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John Brent Memory Book

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John Brent Memory Book - Page Text Content

S: John Brent: A Memory Book

BC: 2011

FC: A Memory Book | John William Brent | J

1: Assembled with love from your family and friends. January 11, 2011 | In honor of your 70th Birthday, we asked your friends and family to submit some of their fondest memories of you. The following pages contain their stories and photos for you.

2: I just had a couple of comments about Bill, John, John William. He has always had a great zest for life, great courage, prepared to take what were unpopular stands for what he believed was right, always a commitment for the underdog or less privileged, a committed football (soccer) coach, lover of good music, literature, the odd practical joke and deep love for his family, including of course his many dogs. I would like to quote from a letter he sent to me following mother's death because I believe it summarizes how Bill has lived his life "It is an interesting paradox that love often is as simple as thinking of someone else and the doing something (i.e. the greatest, grandest intention is not worth the simplest good deed)". Bill has always been a doer (though he does love to chat, n'est-ce pas?) So on his fabulous 70th, we wish him and will do so personally many more healthy and happy years with Melanie his equally fabulous wife and partner and his children, grandchildren and extended family. Love, Julaine, Peter, John and Robin, Liam and Owen, Jennifer, Paula and Toby.

3: Belle and Jack Brent with Peter, Suzie and Billy | John, Susan and Peter

4: Peter and Bill ~ Bill and Paul | Paul, Belle, Jack, Susan, Baby Paula O'Neil, Peter, & Bill

5: The Brent Brothers: Bill, Peter and Paul | Bill and Paul "Jamaican me Crazy!"

6: Here are a couple of memories of my darling big bro: When Bill and I were teenagers we would dance together. The dance was called the “Jersey Bounce.” Bill would flip me up onto one of his hips and then swing me to the other hip. And for the grand finale, roll me right over his back. It was quite the hit at parties, in our young, light and flexible years. I must say, we loved putting on a show!! Another fond memory I have was when Bill came home, from a summer in Paris, with a fabulous gift for his sister. It was a sensuous silk scarf from Hermes-chocolate brown and avocado green silk with a large horse and tassels on it-prettier than anything you see today. And this was 50 years ago, when I was 16. It is as beautiful as ever and I still wear it! What a wonderful gift from my big brother. ~Susan~

7: Happy Birthday, John! How does it feel to join us old farts? As to memorable events, two come to mind. Easter at Calloway Gardens: Bill Hume and I didn’t give our wives anything but a score card. You gave Melanie a beautiful ring. Almost ended our marriage. The other thing I remember is when you got a call from mother at 3 o’clock in the morning and mom said, “Are you Melanie Baer’s husband?” All things aside we wish you the very best in the years to come! ~Chuck and Joan~

8: Boules Bill ~ Bill with grande vin ~ Bill the axe man

9: Bill with Glasses

10: Bill, Do you remember when you and Barbie baptized Ged when he was a baby, sitting on the toilet seat in my house in London? I managed to save him just before he got the royal flush. Happy Birthday Bill! Hope you enjoy all of the memories shared on your birthday. Love, Aunt Anne

11: Tillman Family Reunions | Chatting with Uncle Bill, dancing up a storm, recovering from an injury, making toasts, and singing Karaoke with sons Justin and Kyle

12: Dear Billy, What an honour for us to be able to be a part of your birthday celebrations. This book is a great idea. I have such wonderful memories of you and the impact that you have had on my life. You were my first crush! As a young girl, 6th from the top of a family of 9, it was easy to get lost in the shuffle. I know that I always wished that I had been the oldest or the youngest | or the only for that matter so that I could feel that I had a special place. Well that was not easy to accomplish – except when “Billy” came to town. I have strong memories of you coming to visit at 18 Chalmers and in Bayfield and the feeling of happiness that always came with your visits. You actually talked to ‘me’, even though I was a squirt, miles younger than everyone else and usually sent off by my older siblings to hang out with the rest of the ‘four little kids’. You gave me a nickname, “Mouse” which, believe it or not, made me feel special. You would say “Mouse, come here and tell me what you have been doing”, and you actually looked at me and listened and asked me questions. Sometimes I would get teased about my nickname and get called “mousie” and you would step in and say “no it’s Mouse and Mouse come over and sit by me”.

