Obituary: Katharine Bryan Bulkley
Kit was born in New York City on February 18, 1929, the daughter of Wilhelmus Bogart Bryan Jr. and Katharine MacKenty Bryan. She grew up in Princeton, NJ. As a child, living near the university and also because her mother took in university students as boarders, she met many remarkable and talented people, including Albert Einstein, who lived across the street.
During her teenage years, Kit was an ardent skater, an interest piqued when her family spent time at Lake Placid, NY. The family enjoyed many summers on Martha’s Vineyard, where her parents mingled with a fascinating set, including artist Thomas Hart Benton. As a young girl, Kit played the cello, part of her lifelong interest in music which was fostered by her mother, a founding member and stalwart of the Princeton Society of Musical Amateurs. Kit also had vivid memories of working on painter and illustrator Rockwell Kent’s New York state farm during several high school summers.
After graduating from Miss Fine’s School (now Princeton Day School) in 1947, Kit attended the Tobe-Coburn School for Fashion Careers in New York, graduating in 1949. Upon graduation, she traveled to France with the Experiment in International Living and then extended her stay through 1951, working at a wine shop on the Left Bank of Paris run by Monsieur Riffard and his wife Solange, thus beginning her lifelong love affair with France.
During the Korean War, Kit and a few of her friends moved to Washington, DC where Kit landed a job at the CIA with top-secret clearance. Given her status, she was never very forthcoming as to exactly what she did at the agency! It was in Washington where she met her husband-to-be Jim Bulkley who was working as a Navy intelligence officer at the Pentagon and was a graduate of Princeton University. They married in the Princeton Chapel on June 27, 1953, with organ music provided by then director of music Carl Weinrich, followed by a wedding reception at the home of Kit’s mother’s dear friend Dr. Muriel Gardiner Buttinger, the mother of long-time Aspenite Connie Harvey.
The newlyweds moved to Ann Arbor in the autumn of 1953 so Jim could attend law school at the University of Michigan, graduating in 1955. They decamped to Jim’s hometown of Grosse Point where Kit was active in the Junior League and the Detroit Institute of Art. In 1958 and 1964 respectively, their two children were born.
On the recommendation of Jim’s childhood friend Peter Stroh, the couple made their first trip to Aspen, CO in 1960 and were among the original guests of the new Boomerang Lodge in 1961, the start of a 50-plus year friendship with the Boomerang’s proprietor Charlie Paterson, his father Steve Shanzer (ne Schanzer) which grew to embrace Charlie’s bride Fonda and their daughters Carrie and Jenny.
Kit and Jim were smitten by Aspen and the family moved there permanently in 1966. While Jim practiced law and they both enjoyed skiing, Kit became a patron and frequent audience member at the Aspen Music Festival during the summers, also endowing a summer music student fellowship. She was a founding member and sponsor of the Aspen Winter Concert series.
Kit’s gift for retail led her to many happy years working at Michael and Linnea Riley’s Best of All Worlds store in Aspen as well as volunteering for over 30 years at Aspen Valley Hospital with the Blue Ladies where she particularly enjoyed being in the gift shop. Kit was a supporter of many of Aspen’s charities, including the Aspen Centre for Environmental Studies (ACES) and Anderson Ranch Arts Centre as well as being very encouraging of her children’s schooling and activities, even flying to her daughter’s boarding school in Virginia for Father’s Day weekend when her husband could not attend!
The family spent their summers at the Bulkley family cottage on Lake Michigan in Leelanau County where Kit enjoyed her many local friendships and drew on her love for bright colors and flair for interior design to remake the cottage in her own style. Kit loved to cook (she was a low-salt, healthy-eating cook before it became fashionable); to travel, especially to Europe; and to plan her renowned flower gardens, both in Aspen and Michigan. A terrific listener and consummate hostess, Kit could always be identified at any gathering, large or small, by her big smile and infectious laugh.
Kit was preceded in death by her husband Jim Bulkley who died on March 13, 2012, aged 84, and by her brother Wilhelmus Bogart Bryan III who died April 12, 2015, aged 90. She is survived by her son, James Bryan Flint of Gloucester, MA; her daughter Katharine (Kate) Gilman Bulkley and son-in-law Ross Biddiscombe, both of London, England; and her nephew, Wilhelmus Bogart Bryan IV, his wife Christina and their two children, Wilhelmus Bogart Bryan V and Charlotte Bennison Bryan of New York, NY.
The family suggests that gifts in Kit’s memory be sent to the Aspen Music Festival and the Leelanau Nature Conservancy.
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