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A Superhero Tribute: Fellow students and faculty salute Cullen Bryant

Cullen Bryant1 / 2
Pictured holding a plaque that will hang near the Cullen Bryant bookshelf are, from left, his mother, Lynette, his brother, Michael, and his father, Jim. His family donated $2,000 worth of books in his memory. Photo by Meg Heaton2 / 2

A contingent of his favorite superheroes were on hand last Friday to salute North Hudson second-grader Cullen Bryant, who died of leukemia last fall.

The family -- parents, Lynette and Jim, and brother, Michael -- donated $2,000 worth of books to the school library in memory of Cullen. An all-school assembly Friday not only acknowledged the gift but paid tribute to a little boy who made a big impression.

Mike Thomley was Cullen's first-grade teacher. "He always had a big smile when he came to school, and the kids were always excited to see him. I can still clearly see his face. He would have loved this."

Thomley donned red tights and a cape and white boxer shorts to appear as "Captain Underpants" in a skit that also had North Hudson Elementary Principal Dolf Schmidt as Spiderman and teachers Brian Burbach as Batman and Dan Rock as Darth Vadar.

The assembly also included a performance of the song "Go the Distance" from the Disney movie "Hercules" by Cullen's second-grade classmates, directed by music teacher Linda Walbrun. Walbrun said the song described Cullen when it said a "hero is measured by the strength of his heart."

There was also a presentation by members of the kindergarten classes who collected more than $1,700 through "Pennies for Patients" and donated the money this year in memory of Cullen for leukemia research.

Lynette Bryant said her son was diagnosed in 2006, underwent chemotherapy and recovered but relapsed in March 2008. A bone marrow transplant was unsuccessful and he died on Sept. 15 at the age of 7. The family's first son, Matthew, also died of cancer at age 11, 13 years ago.

Cullen's parents thanked the staff and students for the program and said he would be happy to be remembered through the books, mostly adventure stories, donated in his name. "We just wanted to donate the books. They didn't have to do anything, but we were very touched by all the wonderful things they did. Cullen was a jokester and enjoyed life and laughing. He would have loved it," said Lynette.

The books will be placed on a special shelf in the school media center along with a plaque commemorating the gift with Cullen's picture.

Meg Heaton

Meg Heaton has been a reporter with the Hudson Star Observer since 1990. She has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and Native American Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

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