photographing him and his house for AT FIRST LIGHT, a book celebrating Maine artists on the occasion of Maine’s bicentennial. The time with him could only be called magical.

–Walter Smalling

Though I didn't know him personally, I was moved by his life story and impressed by his indomitable spirit and wonderful expressive imagination. RIP, Ashely.

–Rae Cousins

Our condolences as well as our love, thoughts, and prayers to Ashley’s family, friends, and everyone who loved Ashley is Islesford and around the world. His was a life well-lived, and every moment with Ashley was time well-spent. What an amazing person who uplifted and inspired everyone around him. His art and spirit were part of what has made Islesford, Maine such a wonderful place, but his impact will always be felt there and beyond. I was reminding Angus this morning about how we used to love the illustrations as we would sing our way through Ashley’s book “Let it Shine” and noticed his note under the title. It reads, “Sing! Peace! Love! Joy! Ashley Bryan Islesford Maine” We will try to remember and keep that in our hearts, Ashley!

–Frank M. Winter

I was a third grade teacher at the Surry Elementary School and at the end of the school year we would take a boat trip out to Islesford as part of our Maine Island Study. We had shared many of Ashley's books and were eager to see him if he were home on the island. We'd walk by his house and if he was there he always invited us in. One year we went by his house and it looked empty. We were disappointed but we continued on our exploration of the island. As we passed by the Neighborhood House, there was Ashley with his easel in the midst of painting apple blossoms. We are so happy to see him. We didn't want him to stop his painting, but he insisted in packing up and taking us back to his house. We were invited in and shown his amazing international toy collection, his room of his stained glass beach windows, his imaginative puppets created from found beach objects, and then into his studio where he shared his latest book painting project. The Surry students were all in awe. They were taken in by Ashley's creative energy, loving spirit, and warmth (as were the teachers). Ashley insisted on walking with us down to the dock. He walked backwards reciting Eloise Greenfield's poem "Things" as we made our way down the road. The students sent Ashley poems and art work inspired by our visit and he always wrote a loving response. I feel blessed to have had these precious moments with Ashley and to have been able to share them with my students. I know this was an experience they will always remember. His light will continue to shine through his beautiful work and his moving poetry recitations. I will hold him close to my heart and remember his admonition "to wake up every morning and find the child in you."

–Paula Mrozicki

Ashley Bryan filled spaces. He filled a room with his glow. He filled an auditorium with his voice. He filled his home with artifacts and candy and color. He filled his books with stories and our lives with his art. What will we do with this void? I'm sure he'd want us to keep filling others' spaces. And so we will. Goodbye, dear one.

–Michelle Houts

I have so many wonderful memories of Ashley, it would take pages to memorialize them all. But one in particular event comes to mind. I was charged with planning the Children’s Literature Assembly Breakfast at the National Council of Teachers of English Convention on Sunday morning, November 24, 2002, in Atlanta, GA. I had recently had the pleasure of getting to know Ashley Bryan and I wanted the world to meet him. The title of his speech that morning—the breakfast began at about 7:30am—was A Tender Bridge: African Tales, Black American Poetry, and Spirituals. I was disappointed in the gathering; the throngs I anticipated evidently were not early risers. But as Ashley moved to the podium and greeted the audience, I noticed everyone stopping outside the open doors of the ballroom, listening in rapt fascination. Ashley stopped the crowd on a busy Sunday morning after all. Those of us who know Ashley realize what a magnetic personality he was.

–Linda M. Pavonetti, Distinguished Professor Emerita, Oakland University, Rochester, MI

My memories start at 237 E 175st. in the Bronx NY. A tall man sitting at the piano playing classical music 🎶 eventually he'd put an instrument (recorder) in my hand and grab my fingers placing them on the hole with my thumb pressed against the back hole and say blow, blow softly, now that note is a b, this is what it looks like on a music 🎶 sheet and this is what it sounds like on the piano. This led to some collaborations and missed stick ball games ⚾️ 🙂 but we did sound good eventually on a few tunes. I later would join my uncle at the Bathgate Avenue studio in the Bronx for countless painting and glass work sessions with my sisters and brother over the years that resulted in some magnificent painting and musical collaborations with various instruments. I can go on and on with my family experiences but it was how I saw others around him that made me as an adult appreciate what he was doing. His consistency and unwavering love of the arts and its message of inclusion and freedom was never compromised. His love of his adopted home in Maine and the peace of mind he had there fueled his creativity. Next to traveling and public interactions Maine was his slice of heaven. Visiting there i understood why, seeing the guest flow in and out the house and listening to their stories was a beautiful experience. The looks on their face as they entered the room and their eyes searched about the artifacts, toys, puppets, paintings, books, and the stories that accompanied them is unforgettable. I've taken hundreds of pictures and still haven't captured the essence of what my eyes take in everything I've visited his home. All this to say I'm little Ashley and am so proud to carry his name, no I don't have his talents (smile) but I have his history embedded in my memory, I'll never forget these 66yrs and the family Christmas tree at 237 that didn't go up till Christmas eve when we were sleeping. The pride he took in decorating that tree and the two at St.Johns on Fulton Avenue in the Bronx is immeasurable. My friends that grew up with me on Monroe Avenue still remember Uncle Ashley as he's affectionately called and always say,"your one lucky guy to have an uncle like him" yes I am.

