Alpha May (Faye) Middlecoff Bryant of Batesville, Arkansas was born near Moody, Missouri on Aug. 20, 1929, and passed away at Batesville on Oct. 22, 2020, at age 91 as a result of COVID-19 complications.
She was born to Arthur M. Middlecoff and Dortha May Schauffler Middlecoff. In 1936 the family bought 40 acres near Strawberry, Arkansas and after clearing the land they raised hogs, cotton, corn, sorghum chickens, and vegetables.
One of Faye’s fondest memories was going fishing with her father on the Strawberry River and remembers mussel shell gathering where they found a few pearls and cooked the meat of the mussel for fish bait.
Faye’s mother died suddenly in 1944 when Faye was only 15 years old which left Faye to be the primary caregiver for three sisters and a brother, all younger than Faye, while her dad tended to the family’s crops.
Her education began in Missouri and continued at Strawberry until she left home and moved to Batesville where she met and married the love of her life, Hail Bryant on Dec. 22, 1949. A son, Dale Edward Bryant was born Dec. 4, 1950. The couple lived on a small farm near Huff, Arkansas which they rented but then moved to Batesville in 1953. Prior to her marriage to Hail she worked at a local café as a cook and waitress. Later Faye worked several years in the family’s business, John E. Bryant & Sons Lumber Company, Inc.
Faye’s husband Hail was an avid seeker of knowledge and adventure and the two of them were inseparable traveling everywhere together including several foreign countries. They traveled all over the United States collecting old bottles, Indian artifacts, minerals, and fossils. Their mineral and fossil collection was donated to Lyon College in 1990 and their Indian artifact collection was donated to Independence County where it is still displayed in the lobby of the Courthouse.
From 1959-63 Faye was part of the team that, along with her husband Hail, Hugh Shell, and others, explored Half-Mile Cave later to become known as Blanchard Caverns. Last Christmas Faye was able to attend Blanchard Cavern’s ”Caroling in the Caverns” and local newspapers dubbed her the ”Queen of the Caverns”. Faye was an authority on Ozark Wildflowers and landscaped her yard with wildflowers and wild plant specimens she collected. She produced a video about Arkansas Wildflowers, Shrubs, and Vines and another video called Back Yard Friends where she detailed her experiences with feeding raccoons, possums’ squirrels, birds, and other creatures in her back yard. Her video of making friends with a wild raccoon that she fed out of her hand ran several times on the television show Animal Planet.
She is survived by one brother Verdie Middlecoff of Hoxie, Arkansas, and numerous nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her parents, Arthur M. Middlecoff and Dortha May Schauffler Middlecoff, her husband Rector Hail Bryant, a son Dale Edward Bryant and three sisters, Eula Morelock, Gladys Johnson, and Maggie Crooms.
A graveside service under the direction of Roller-Crouch Funeral Home will be held at 10:00 am Friday, Oct. 30, 2020, at Oaklawn Cemetery in Batesville. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Independence Regional Museum, 380 S. 9th, Batesville, AR 72501.
We are complying with the Arkansas Department of Health guidelines. All attendees must provide and wear their own masks and social distancing will be observed.