13: You would often suggest ideas of reading something that somehow related to what I told you about. Or I would ask you about your latest adventure (because you always had one) and you would tell me a story of something that you had done, or seen, or read. I remember you screeching to a halt out front of our house in your hot sports car and taking us all for rides. “Wow, Billy drove all the way from Toronto in that car”. That was magic! I remember the look on my Dad’s face when you would arrive to visit. He was so fond of you and it showed. He would get a big smile on his face and his eyes always got a little teary – happy teary. I also remember one day on the beach in Bayfield. I think I was about 6 or 7. Everyone was in the water playing and having a good time. It was too deep for me to join everyone so I sat on the shore and watched – of course wishing I was older. You noticed me and called out “Come on Mouse, you can swim out with me” and you swam back with that beautiful smile that you have, put me on your back and swam out to rejoin the gang. I was so happy that day – the memory has always stayed with me. Billy, I don’t know how you did it but you taught me that even in a crowd of people everyone has their special place. You taught me to learn to listen to people and when they were talking to engage with them fully and let them know you were focused just on them. It is a gift that I wish I was as good at as you are. To this day when I hear that “Bill and Melanie” are coming to visit, I get a warm feeling inside, and I still have a crush on you! Wishing you the happiest of birthdays and the sharing of so many wonderful memories with your family and friends. Love you Billy, XO, Mouse (Paula)

14: I have a great memory of Billy! My mom and dad were having a New Year's Eve party in London Ontario - I was probably about 11 and was sent to bed - I was none too pleased being treated like a "baby" and at midnight Billy snuck up to the 3rd floor and brought me a glass of champagne. I was so thrilled it could have been ginger ale for all I knew but it made me feel very grown up! He had a knack of making people feel important. pegi xoxo (Pegi McCrea)

15: My memory is the same as my brother Mike's. Simply "Hop, Whistle, Fart" ~Rory O'Neil~

16: Uncle Bill with my daughters, Isabella and Natalia Fortuna, when he came to Rowayton, CT for Isabella’s second birthday. Happy 70th Birthday to the one and only Uncle Bill! There are so many wonderful memories of Uncle Bill that it is impossible to pick one. Uncle Bill was special in an everyday way. Whenever I think of being a child and visiting Valley Hi and Valley Lo, I picture Uncle Bill | tickling us, or telling us a funny story or witty joke. (He claims that I called him “Uncle Weird” and, although it is fitting, I don’t recall that we gave him this name.) He made time to talk to all the children and find out what we were doing in school and teach us a little lesson when appropriate. He always paid attention to the details of our lives and the lives of his own children too, of course. I remember being shocked at how well packed Lara’s suitcase was when we went to Bermuda, with every outfit color-coordinated and ironed, and there was even tissue paper between each item! When I asked her how her suitcase came to be so perfect, she said her father packed it for her. I loved when Uncle Bill spoke French to us little ones- or sang a little ditty, even if we had no idea what he was saying. The twinkle in his eye told us that he was reciting something amusing, and sure enough, we would laugh when he translated the words. Also, he

17: remembered to share colorful anecdotes with us about our own parents (“Suds did this”) or our grandparents (“Belle and Grampy did that”) and so we got to hear interesting stories that the other grown-ups didn’t think to share. This is an uncle who made a point to show us he enjoyed our company. Bill and Melanie often came from Georgia to attend our important events, like our graduations, to tell us they were proud of us. When I was in my 20’s, my friend Robbie and I were driving cross-country and we stopped for a visit to Atlanta. Bill drove us all around the neighborhoods giving us a detailed tour of Atlanta and then took us to lunch where we had a delicious meal and a long chat during which we learned about the various cases Bill had taken on in his career. As a teacher, whenever I teach To Kill a Mockingbird, I will always think of my own uncle’s resemblance to the famous fictional attorney, Atticus Finch; both of these are men filled to the brim with understanding of others, kind words, and superior integrity. Bill taught me many things, mostly through his own actions, but often with words. The most useful words that he gave me went something like this: “You can ask anyone anything, or say anything that’s on your mind, but always pick the nicest and the best words to do so.” I have found this advice helpful on many occasions. I know that whoever knows Bill will agree that he has been a true blessing to us all. xox Paula (Paula O'Neil Fortuna)

