Centennial Celebrates Birthday at Lenoir Pawnshop (Credit: Lenoir News-Topic)

February 3, 2016

James “Jim” Bryant turned 101 on Wednesday, and he wanted one thing as a birthday present: to return to Lenoir from the Abernethy Laurels retirement community in Newton where he now lives and visit American Trade and Loan, a pawn shop he frequented for decades.

“They’re my friends,” he said Monday at the shop.

Jimmy Clark, the owner of American Trade and Loan, said he has known Bryant, who lived in Lenoir about 80 years, for the 38 years that he has been working at the shop. Clark has owned the shop for 28 of those years. 

“He was one of the best marksmen in the area,” Clark said.

Clark’s wife, Alice, said the same thing.

“As soon as I came to work here, Jim and I got to be friends,” she said.

In fact, Bryant has been a customer at the pawn shop since Tommy Triplett opened in 1963. 

“I bought a good pair of binoculars from Tommy,” he said.

Shaylyn Ladd, the director of public relations at Abernethy Laurels, said that the trip was organized through “Grant a Dream,” a program sponsored by United Church Homes and Services, Abernethy Laurels’ parent organization.

“Any seniors in our communities, if they have a wish, we can make that happen,” Ladd said.

The pawn shop once was Bryant’s “hangout spot in the mornings,” she said.

Abernethy Laurels' staff were concerned about traveling the icy roads between Lenoir and Newton, but when Bryant found out that the trip might be canceled, he was “adamant about going,” she said.

“He wanted to go up there and see those people.”

His daughter, Regina Reitzel, said that Bryant was a carpenter who, with just a sixth-grade education, could calculate how much concrete was needed for a space just by looking at it.

“He was very very smart, and if he’d have time and opportunity to have gone to school, he could have been an engineer,” she said.

But instead of going to school, he began working with his father at the age of 5 and helped raise his 15 brothers and sisters.

"They had a sawmill. He would run the saw engine whenever they would put a big log on it,” Reitzel said.

His wife, Beryl, died in 2009 when she was 89. They had seven children.

Bryant was an avid hunter until he was 98, Reitzel said, but even then he would wheel an electric wheelchair outside for target practice, and he talked about hunting when he visited the pawn shop.

“He used to go there almost every day whenever he could drive,” she said.

He went to live at Abernethy Laurels shortly after he had a heart attack when he was 100, which almost killed him, but “it wasn’t my time to go,” he said.

Reitzel said that her father was a very independent man, and if it had not been for the heart attack, “he would probably still be at home.”

This article was written by Kara Fohner of Lenoir News-Topic. 

Credit: Lenoir News-Topic of Lenoir, NC