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 a true gentleman who as another friend put it, had a “unique style.”
Tthe 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. He was concerned about and tuned in to 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 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 of his life he was still 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 his 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 Dunham, who eventually become my husband. But even after we all stopped working together, 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, there is no way I’m ever 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, 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. He loved doing this. 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 did it, 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, he always followed through.
One of the things that really distinguished Brandon was his outwardly calm demeanor. I have no idea what he was really thinking on the inside.
I remember going to see the movie Alien. Everyone was jumping and yelling, but Brandon 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 very 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. He was waiting for me to stop by and pick up some Grace Potter tickets for a show at the Beacon Theater on November 16th.
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. I never saw him again. Had I had known what was to come, I would have told him how much he meant to me and how much I appreciated his friendship.
I never got the chance. But I’m sure he knew, anyway.
Brandon was one of a kind. The world was a better place for his being in it. The world is poorer for the loss of Brandon Stewart.