18: A couple stories I recall involving Bill follow; - Margie and Barb were visiting Aunt Paula and Uncle Jack at their apartment in Montreal. They were having lunch sitting in their respective highchairs. Barb stuck a peanut up her nose and thought it was very funny. Billy did not. He tattled on her but after much to do, Aunt Paula and Margie finally retrieved the wayward peanut. Bayfield Memories; - Going past the garden (Billy's Dad's) on Chinoquoy, we stopped, picked and ate some garlic bulbs we snitched, much to our mother's dismay. - Collecting pop bottles to turn in to Tom Bailey for ice cream cones. - The summer Aunt Mary and her kids were up from Ottawa and we all got pink eye. Everyone, all seven of us, had to periodically lay down and have eye compresses applied. - The same Summer as above, we all trooped to the fish shanties (it was off limits but we all thought we were big enough to do it). Wee Wee and the Moms saw us from Longview. When we got home only Billy and I got spanked. - Going to the Dresser brothers, between courses at dinner, to get corn fresh off the stock.

19: Other Memories; - Our trips into Manhattan from Bronxville to see movies and plays (Sound of Music). - Dinner at the 21 Club, and having lobster. The adults stayed for dessert, etc. and we went Radio City to see the Rockettes and a Kim Novak movie. When we got back to the 21, your Dad had the waiter bring all the lobster we hadn't eaten and we got a lesson in how to properly get every piece of lobster out of the shell. - Going to the bar across from Iona and drinking a few pitchers of beer, and not yet 18. - Living near you, Melanie and the children in Atlanta. When you Fred and I (before we were married) went to Stratford and went bowling (10 pin). Your first roll stuck to your thumb and made first contact with the lane about 25 feet down it. Hope you have a wonderful birthday and we look forward to seeing you this Summer. Love, Barbie and Fred Riley

20: Memories of Bill Brent While I have many memories of “Uncle Bill” from my time living in Atlanta in addition to many visits to Bayfield there is one memory that I will forever associate with Bill. It was the fall of 1976 and the Riley’s had recently moved to Atlanta. I was asked by Bill if I would be interested in playing on a soccer team he was coaching. I was hesitant at first as my experience with the game was limited to Kyle having me play goalie and fire shots off at me! After a little convincing and knowing Kyle would be on the team I agreed it would be a great idea to become a member of the Cosmos soccer team. I believe we met once a week for practice and again on Saturdays for games. I was not good; in fact I am not sure if we met 4 times a week I would have picked up the game any faster. Even with my limited soccer skills I managed to get quite a bit of playing time as a forward. I guess it didn’t hurt to know the coach! As the season progressed the Cosmos kept winning and I started to picking up the general idea of the game. While winning was great I still had yet to feel what it was like to score a goal, or even an assist, in a game. I remember talking to Bill at practice about how much I wanted to get a goal. Time and again he kept encouraging me to keep trying and be ready as you never know when you’ll get your chance to score.

21: Towards the very end of the season as time was running out I finally did score. This is where my fondest memory comes from. As I recall the ball came bending at me off a corner kick. I closed my eyes as it headed towards me and stood my ground. Low and behold the ball struck me straight in the face and went into the net. I was shocked in fact my teammates were shocked and probably even Bill was shocked. As I ran towards the sideline with tears streaming down from getting a soccer ball in the face there was Uncle Bill with his trademark grin and arms stretched out congratulating me on my first goal. In the many times we have talked about “the goal” over the last 35 years Bill has always described my traumatic event as if Pele himself leapt into the air and directed the ball past the goalie. I only played soccer a couple of more years and never again had the fortune of scoring a goal but to this day I have a memory of scoring one of the finest goals ever witnessed in youth soccer. Bill: Lesley, Peter, Mark Katherine and I want to wish you the happiest of Birthdays. We hope you enjoy your 70th birthday feeling the very same way you made a 7 year boy feel in 1976 after scoring his first ever goal. Peter Riley

22: In the late 1960s we formed a law firm known as Morris, Ethridge, Redfern and Butler, of which John Brent was an integral member. It was here that he met Melanie. All of us were quite young. I am convinced that some of us got our first razor while working at MERB, and we were all going in ten different directions at once. David Butler called it the “Junior Achievement law firm”. The organization had very little cohesion as none of us were quite sure as to what we were good at. Except John Brent. John brought to MERB a sense of maturity and dignity. He was the only one of us who had traveled, spoke languages other than English, and read books that it took me 20 years later to find interesting. John had a sense of the world. As MERB was the dumping ground of most of our early and not very well thought-out marriages, John approached the break-up of his first marriage with a dignity and integrity that I remember even today.

