Phila. collapse victim remembered for talent, passion

Mayor Nutter and his wife, Lisa, wait in line to enter the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts on Sunday for the memorial service for Anne Bryan, one of six killed in last week's collapse.
Mayor Nutter and his wife, Lisa, wait in line to enter the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts on Sunday for the memorial service for Anne Bryan, one of six killed in last week's collapse. (CLEM MURRAY / Staff Photographer)
Posted: June 11, 2013

In recent weeks, Anne Bryan, 24, celebrated a dramatic Phillies victory with her father, cooked a birthday dinner for her brother, and went for a drive along the Schuylkill with her mother.

On Sunday, those relatives eulogized Bryan at an emotional memorial service in Center City, just days after she was killed in the building collapse at the corner of 22d and Market Streets.

Bryan, of Lower Merion, daughter of city treasurer Nancy Winkler, was recalled as kind, talented, and passionate, with a variety of interests and a bright future ahead.

She loved painting, singing, cooking, and poetry, speakers recalled, and was politically active and always asking insightful questions.

"Being the mother of Anne Bryan has been the greatest gift of my life," Winkler said.

Bryan was shopping at the Salvation Army thrift shop on Market Street Wednesday with a friend, Mary Simpson, 24, when the building next door collapsed onto the store during demolition work. Bryan, Simpson, and four others were killed, and 13 were injured.

Bryan had just finished her first year at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where she was going to major in painting, according to professors - and where the memorial service was held.

The academy rotunda was packed for the service; more chairs had to be brought in to accommodate the crowd, which included family, friends, neighbors, classmates, and city officials, including Mayor Nutter and Licenses and Inspections Commissioner Carlton Williams.

Her father, Jay Bryan, recalled celebrating with Anne after Phillies outfielder John Mayberry hit a walk-off grand slam to carry the team to victory Tuesday.

"We will miss you more than words can tell," he told his daughter Sunday.

Winkler said she and her husband loved their daughter "with burning, wide, and deep abandon," describing Anne as "joyful and triumphant," and "a deep thinker."

Chris Bryan, Anne's brother, remembered his sister's quirks, like creating candlelight family dinners by turning off all the lights in the house, and leaving notes on each other's bedroom doors after getting into sibling teasing matches.

"Anne was my only sister, and she's irreplaceable," he said. "I'm going to miss her."

After the service, Nutter, who on Friday publicly apologized for the deadly collapse and pledged reform, left without speaking to reporters.

Williams deflected questions about whether the city bore responsibility for the private demolition gone awry but did say the city could learn from the collapse.

"I want to apologize, like the mayor said, to the families and the victims of this tragic incident," he said before walking away on Broad Street.

On Saturday, Sean Benschop, the Hunting Park man operating the excavator before the collapse, turned himself in to police. He has been charged with six counts of involuntary manslaughter, 13 counts of recklessly endangering another person, and one count of risking a catastrophe.

A toxicology report found it "reasonably scientifically certain" that Benschop, who had been arrested 11 times, including for drugs, was an "active recent user of marijuana."

The circumstances surrounding Bryan's death, however, were not the focus of Sunday's service. Instead, speakers took an opportunity to remember her for the person and student she was.

"Today, we're trying to hold on to the joy of Anne for one more day," Winkler said.

Her father said he would hold on forever.

"We need to believe in some sense that you're not gone," he said. "I do believe that."

Contact Chris Palmer at 609-217-8305,, or follow on Twitter @cs_palmer.

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