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Bryan Hemming


1931 - 2017 Obituary Condolences Gallery
Bryan Hemming Obituary
Bryan Hemming

April 30, 1931 – January 10, 2017

Bryan Hemming, a longtime resident of San Francisco and Inverness, passed away on January 10th after suffering a fall. Bryan was born at home in London on April 30th, 1931, to Alexander Henry Hemming and Katherine Margaret Dickenson Hemming. During the bombing of London their home took a direct hit and his health was severely affected.
He attended a public boys' school, Dulwich College, in southeast London, before transferring to LeRosey in Rolle, Switzerland and later to the L'ecole Hoteliere in Lausanne. His time at hotel school set the course of his adult life in motion. In his twenties Bryan worked first at The Lygon Arms in the Cotswolds and spent three years working at Claridge's in London. In May of 1952 Bryan sailed to the United States on the Queen Elizabeth, paying his passage of £101 with a birthday gift from his mother. In New York he worked at the Waldorf Astoria. Arriving later on the West Coast in the mid-1950s he went to work for Qantas and spent the next 32 years as "Mr. Qantas" in San Francisco. In his free time Bryan would face the same dilemma over and over again, "I would have a terrible choice every Thursday. Would I go to Honolulu for the weekend or to London?"
While based in San Francisco for Qantas, Bryan became the de facto escort for visiting British citizens, including Princess Margaret and Margaret Thatcher. On the occasion of Mrs. Thatcher's visit as the Minister of Transportation in 1969, Bryan took her to Swan Oyster Depot and sat them both at the counter.
Bryan was a tremendously proud resident of San Francisco and a great entertainer. When in town on business trips from the UK, nephew Ian Hemming would regularly bring colleagues new to the city for cocktails and much laughter at Bryan's Leavenworth Street penthouse. If they were really lucky, cocktails would be preceded by Bryan's convertible white Cadillac tour. His audience would marvel at his intimate knowledge of and passion for the history of the city and its buildings, and would revel in his flourish of countless anecdotes of forty years of society parties, receptions and dinners that he had attended in the private ballrooms of grand houses and Embassies that were on the route. He would always introduce the tour with: "I'm lucky enough to know anyone who's anyone in this town, although I'm not a name dropper - as I once said to Prince Philip."
In 2001 Bryan developed medullary thyroid cancer. Deeply grateful for the care and concern of his longtime doctor, Martin Brotman, M.D., and his surgeon Dr. Mark Singer, Bryan endowed the Bryan Hemming Cancer Care Center at the California Pacific Medical Center. "I've had so much given to me, hospitality and friendship," Bryan said. "I've had a wonderful time in this country, I wanted to endow something as a way of saying thank you."
Travel was prominent throughout Bryan's life, both professionally and recreationally. Although he traveled the world, Venice was always his favorite destination. "Everyone has a favorite destination," Bryan said, "and Venice is mine. I made my first visit at eighteen and swore I'd go there every year. It was my goal." It was a goal he largely fulfilled, the staff at Harry's Bar knew him well and would quickly hand over a Bellini whenever he entered. Bryan's last visit to Venice was for his eightieth birthday. More than once he was heard to say, "My God I've had such a good life, and such fun!" Bryan traveled up to the end, spending several weeks this past Christmas with friends in Honolulu.
Bryan's older brother, Alex, once asked him if he was ever coming home to England. In response, Bryan said this about his life amidst friends in San Francisco: "I am home."
He is survived by his sister-in-law Joan Hemming, niece Sarah, nephew Ian and 2 great-nephews and 4 great-nieces.
Services will be held in the Chapel of Grace at Grace Cathedral, 1100 California Street, San Francisco, on March 9th, at 3pm.
In lieu of flowers, remembrances can be made to: California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC), Hemming Cancer Infusion Center, in memory of Bryan Hemming, at 2015 Steiner St. SF, Ca 94115. Or online at cpmc.org/giving with the same designation.
Published in San Francisco Chronicle from Feb. 12 to Mar. 5, 2017
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