Friday, July 6, 2007

A Great Man dies - Fred O Brauer

When I heard the news Tuesday morning (June 26th) I was sad (but realized also that Fred had a long life ~ VERY WELL LIVED)... Fred, who would be 90 this year in August, had passed away the night before, with his family by his side.

This is a picture of Fred with his grandaughter Tarah - at her graduation party last year.

Fred was a member of the greatest generation. Jeff calls him endearingly "The Real-Life Forest Gump". I know that I cannot sum his life up in one blog entry, so, here are the words of his son, my friend, John Brauer:

MISSOULA - Fred O. Brauer, 89, of Missoula, passed away Monday, June 25, 2007, of natural causes.

Fred was born Aug. 23, 1917, in Butte. His father and mother homesteaded at Divide, which is where he lived until the homestead burned down in the early 1920s, forcing the family to move back to Butte. Shortly thereafter, the family moved to Bonner, where Fred attended Bonner School and then Missoula County High School, graduating in 1937. He then went on to the University of Montana where he played football for his beloved Grizzlies from 1937 to 1940. Before completing his degree, duty called and he was off to flight training and service of his country during World War II.

Fred was awarded the distinguished flying cross for his heroic effort in the Battle of the Bulge. His supply mission to the 101st Airborne is widely recognized as a turning point in this epic battle.

Fred returned from the war and entered a career that would make him a legend, smokejumping. This was his true love and he approached it in a head-on, no-nonsense fashion. Fred was responsible for training the new recruits, among other things, and often referred to the trainees as “my boys.” Many of the recruits referred to Fred jokingly as “good deal” Brauer. He took his responsibility seriously, knowing that his boys would be placed in harm’s way on a moment’s notice. They were required to be physically and mentally tough just like he was. Fred was one of the true pioneers of smokejumping and made several appearances on the History Channel and various other documentaries. He ended his 29-year Forest Service career as a technical director for the “Lassie” television program. He also served as a technical director and fire expert for the motion picture, “Red Skies Over Montana.”

He returned to Missoula in 1963, and built the Lolo View Manor mobile home park with his own two hands. He was very proud of the accomplishment and it served him well through his later years. He loved to work and his project list had no end.

He was preceded in death by his parents, John and Vera Brauer, his sister, Charlotte Eddleman of Nampa, Idaho, and his loving wife of 37 years, Harriett Anne Brauer.

Fred is survived by his son, John F. Brauer and wife Kathy of Missoula, his daughter, Sherry Danielson and husband Jim of Billings, his stepdaughter, Julie Davis and husband Craig of Stevensville, his grandchildren, Tarah and Brett Brauer, Denise and Toby Tripp, Chris Poitras, Scott Wold, Kory and Krista Smith and many great-grandchildren.

Great men are not born, they are made. Fred was an honest, good-natured, compassionate man that will be adored by his family forever.

*I met Fred a few years ago when I first met John and Kathy. Before I met him in "real" life Jeff told me many stories about how he had saved a kid's life when he was only a kid himself, about the time he had survived a small pox vaccination when every other person who had received the vaccination had either died or was wheelchair ridden for the rest of their life, the involvement with Mann Gulch, his playing for the Griz Football team, just to name a few...

Jeff has always suggested I write a book on his life.

Fred was just a year younger than my Grampy Folsom (Eldred Folsom), who had a similar childhood story, growing up (and working HARD) on a homestead (through the Homestead Act) in Montana. I guess if you can survive that - it sets you up for the rest of life's hard times.

Last year I had the pleasure of getting to know Fred even better when I was Tarah's mentor through the process of making a documentary on Fred.

This is a picture of Fred in Divide in the middle of what used to be his family's cabin (before it burned to the ground during his childhood). The photo below is he and his family in that cabin years ago. He is on the far right behind the hanging pelt, next to his sister.

Fred played for the Montana Griz and he continued to be a BIG GRIZ FAN long after he played on the team. The picture below is one that I took of he and Kathy at the tailgate. She is wearing his old football jacket.

1 comment:

Art said...

Neat post. I would like to see the film. Great old picture. I think that is a wolf pelt around the sheep. Great guy -