23: I think with his leadership, many of us made it through that passageway with more honor than would have been the case without him. John was always a leader, staying with a vision even as others doubted. I remember one of such times: the lighting consultant. We were moving into a new office on the 13th floor of the old Fulton National Bank Building and each of us was responsible for the decoration of our own offices. John hired a lighting consultant to advise him on the proper amount of recessed lighting in order to present the image that he desired. (Constructed images of ourselves were about all we had at that early stage, as none of us knew much about the reality of ourselves). Well, not only had none of us ever heard of a lighting consultant, we all were more than a tad skeptical. John got a lot of ridicule about it, until his office was finished, from which point on we all enjoyed hanging out in there because the vibe was so good. The John I know was always able to make up his mind and forge ahead, even if others might not agree with him. It is a trait that I have always admired in John. MERB was a law firm that required a great deal of one’s time, often in the evenings. After all, this was the late 60s. I believe that someone, maybe one of the maids, walked into our conference room one evening when everyone was crammed under the conference room table in some form of a quasi-religious séance. Not much was ever said about that particular attempt to combine both the human and metaphysical questions of our early adulthood. I still use that conference table and have never gotten rid of it. It was not until writing this letter that maybe I remember the real reason for its value. A new height of enlightenment, or something like that.

24: I actually saved some pictures of that period one of which I am attaching. One is an example of the staff meetings at MERB. As you observe, a tad of frivolity existed with our other members while John Brent is the only one studying numbers (as compared to figures). Our fearless and consistent leader. The other picture is of me recently in Cusco, Peru, attempting to infiltrate the Shining Path as a tea party activist. I had hoped to use some of the MERB photos in exchange for money, but had lost them in the back of my desk and never got around to blackmailing everyone during our 40’s and 50”s. Now, no one gives a damn. I have always missed the top of every market. Leb’s was a much-loved old downtown haunt for attorneys. (It advertised that its raw oysters provided sexual enhancement to all that devoured them. I believe that Lee Redfern blamed eating those oysters at Leb’s for many of the situations in which he later found himself; it became “Leb’s raw oysters” as a defense.) John and I were having lunch one day at Leb’s Restaurant when he mentioned to me his desire to become an immigration specialist. I thought that sounded like a good idea. Well, John went on to become a very successful immigration attorney who has supported me in that area all of my life. He was always the person I turned to when I had a client with an immigration problem. Without exception, he represented those clients with honor and integrity, leaving them believing that the legal system works and is something upon which they can rely. As I mentioned earlier, it was during this period that John met Melanie. Melanie came into MERB one day looking like a European princess, with her long white gloves that she wore in the winter time.

25: She always presented herself in an elegant and graceful form, and John was google-eyed from the first moment he looked over his Dictaphone machine to see her. They made a beautiful couple. Melanie is the only female I can remember from the MERB experience, and they are all beautiful memories. John is a man who, from my perspective, lived a life of integrity, has enjoyed the fruits of his labor, and presents himself in an honorable fashion. The person I know certainly has mental intelligence, but also that often-elusive emotional intelligence. He knows how to maneuver in new places, and does so with grace. I saw many times when John could have taken the low road, but elected not to do so. Throughout our later years, both John and David Butler are the only two members of MERB who have remained with me as close friends. The others just drifted away. Happy 70th birthday to John, on January 11, 2011. John Brent is my friend. ~Thornton Morris~

26: Dear John: I will forever remember your verbal exchange with the late Governor Lester Maddox at one of our assembly meetings when we were in law school. I was encouraged by your strength and integrity in confronting the Governor head on. | The mode of the country has changed since those days, but I still have faith in democracy. Your confrontation was the first time I had seen someone stand toe-to-toe to voice his views about the country during that period of time - 1965. From your comments I gained strength to go forward- knowing that issues cannot be resolved unless you put them on the table for consideration. Fondly, Marvin S. Arrington MSA/mw