–Ashley John Swepson (nephew)

I had the privilege of visiting Ashley's home on Cranberry Island one summer 30 years ago when I was attending a Wednesday Spinner's gathering at one of the islander's home. I was most impressed by Ashley's stained glass art made from collected beach glass. He was a gifted story teller and incredible individual. I felt honored to have met him.

My first memory of Ashley involved being up to my elbows in a lovely, squishy batch of papier mache in a five-gallon bucket. I don't know if it was an organized thing, but in the mid-60s or so, Islesford kids gathered in what I remember as Helen Hellman's yard, where Ashley taught us how to make beach glass ornaments/window hangings. After we'd mashed strips of newspaper and wallpaper paste (I can still remember the smell!) together into a perfect glop, we'd arrange pieces of beach glass that we or he had found on boards covered with waxed paper. Then Ashley showed us how to form papier mache around them to hold them in place. A few days later we'd come back, and the papier mache would have dried, so then you poked a hole in the dried "mortar", put a string through, and your window hanging masterpiece was complete. Of course Ashley's "stained glass" art is stunning. As for us kids, they weren't quite so sophisticated but I loved making them and spending that time with Ashley. Throughout my life I'd love catching glimpses of him beachcombing with a bag over his shoulder to hold his gleanings (which of course were later transformed into puppets and other magical things), or standing among the dahlias with his oil paints and canvases. For all my life, Ashley was the embodiment of love, openness, inclusivity, optimism, joy, glee, genius ... all the very best things. I felt humbled and honored to be in his presence every time. I imagine his soul is soaring through the stars now. Hard to imagine with world without Ashley Bryan.

–Grace Houghton

First met Ashley Brian at Simmons College's Center for the Study of Children's Literature in July 1977. Was a friend and colleague through the Simmons years and then 25 years and counting of Children's Literature New England. When finally I took my three kids and a fourth guest to visit Ashley on Little Cranberry Isle, ten years ago or so, Ashley met us at the dock with his cart, and hollered "Make way for the FAMILY!" as he rolled our kids along. A very sad day for all of us.

–Gregory Maguire

Our dear friends Daniel and Marcia brought us to Cranberry Island to meet Ashley in the summer of 2017. I remember the first day, spending time with him in his home; surrounded on every surface by his toys, dolls, books, paintings, artifacts from Africa and all over the world. He recited Shakespeare , spoke to us in German, read his Beautiful Blackbird book to visiting children and opened his heart and home. Upon leaving, I burst out crying, so filled up and overwhelmed with emotion from the intense energy and love from this most remarkable man! I am left with deep gratitude. His effervescent spirit is within us all and now, with the ancestors. Thank you for gracing us dear Ashley!

–Susan Fay Siegel

I met Ashley several years ago, at the bedside of his dear friend, the artist Rhoda Boughton. I was privileged to be present and listen to them telling stories of teaching art in Manhattan schools, with little financial support for supplies, but a huge amount of enthusiasm! They laughed and reminisced and shared their history and their love for each other. It was a gift--as their lives were a gift to the world...Blessings on your transition, Ashley. We will miss you, but carry on sharing love as you taught us.


My friend, poet Susan Deborah King, took me with her to Ashley’s enchanted home and studio on Little Cranberry Island in October, 2016. Ashley made breakfast for us that day. It was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. He gave us a tour of his studio and his prolific production of paintings and other artistic creations. He showed us the process for making his stained glass creations. He showed us the transaction documents evidencing sales of enslaved people that he had bought that served as the inspiration for his book Freedom Over Me that was just coming out at that time. He showed us sketch books of drawings he had made during his service in Europe during World War II. He fed us toast and fruit and peanuts and coffee. He recited poetry, and he and I together recited my very favorite poem of Rainer Maria Rilke’s, “Herbsttag,” in German! I thought Ashley was more wondrous than just about any other person I have ever met. I still think so. I came home to Minnesota and gathered every book of his that I could find around me. I still go to them for inspiration and to recall the still rather unbelievable memory of that morning in his magical home and presence. Ashley, I believe, used every moment of his time on earth to create love, beauty, justice, and joy. I am so blessed to have been able to spend a morning in his presence. The world is blessed that he was with us for 98 years. I don’t know where all the energy and passion that was Ashley as we knew him is now, but I’m certain that in some way he is still loving, creating, and inspiring and will go on doing so for eternity.

–Karen Seay

Oh Ashley, spending two week-long workshops painting with you on Little Cranberry Island is among my my most memorable experiences. I had never met anyone with such an abundant, generous and loving spirit. You made this world a better place and I will carry your teaching - to find the child inside of me' every day. Thank you Ashley. And condolences to all who loved him.

–Kerry Eaton

I participated in Art Shows at the Ellsworth Library with Ashley several times. We have lost a treasure!

