The Floating Hospital
loses a friend. And so
do we all.

Home/Culture and People/The Floating Hospital loses a friend. And so do we all.

On a chilly February Sunday, I met Betty Bryden at her Butternut Gallery two doors down from my home in Montrose, Pa., for the “premiere” of five large murals destined for the waiting rooms in The Floating Hospital’s new main clinic site. The email preceding our meeting was typical of Betty: “They’re done. I’m relieved.”

The murals that awaited me that morning were designed to complement the three large murals Betty had completed during the coronavirus pandemic. It was a tour-de-force featuring ball-juggling seals, a happy octopus playing with kite-flying crabs, and whales competing for attention in their imaginative paper coats of polka dots, stripes and flowers. Other sea life run riot in their frames— puffins, sea birds, crabs, jellyfish and a happy walrus. The whimsical creatures and bright and colorful paper demanded you smile. They remind you that you were a kid once, too. They dance and they sing. Betty’s sea world was a happy place that was in sharp contrast to the stark confines of the government offices where the families we serve are processed for shelter housing and temporary benefits. They are a force as Betty was a force. They are all things Betty.

betty bryden quote

A juried-award winning collage artist and specialist in hand made and vintage papers, Betty established the Butternut Gallery in Montrose, Pennsylvania, more than 20 years ago to bring fine arts to a rural and vacation community in the Northern Tier of Pennsylvania. She helped orchestrate a popular Artist Open House Tour, for its large arts community, and a few years ago, approached me with a few friends to help them set up a non-profit community arts and music program, Pink Arrow Arts, to offset dwindling arts education in schools and to bring it to those older and with less access. Like everything Betty touched, it flourished.

I wonder if on some level Betty felt driven to complete this last big commission, full of the life and fanfare that only Betty could have given it, as if she knew that just six weeks later, the pancreatic cancer that would cut her life short had taken root. As often happens in small towns, we were all with her through the end, stopping in for visits, making her laugh, making her happy, and keeping her content. She will live on in our new clinic, in all her paper finery. As always, I will smile when I see her work, joining in the joy it gives the thousands who will walk through our doors. But now, I will pause a little upon seeing those frolicking fish and thank her for her final gift to us.

— Sean T. Granahan Esq., President and General Counsel

The Floating Hospital provides high-quality healthcare to anyone who needs it regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, gender, immigration or insurance status, or the ability to pay. By providing unrestricted medical care in tandem with health education and social support to vulnerable New York City families, The Floating Hospital aims to ensure those most in need have the ability to thrive, not just survive.


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