As this depressing year slowly crawls to the finish, one of my dearest friends has departed before the New Years bells have chimed in 2013. Brandon Stewart left us last night, way too soon at just age 58. I want you all to know about this amazing person.
Brandon was one of those true gentlemen who as another friend put it, had a “unique style.” Someone else reminded me today that the test of a truly great life is how you are remembered. Brandon never had a bad word to say about anyone, and absolutely no one had a bad word to say about him. He had great manners. He really liked people and he was particularly fond of animals, and the earth around him. He was enthusiastic about many things, including the art world, his family, the Boston Red Sox, and Grace Potter & the Nocturnals (for whom his enthusiasm remained strong until the very end).
Brandon was a bachelor, but he was always surrounded by interesting people who truly loved him.He had a unique way of making each of the people in his life feel very special. When you talked to him he gave you his full attention, and he was always interested in what you were doing. At the end, he was able to have contact with many of his closest friends, and at the very end, his beloved cousins were at his bedside.
On October 22nd I was in Brandon’s neighborhood and wanted to stop by, but he said he wasn’t feeling too well and he thought maybe he’d eaten something that didn’t agree with him. After a few tests, and just weeks later, he was in the hospital, the victim of a very rare, virulent, and virtually untreatable cancer called cholangiocarcinoma. None of us had any idea how fast his exit would be, but the end came in literally less than two weeks.
Brandon and I met at the Southwest Brooklyn Industrial Development Corporation where he was Executive Director and I was Assistant Director. He also hired John, who eventually become my husband. After we all left for other careers, Brandon. John and I continued to be close friends. Hardly a week went by when I didn’t speak to him at least a couple of times about something, even if it was just to say hello. After decades of friendship, I can’t even imagine how I’m going to fill that void.
There is a moment of little consequence, but it sticks in my mind when I think of Brandon. He’s in my kitchen at my weekend home. He’s standing next to me at the stove wearing jeans and a faded tee shirt that he slept in. He’s looking intently at the griddle, ready to flip pancakes that I just poured onto it. Apparently, he loved making pancakes and with his precise “flip!” he never messed up a single one.
Brandon was really fun to be with and a good sport. If I asked him to do something, he usually said yes, even if he was dubious about it, such as the time I signed us up for West Coast Swing dance lessons (neither of us are going to make it onto Dancing With The Stars, we were terrible!), or when we collaborated on the creation of a non profit for creative types, called The Metropolitan Tribe. Once he agreed to do something however, he always followed through.
One of the things that distinguished Brandon was his outwardly calm demeanor. A long time ago, when we went to see the movie Alien, everyone jumped and screamed, but he merely twitched for a moment, and was quiet. He was dignified, elegant and remained so until the end. He hardly ever complained unless there was a good reason. His kind and gentle nature were appreciated by all who knew him.
The last time I saw him in person it was early October. Brandon was at home waiting for me to come by for some Grace Potter tickets for a show at the Beacon Theater on November 16th. John, Brandon and I were looking forward to attending this concert. As I remember, I sat in his kitchen, complaining about my apartment renovation that was not going so quickly or so well. He offered tea (well, actually it was a double scotch), and sympathy, then walked me to the train. If I had known what was to come, I might have sent the conversation in a different direction. If John and I had known on Thanksgiving day that we would never speak to him again, we might have told him how much we loved him. But I’m sure he knew, anyway.
Brandon was one of a kind. He was so very special. And he leaves a lot of friends and family who know there is no one that can replace him. The world was a better place for his being in it. The world is poorer for the loss of Brandon Stewart.