–Patricia Sharp

For several years, we lived across the street from Ashley on Islesford. He was naturally a wonderful neighbor. In spring and fall, hoards of young students regularly came to see him, many times picnicking on our yard (which was fine of course) and we would here him read his books and recite poems in the call and response. We enjoyed dinners and visits with Ashley and he was a regular guest for holidays. It was not uncommon to wake at 12, 1, even 2 AM and see Ashley furiously working in his studio. One snowy winter day when I was hugely pregnant with twins and my husband was out of town at a job that took him away from the island, I woke to hear a scrape scrape scrape out front. There was my 80 year old neighbor Ashley shoveling MY walk! I leaned out the door and called to him “thank you!” And that I was mortified he was doing it for me, that it should have been the other way around. “Oh no!” he said, “I’m just so happy to be ALIVE! It’s a joy to do this for you!” I think about his words every time I have to do a tedious and physically demanding task. I’m just so happy to be alive. Peace joy and love to you, dear Ashley. You are a light that cannot be extinguished from our memories. Our deep condolences to his beautiful extended family who cared for him throughout his life and ensured his comfort at the end.

–Kate Chaplin and family

Even though we all knew this day was coming, I still find it a bargaining moment — just one more shout out of, “Love!”One more poem, please. One more word of advice to, “Keep the hand moving.” One more jellybean or gummy from the bowl. In a candid discussion, not that many years ago, Ashley and I sat at the table and talked about death. I told him that he filled the space around him with so much love and creative energy, it would be days before we noticed he had moved on. He threw his head back, laughed and clapped. We will see you in July. Love Leslie and J

–Leslie Tryon and J Riley Fowler

Indelible memories of his generosity and immense artistic energy -- and his hugs -- of his enthusiasm for coming down to the printmaking "art camp" often with Daniel Minter and Marie in August, 2017.

–Nancy Montgomery

With Ashley's Langston Hughes rhythm dancing in my ears, I was so lucky to be able to sit at the lunch table with Ashley and his good friends and authors, Betty Levin and Gregory Maguire. His light-heartedness and creativity inspired all of us at the table sitting before a painting he had given Betty. That house was full of sheep dogs and wool while the aura of wordsmiting emanated from everyone there. A magic memory of him.

–Becky Bartovics

Sitting on the couch in his house on Islesford while he read -turned pages actually- It’s a wonderful world sung by Louis Armstrong. Grilled cheese sandwiches. Watching him make papier-mâché. Cambridge MA library. Reading Nikki Giovanni poems. So many delicious memories to live with. Thank you Ashley

–Axie Clark Diana

Ashley was the first poet I ever heard in person. He was the first person outside my family to tell me a story. And he was the first person to tell me a traditional folktale of any kind. As I grew up and became more cynical, Ashley remained an example of someone who had seen the dark underbelly of the world and still made it his life's work to spread joy, laughter, and creation around the world.


Ashley was wonderful, beautiful human..... Salt of the Earth who brought out the goodness in others. I am so grateful to have known him and to work at the ABC honoring his work. His life and legacy will last forever! Thank you Ashley for your amazing contribution to this planet. Fly beautiful blackbird fly!

–Kate Carroll

Little Cranberry island will never be the same. I was able to take my Grandsons to visit with Ashley last summer. This was the high light of their vacation to be able to visit with Ashley. R.I.P

–Evelyn Wallace Lindsey

Ashley was a very important person in my life and someone who I consider a personal hero. I wanted my children to be around him as much as possible and his artwork that hangs in our home. I believe he has had upon them and the energy his paintings bring to be without measure. When my wife Julia was pregnant with our son, we had decided that his middle name was going to be Ashley. It would have been his first name but in the US that is more commonly a girl’s name and while that didn’t bother us…We felt it might be unfair to him make that decision. So we went with Ashley as a middle name. When visiting Ashley we told him our child will be named after him. He was delighted and pulled out his latest book and wrote a dedication to our son. He wrote welcome to the world! He then turned me and asked what his first name will be. I said Ronan. When I saw the dedication, Ashley had written-Ronin Ashley (uh-huh!) My wife and I agreed that was how it was going to be and our son is named Ronin Ashley. In the Japanese culture Ronin were basically masterless warriors. Or those who have lost their jobs through one misfortune or another. However some of the most revered figures in Japanese history were in fact independent and operated outside of that very strict social hierarchy. So what was considered a negative in their case had been turned into a positive. I couldn’t imagine the better trajectory for my son than to rise above whatever life brings him and for that (among so many other things) I will always be grateful to have known this extraordinary man and to have considered him a dear friend.

–Aaron Green

I hosted Ashley in 2012 at The Mather School in Dorchester, MA. Pat Keogh brought him on behalf of Wondermore. He was one of the best author/illustrator visits I have ever had. He has the kindergarten classes and the fifth grade class equally engaged and energized. Ashley had all the kids doing call and response of Langston Hughes poetry. I know Ashley lived a long and wonderful life, but his death leaves a huge hole in children's literature's heart.

–Maura O'Toole

I loved Ashley! I loved how special he made people feel and how joyful he made people feel. I'm am thankful to have known him and have felt his warmth and kindness.