27: One of my favorite memories of John is my first auto ride with him. He picked me up at my office in Roswell for lunch somewhere which required a trip south on GA 400. As we pulled onto 400 in his BMW it accelerated to what thought we would reach light speed as we flew down the highway in and out of traffic with the sound of the radar detector beeping in the background and headed east on I-285. I don't recall the exact speed but it was approaching triple digits. Who know that such a quiet well educated distinguished gentleman would be doing his imitation of Mario Andretti :) HAPPY BIRTHDAY JOHN !!! Kennedy McLeod

28: Knowing John and Melanie has been a true adventure which began in 1971. Memories really began when John and Melanie came to stay with us during an ice storm in early 1970s. They came along with 2 children and a very large dog to a small ranch house that had never seen children nor dogs. When the ice storm was over and electricity returned to their home their gift to us was a night at the Atlanta Flames hockey game and there was the beginning of Brent’s hockey amateur hockey playing days. Ski trips were great. The school break of 1990 both families ventured to Snow Shoe, W. Virginia in an 18-passenger van (kids were totally embarrassed!). Kids still remember John giving money to a homeless woman at a gas station who needed the money for gas. A Thanksgiving in Hilton Head was one of our highlight trips with the Brents. The Popes were moving their boat from Hilton Head to Ft. Lauderdale and Brent had to leave on Friday. Meanwhile John was taking Kyle and Jeremy to Charleston to attend a soccer tournament.

29: Melanie and Susan are lucky enough to stay in Hilton Head until we receive a phone call from the State Troopers of SC. John had stopped for gas, the boys decided to climb out of the van and go inside. John leaves and gets to Charleston thinking these two boys are still asleep in the back! WRONG. Boys are sitting at a gas station. Talk about two mothers panicking. Still a story told at family get togethers. Jeremy, Kyle and their friend John still remember John’s days of driving football carpool – racing down Ashford-Dunwoody Road with the boys enjoying every minute of being with a “fun Dad”. But most importantly John has been a great friend or should I say member of the Pope family. Not only being Jeremy’s godfather he has been our good friend. From tutoring Susan with her Spanish in college to being a friend to Brent we think of John fondly and wish him the best in the years to come. With fond memories of our dear friend, Brent and Susan

30: SKI TRIP 1990 | Brents and Popes

31: Brents and Popes | 1998-2003

32: The memory we would like to share occurred, as best we can recall, around 1973 or 1974. The two of you may remember this. Joan and I met you one weekend in Boston, and the four of us then traveled together and spent a very enjoyable time on Nantucket Island. Nantucket had been one of our favorite places during the year we spent living in Cambridge, so we were quite eager to return. I do not recall the reason either we or you two were in Boston, but I know we were very pleased to have traveling companions to Nantucket. The photo above was taken during the ferry ride from Cape Cod to Nantucket. As you can see, Joan looks frozen, while John, being Canadian, is untroubled by the weather, being without a jacket and wearing a short sleeve shirt. Since I am not in the picture, I can only assume I took it. In any event, this is a very pleasant memory for us, and we are glad to share it with you. John, our best wishes for a wonderful birthday. All our love, Robbie and Joan Dokson

33: John, Sending forth four photographs of yourself and Melanie visiting Bill and Marta Hathaway in the year of the Lord 2006. | First photo your arrival at Gatwick airport looking fresh and ready to go. The second is standing in front of Winston Churchill's home – Chartwell. You can see it is a cool and brisk day - downright cold. We then proceeded to the tea shop on the Chartwell grounds, to warm up. Later in the week we proceeded to the backyard of Great Fosters estate, which was the country home and hunting facility for Henry VIII. Marta and I greatly enjoyed your visit as we hope you both did. John - there is one constant in the photographs. Melanie’s Winter coat!! All the best on your 70th birthday. Bill and Marta

34: I remember when I fell in love with John. We had only been dating for 3 months and he said to me: “What shall we call our first son?” We weren’t even to the point of talking about marriage, but that touched my heart and started me thinking. ~Melanie~

35: I remember when I went to Washington, DC to see the Holocaust Museum with Dad. It was August and very hot. The museum was very touching and moving. We spent 3 or 4 hours there. I just remember how fun it was. I will always remember that weekend between father and daughter. ~Lara Brent~

36: In thinking about my contribution, I have come to realize that many of my memories with Dad have to do with many of my passions. The earliest memories involve sitting on dad's lap a watching soccer often in spanish. It was a bonding experience that I imagine many sons have with their father when they impart their love and knowledge of a given sport to them, and it is probably no small coincidence that it is my greatest passion. I'm fairly certain that the Windsor Parkway fields were my first experience with an organized game, and Dad giving me extensive instruction to stay in my position on defense. Many of my memories from playing run together and it's impossible to really sort out much of the details, but the one constant that always remained was Dad there to get me to practice on time, rain, shine, sleet, or snow, often 15-20 minutes early. He was always a presence supporting as a fan or on the sideline as a coach. It was this constancy, discipline, and loyalty that instilled many of the values that have come to shape me.

