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Community Spotlight: Silverdale’s first lady of charity — and modesty

By PAUL BALCERAK

Staff writer

It would be great to be able to say that Natalie Bryson is one of the foremost charity workers in Silverdale ... but she would hate that phrasing. Bryson does have a hand in several areas of the community — she’s president of the Kitsap County HIV/AIDS Foundation and is on the board of the Paul Linder Education Foundation and the Central Kitsap Community Council — but she’s also modest.

“I’m hating this right now,” she said, jokingly, during a recent interview.

It’s hard, however, to ignore the amount of work she’s done in the community, even though she’s quick to credit the great deal of help she’s had over the years.

Somehow, we recently coaxed her into talking about her life and her work in the Central Kitsap community.

Question: What do you do for a living?

Answer: I would say I try to make a difference in the lives of our community.

Q: Who has made the biggest impression on your life?

A: I was very blessed with the greatest dad and mom. My mom was involved in a great many things and my dad was probably the wisest person I ever knew. I would say my parents in general (inspired me), but my dad in particular.

Q: What is the most rewarding part of the line of work you’re in?

A: Seeing the results. Lots of times you don’t really have the results, but when you do have the results of the effort — and it’s never done by one person — you make the difference ... It’s education is what it really is. If you can educate people about areas in which they have not been too comfortable, a lot of good things happen.

Q: What is it about non-profit work that appeals to you so much?

A: I think that you get a different perspective when you do non-profit work. It’s a very unusual way to express it, that it’s “non-profit,” because the profit comes in, in what people get out of doing things without any financial return. It is a real gratification.

Q: You participate in a lot of speaking engagements; is that something that comes naturally to you, or did you have to learn?

A: It’s interesting to me that people find public speaking so difficult. I think if you have a passion for something, you can relate it.

Q: How informed are people in Central Kitsap when it comes to HIV/AIDS?

A: I think more than they have been in the past. What needs to happen is to have people realize ... that it is a totally preventable disease and that (realization) will come about through education and openness to be educated.

Q: How do you go about communicating such a difficult issue to the general public?

A: I think that sometimes I’m a contemporary of people who are not as aware as young people. It’s a case of being willing to be open about the things that affect other people.

Q: What do you think of TV shows, comic books, etc., using characters afflicted with HIV/AIDS to educate the public?

A: I think knowledge is effective and everybody absorbs knowledge differently. If young people relate to a character on TV and they are a character who has HIV, if the character is written well, (viewers are) going to have knowledge that they didn’t have before. It’s mostly the truth. You really need to tell the truth about it.

Q: How long have you lived in Silverdale?

A: I came first in 1966 and I’ve been back and forth — my husband was in the military — but all our children were brought up here.

Q: Where did you originally come from?

A: Actually I was in New Mexico, but my home originally ... I moved 30 times in 30 years (laughs). I lived in France and I lived in lots, and lots, and lots, and lots of places.

Q: What’s kept you in Silverdale?

A: Silverdale was so much like New England (where Bryson once lived) with more rain and less snow and my husband loved it here, as we all did, and it just became a part of our life. It was the place for us to be.

Q: What’s your best memory of Silverdale?

A: I remember in the olden days when Silverdale Way was the highway. One of my fondest memories was when they put the traffic light in — the real, legit light (with all three lights). It was put in timing-wise for a freeway and (there was) nobody here and you had to sit there for five minutes waiting for the light to change. The lady who had the little coffee shop down (by the light) put out a sign that said, “Stop for a bite while you wait for the light.” That was one of my favorite of all of the things in the olden days.

Q: What’s your favorite meal?

A: I like to cook, so that’s a hard one for me. I’d have to say Maine Lobster.

Q: Do you have a favorite ice cream?

A: Coffee. There’s no question about that one.

Q: Do you have a favorite hobby?

A: (Collecting) Chinese porcelains, I’d say.

Q: What’s your favorite type of music?

A: I like all music. I don’t think there’s any music I don’t like.

Q: Do you listen to contemporary music, too?

A: Yes. Music, I like.

Q: Who would play you in a movie of your life?

A: I’d say maybe Gena Roland, I would think. She’s a character actress, but she’s great. She’s not 19 or anything, which, I’d also like to have a 19-year-old do my life, but it wouldn’t really feel authentic (laughs).

Q: What’s your most memorable vacation spot?

A: My most memorable is not a vacation spot because I’m not a vacation person. China’s probably my favorite place to go to, but it wouldn’t be a vacation spot. I would say the French Riviera. (Or) the islands of the South Pacific.

Q: Do you have a favorite TV show?

A: “Boston Legal”

Q: Why?

A: It’s got the best writing. It’s outrageous. Until you’ve seen that program, you haven’t lived. It is so irreverent.

Q: Do you have a favorite book?

A: Yes. It’s a book that nobody’s ever heard of, but it’s a book called, “John Halifax, Gentleman.” It’s about an English family who has the trials of every family, I guess. It’s a Victorian novel.

Q: If you could have any magical power, what would it be?

A: I think if I really had a magical power — if someone said you could do anything you want — I think I would have peace of mind for people.

Q: If you could choose between having an airline ticket that could take you anywhere in the world, anytime, and never expired, or having a one-time, round-trip ticket to the moon, which would you choose and why?

A: I think I’d probably take the first one because I think that ... the benefits of it maybe would be a good thing. That’s too hard a question. As I think about it, that’s a hard question because I’d go to the moon in a heartbeat. I think I’d rather have the other (though). I think that, truth be known, there’d be some things, I could just get on a plane and do some of the things I’d like to do. Not for my pleasure, necessarily, but for other reasons it would be great.

Q: How long have you been with the Paul Linder Education Foundation and how long have you been on the board?

A: I’ve been on the board since the beginning, 20 years ago. That’s been a very important thing because there are areas that need help in the school district that budgets just don’t allow. We can give the grants to teachers and staff and students to do unique things.

Q: What’s the most interesting project the Linder Foundation funded?

A: That’s a very hard one. I think the exercise balls. Exercise balls were just mind-boggling because the request was for 25 exercise balls for children with ADD. When the mother, the teacher and the kid were on the exercise balls explaining what they did ... that was one of the really, really great (projects).

Q: You’re very interested in education; what is your opinion of the state of education today in Kitsap County and in the country in general?

A: I think Central Kitsap has made great strides in education. I think Superintendent (Greg) Lynch has been a breath of fresh air here. I really do believe he’s making an exerted effort to make a difference. I think that we should spend some time teaching children about practical things (in general). I think we need to educate people to enable them to do their best.

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