Case in Point


This blog site will feature essays, columns and musings that deal with the intersection of Christianity and journalism and the American Songbook.

Memorial for Scott Nelson Brotherton (eulogy)

(Note: As one begins to push 70 he also begins to lose friends to death. In the last couple of months two good friends have died to cancer: Dennis Cummings and John Ludtka. Dennis was a prominent businessman in Ellensburg and in Tucson and a pal for 30 years. John was a professor at Central Washington University and the publisher of the Ellensburg Daily Record. Both men were civic leaders and fine examples of small town Americans. My work schedule prohibited me from attending the memorial services held for these friends.  As a two-time cancer survivor I tend to hone in on that cause of death and as I reflected on the intersection of my life with these two I remembered a memorial service that I was able to attend. I not only was able to attend the sad gathering but I was privileged to participate in it. The following are comments made at the memorial service for a childhood friend who tragically died in a car wreck outside of Moses Lake, Wash., where he was living with his family and an executive in Brotherton Seed Company. He died in July 1983. It was a sad honor for me to give the eulogy on that Wednesday afternoon in August so many years ago.)


My name is Bob Case and I’m a friend of Scott Brotherton and the Brotherton family.

It is a rare privilege to memorialize a boyhood chum and colleague who has remained a friend in adulthood. I trust my comments this afternoon will add, if only a little, a measure of comfort and solace to those of us who are without this very special person.

King Solomon wrote 2,000 years ago: “A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.”

What Solomon probably meant was that a “good name” is harder to get and harder to keep than earthly wealth, and that once obtained, no one can steal or devalue a “good name.” Indeed, the great king says that nothing is as “good” as a “good name.”

It is with the “good name” of Scott Brotherton in mind that I share a few personal thoughts and reminiscences with you.

One can’t think of Scott without thinking of the unique families of which he was a part–the Scott family and the Brotherton family. And, I can’t think of the Brotherton family without thinking of words like “strength,” “character,” and even “nobility.” I remember my father telling me, not so long ago, that he didn’t know of anyone with more personal integrity and honor than Bill Brotherton.

Indeed, the Brotherton family is one that is respected not only in Ellensburg and Moses Lake, but throughout the Northwest, across this country, and in Europe–wherever their business and research activities have taken them. I personally have been housed and fed in Europe because my family worked with the Brothertons.

And that respectability and nobility of character was passed down to Scott through the teaching and example set by Bill and Ivy, and the family bonding of his brothers, sister, aunts, and uncles. Scott had a rare quality of serenity–of being at peace–not war–with life. He seemed to be able to deal with life on his terms–to take what came. In our age of neurosis, Scott was a golden pond. He had more important things with which to be concerned than to be in a constant state of siege with life. He wanted his family, his friends, and himself to enjoy life and to be at peace with oneself. I remember his recent amusement at my tilting at windmills. He just had more important things to do than to be life’s Don Quixote on a crusade.

And yet, Scott was not afraid of controversy. About a year ago, he gave his public endorsement to a friend for what could have been an unpopular political race. He was simply not intimidated by other peoples’ opinions because he knew what he wanted out of life.

But you all know these things and more, or else you wouldn’t have taken the time to come to Moses Lake to pay tribute and respect to Scott and his family.

The question I ask myself is, “How am I going to remember Scott?” What has Scott bequeathed to us, his friends, and to you, his family? I offer you my tentative answers.

First, to those of us who went through grade school, junior high and high school, and university years together–in short, grew to manhood with Scott. What did he leave us? The great fact of our growing-up years was that Scott was consistently a stabilizing force. He didn’t seem to have the difficulties in growing up that the rest of us had. His friendship was a “safe harbor” during those turbulent times. He seemed to know what was the right and sensible thing to do. Whether you were water skiing or snow skiing with him, or taking a vacation together, or doing something socially together, or working with him–he always made you feel better about life. Scott was a friend you could count on–to be his own person, but somehow at the same time, his individuality was not a threat to you, but rather helped you deal with your own struggles. So fellow friends of Scott, lets not mourn the falling of a comrade, but let’s rejoice, selfishly if you will, that we had the opportunity to learn from, and enjoy life with a very special guy.

To you, his brothers and sister–What is Scott’s heritage? If I might hazard a suggestion or two. Scott has left you an example of family loyalty and solidarity. It’s true, but you don’t need the example because the Brotherton family has that unique capability of blending form and freedom together. The form is the bond of being, a loyal part of the Brotherton orchestra. The freedom is that ability to play your own instrument within the family orchestra. Scott also left you the ability and freedom to go wherever he went because he never left a reproach on your fine name. Whether they were social or business contacts, the result was the same–a friendship built. This too I know from family experience, for as you know, Dad travelled with Scott on business trips and his report was always the same. Finally, Scott has left an opportunity for you: Wilbur, Richard, Jerome, Mary Lou: to step into the breach and be uncles and aunts and in-laws in a new way to Sue, John and the new baby girl.

To you, Bill and Ivy, Scott has been and his memory is a living testimony to you. We wouldn’t have gathered in Moses Lake today to remember Scott, if you hadn’t handed down the torch of values and the strength of character you did. Solomon says, “A wise son heeds his father’s instruction.” We’re here today because Scott did heed your instructions and example, and because of that, he developed his distinctively individualistic and good-natured and serene outlook on life.

In another place Solomon writes, “A wise son brings joy to his father (and mother).” I know this sounds convoluted, but you should take pride in the fact that for the past few days, two major communities in Central Washington have been mourning the loss of one of your sons which gives you an indication of how much he was liked, respected, and appreciated by those communities who knew him.

And, a beautiful fact is that he has bequeathed to you, another daughter, a grandson, and an unborn granddaughter.

Finally, to you, Sue and John, Scott gave you his most intimate affections to remember. Sue, to you Scott has given his noble name– Brotherton. He has also given you, in Biblical language, “the issue of his loins”–your son to help comfort you, protect you and to be a companion to you. Perhaps most importantly, though, Scott gave you the opportunity to love and cherish someone so deeply that his loss seems sometimes to be almost unmanageable. Treasure your love because Scott loved you back, and that mutual love is a beautiful and sustaining thing.

To you, John, your father gave to you as well, your distinguished name. He also gave you friends and helpers across this country and Europe by virtue of his reputation and his “good name.” He has given you a family of uncles and aunts and cousins to be by your side.

He has given you grandparents to love and adore you. And, he has given you his lover and wife to be your mother–to guide you and teach you and to pour her life into you. John, someday in the future, your father’s torch will be passed to you as it was to him. May God bless you.

So here we are, gathered to pay respect and friendship to Scott Brotherton–father, husband, son, brother, nephew, and friend. To each of us, he has left something different and unique and special. But one thing in common we all have from Scott, and that is each of us is different and improved because he was a part of our lives.


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