37: In all of the practices and games, I also spent countless hours riding around the greater metro area and beyond with Dad. I take for granted the numerous short-cuts, questionably legal tricks, and expeditious joy of navigating north Georgia roads that Dad taught me. Perhaps one of my single most exhilarating experiences was the time Dad brought me in his 1983 BMW 633 csi to the St. Jude's parking lot and inexplicably allowed me to operate my first stick-shift automobile at the age of 15. It wasn't too long after that he allowed me on the open road to experience the acceleration and handling that is the ultimate driving machine. Not long after that, I learned the importance of breaking while entering a turn, luckily without harm to the 633. Since this is about memories, I will include my two favorite memories with Dad. The 1994 World Cup Finals marked many firsts for me. It was the first time I flew a red-eye, the first (and thankfully only) time I visited Los Angeles, and the first time I attended a sporting event with 100,000+ individuals and the energy of the world watching a new champion being crowned. Between jet lag and adrenaline, I had no concept of time, just the feeling of the moment which cemented in my heart, my love for the game. Fifteen was a good year for me. Dad explained the strategy behind having your best penalty taker go last because you were assured he would finish. Naturally Roberto Baggio missed the target, straight down the middle, over the crossbar. In 1997 Dad, Justin, and I attended Wembley for the charity shield game between Manchester United and Chelsea. This was my second sporting event w/ 100,000+ individuals only this time the stadium was organized nearly perfectly into two opposing horseshoes, one a sea of red and the other blue separated only by a thin black line of bobbies and a plexi-glass wall. From the opening whistle, the crowd erupted into a cacophony of jubilance and terrace songs. To this date, I have never quite experienced a live event quite so entertaining. ~Kyle Brent~

38: Dear John, Having only had the pleasure of knowing you for a short time, I’ve come to respect and love you a great deal. I’ll always remember how you welcomed me into your home immediately, and made me feel comfortable right from the start. It is easy to see the love that you have for your family, in the way that you treat your wife and children. | You’ve been a great role model for Kyle, and I’m so happy to know that I’m going to marry a man that saw you as the example of what a husband and father should be. My greatest memories of you are the family dinners at Paul’s and at your home, with many stories and much laughter. The toasts you love to give are always the highlight of the meal for me. I’m so grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to get to know you and your wonderful family, and I’m ecstatic to have the honor of becoming part of that family. I know you will be a fantastic father-in-law and grandfather, and I look forward to many more memories in the future. Hope that you have the happiest birthday ever! Sincerely, Heather

39: A great memory I have of dad was taking a trip to Toronto for Uncle Peter's birthday when I was in...oh jeeze... grade 4 or 5? I got ridiculously sick while we were there, and I can remember dad being super awesome taking care of me and making sure that, while I was super bummed out I couldn't play with Paula or anything, I still had a great time. Special trips with just me and dad were always something I enjoyed. ~Colleen Brent~

40: You, Dad, showed me how to love food. My earliest memories are of you delighting in lobster intestines or raw oysters or stomach-turning vegetables; how cool is THAT! I thought as a young child. And so from this moment, I became your most diligent pupil. On school mornings, you would flick the lights on in my room and start singing at the top of your lungs: I was once a young cowboy who used to go dashing... a song, it seems to me, that I must have brought home from kindergarten, but that you appropriated and refitted with your own non-sensical lyrics. Other mornings, it was My mother gave me a nickel to buy a pickle; I didn't buy a pickle I bought some chewing gum... and when I screamed, “Dad! Stop it!!!” You'd have your mother buying lollipops or sardines or toothpaste or jelly beans, or whatever came into your head. I detested your songs, the way an eight year-old detests a hug: shunning that which he desperately craves. Is it any wonder, then, that Sienna and Jack now shout “be quiet!!!” and slap me in the butt whenever I break out in song?

