Gery and Paul Bryson have been married for 35 years. Gery officially retired from nursing in 2006, although she has started a new career as a one-of-a-kind jewelry artist. By choice, Paul is only semi-retired from the police force, having launched a computer forensics business in St. George in 2006. He also works as a realtor due to his lifelong passion for residential architecture.
Gery was a nurse and still has her RN license, working for insurance companies for 19 years in case management, and in a hospital for 11 years before that. She decided on her career path when she was 13 and had an emergency appendectomy. While recovering, she was put in the only available hospital bed, which was broken. At mealtimes, nurses would leave her tray in front of her, and though she was fairly tall for her age, she couldn’t reach it. Gery “knew she could improve” nursing care.
She found out that Kaiser Permanente had a nurse’s aide class available on weekends through the public school system, and Gery learned a lot of practical skills throughout the two years she trained. She says, “I loved it. I knew exactly what was involved and what I would be doing. Plus, I thought I could do whatever I wanted in my free time.”
What she wanted to do with her free time was art. Both of Gery’s parents were artists; the family spent the first five years of her life in Minnesota before moving to Leavenworth, Kansas where her father was an art professor while finishing his bachelor’s degree. After obtaining his master’s degree from Notre Dame during summers, he got a full professorship and moved the family to Southern California when she was 10. Gery had five siblings in all—one sister and three brothers—one brother has passed away and the rest are scattered between California and Minnesota.
Today Gery works out of her art studio at the back of the house, and her original jewelry pieces are sold at a gallery in Kayenta. You can see her work on Pinterest at https://www.pinterest.com/gapbryson/my-jewelry/. She still wishes her mother “had lived long enough to see her do this.”
Paul started his career working for a residential architectural firm, then his life took a 180 degree turn when he became a policeman—he ended up working in law enforcement for 38 years. The last 17 years at the force was spent as a computer forensics expert, which he continues to this day.
So how did he get into that fascinating field? As an officer, he worked child abduction cases for five years. Some were stranger abductions, but most were parental abductions. Paul says, “These cases are about hate for the other spouse, not love for the kids. These abducted children are nothing more than tools for hatred, and you see the conditions they are kept in.”
His very first case was a child who was abducted to India by his father, who worked in the computer industry. Computer forensics was key to solving the case, and Paul was hired by the DA’s office to be its high-tech crimes investigator. Becoming deeply involved in the work, Paul was part of the first task force in the state of California actually trained by the CIA to do computer forensics. Paul says, “I didn’t know what it was. It was a strange feeling because the California Department of Justice sent me to a place called ‘the search group’ and I’m there with nothing but military guys and other people that nobody talked about. So I ask, Who’s funding this?” They said, ‘we just call them ‘the benefactors.’”
“Recovering the child from India, that was the beginning of my computer forensics career. That was when I began working in the Inspector General’s office in L.A. County and I had the lab—essentially, every case went through me. I headed the whole department.”
Paul grew up in Pittsburgh, moving to California for his father’s health when he was 10. A WWII vet who served in the Philippines’ tropics, Paul’s father was a POW three times, escaping each time, but ending up with lot of health problems. He had TB and malaria, coming home with only a third of his stomach and one lung remaining. Doctors said the California weather might help, but his dad died a couple of years after they moved. His older half-brother and half-sister have both passed away within the last three years.
Paul and Gery have been married for 35 years. They met at a church singles dance in California, talked for three years, but they were always dating someone else. Gery even set Paul up with a friend at one point. She knew he had a private airplane, but “that wasn’t the draw,” she laughs.
One day Gery got a message while on her hospital shift, “Detective Bryson wants to speak with you.” She thought it was a medical referral call. When she called him back, she was told, “He’s with a body right now.” It seemed legit to her as a nurse, but they actually meant Paul had someone in custody, not a dead body. They started dating and have been together ever since.
One aspect of their decades-long marriage that Gery has had to accept is Paul’s love of residential architecture. He has owned 18 homes, rehabbing them and fixing them up to sell, including theirs. They have moved eight times, and Paul is always looking for “that next house” (made easier because Paul is also an agent with Tolbert, Nielsen & Johnson Realty Group.)
The Brysons are Steelers fans and they raise Toy Shelties obtained from select breeders in the U.S. (They currently live with Duncan and Ceana, both nine years old.) They take art classes together, and have traveled many places in the world—they love Australia, New Zealand and Fiji in particular, even considering retirement there.
But Paul couldn’t forget about St. George after he had rescued a child here years ago. They bought property and moved in 2006. “People are kind, caring and generous here. It’s the best place we’ve ever lived, and we found it because of an abducted child.” The couple is looking for an RV, and plan to spend the next phase of retirement traveling the U.S.