41: Atlanta Flames hockey games were the Holy Grail of treats when I was little. Sometimes I got to go alone with you, though most of the time Lara tagged along. You always parked in some really tricky parking spot under a bridge, far away from the Omni coliseum, where we wouldn't have to pay. I loved the routine though because then we'd have sprint races along the sidewalk. Man he's fast! I remember thinking. In those days, no one ran faster, played soccer better, skated better, shot better than Dad. No wonder I wanted to be just like you. As I grew older, I learned to appreciate other virtues of yours, but I'll have to limit myself to one. During college, I made the not-entirely rational decision one summer to remain at Furman, pay rent, and take a class or two. When Mom sensibly pointed out how much more expensive it would be, I noted that I could get a job and pay rent myself: Haven't you always said I need to learn some responsibility? In reality, I cared more about freedom from supervision than responsibility, but lessons in responsibility came quickly enough! Finding a job waiting tables was no easy trick. And the delight of partying runs out in a hurry when money grows tight. Once I found a job, I realized that I hated it, nor did it come close to covering my expenses. And so I found myself really demoralized one weekend when you and Kyle decided to come to Furman for a visit. My roommates, who had grown progressively more irritating to me, transformed into perfect gentlemen that weekend. They encouraged me to cook a meal the night of your arrival. And so we ate, drank beer, listened to music, and shared observations about the world into the wee hours of the morning. You raved about the food we prepared and showed genuine interest in our stories, opinions, and concerns. We all talked with radar down, joking openly, withholding nothing.

42: The next day broke sunny and hot, and so we all hit the outdoor pool, which had a volleyball net. I remember playing for hours with you, my roommates and anyone else who showed up. Kyle, all of nine years old, had learned how to pour beer from a keg into plastic cups and bring those to us right beside the pool. During bathroom breaks, my friends would slap me on the back and say, “Your Dad is the best! He is so cool!” And I would reply, “Yeah, he is, isn't he?” That night we had another home-cooked meal, perhaps only the second of that summer! More conversation, more praise for my Dad. The next morning as you were packing up the car I came out to hug you goodbye, and you handed me a check for next month's rent. Before I could even say, No Dad, I'll be okay, you interrupted with “Thanks. I had a really great time. Really!” and hugged me. As I fought back the tears of I don't deserve this, but damn I really need it, and how did you know that anyway? And you really are the best, you know that, right? I decided to hold on to you in that hug for just a little longer, in hopes that that would communicate everything. I'm sure it didn't, but WOW was I trying to say I love you with a hug! Two years ago, I attended a fraternity reunion in Greenville, where for the first time in twenty years I laid eyes on my old roommate Bruce Haynes. After swapping hugs, how-are-you's, whatcha-doin'-these-days, pictures of kids, and other formalities, Bruce asked me, “So how's your Dad doing? Do you remember that weekend?” “Yeah I do Bruce,” I said. “That was one to remember, wasn't it?” ~Justin Brent~

43: My favorite memory of you, John, was back in 1998 when I joined you all at the Tillman family reunion in Bayfield. Justin and I had gotten into an argument and I remember I felt completely trapped up there surrounded by his entire extended family, while he and I weren’t even speaking to each other. One afternoon you asked me to take a walk with you and I was nervous because I thought perhaps I was in trouble. But once we went walking you just chatted with me about all sorts of other things that put me at ease and made me feel completely welcome there regardless of how Justin and I were getting along. I always think back to that walk with fondness. With one walk you showed me how open and kind you and your family are, which I still value to this day. Thank you for being such a wonderful father-in-law, and of course for raising such a wonderful son who asked me to marry him within a month of that walk. ~Sylvia Sievers~

44: My favorite memory of Grampy is when he took me to the dog washing place and we got to see the dogs being washed. ~Sienna Brent~

45: My favorite memory of Grampy is when he let us help him walk the dogs and he told us all about poop. ~Jack Brent~

46: John, Justin and Jack

47: Three Generations of Soccer

48: Sleepy boys: Grampy and Jack 2004


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  • By: Sylvia S.
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  • Title: John Brent Memory Book
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  • Started: over 7 years ago
  • Updated: over 7 years ago