So many people have asked for copies of Jim's tribute to his older brother Johnny who died this week at 44, after the most courageous battle with cancer I have ever witnessed. Jim wrote this in his head...and then dictated it to me. Although he changed a few words during the service, this is an attempt, from his heart, with all his heart, to pay homage to his big brother.
My Grandpa Brawley was a loving, generous and patient man. His acts of kindness will live on forever in this town. My Grandpa Freund was a Marine. His courage, his honor, and his loyalty could be seen every morning as he raised his American flag, and again in the evening when he lowered it, folded it, and placed it in its drawer—ready for the next day.
Coming from such strong tradition, it is no wonder our older brother Johnny turned out to be the greatest big brother anyone could ask for. His honor to do the right thing and his courage to be his own man were examples for us to follow. His patience and kindness allowed him to teach us every thing that his father had taught him, from tying a knot on a fishing line to wind direction in a tree stand. His teachings continued outside the family bond, reaching anyone who asked or who wanted to learn. He was a positive role model for all of us.
To use Johnny's words, he would be truly humbled by the turnout today. But he would not want us to be sad, he would want us to celebrate his life. And what a life! He started fishing on the Platte River at three years old. He fished the Gulf of Mexico, the Bahas of California, Lake Okechoibee in Florida. He stayed on deserted island in the middle of Lake Michigan and on islands in Lake Erie. He fished the Manistee River, all the way to East Lake. He fished the coast lines of Eagle Lake in Ontario. He spent weeks at Coho Bend Campground fishing for King Salmon in Lake Michigan. He did all these things before he was 17 years old.
The experiences that my father gave us and the lessons my mother taught us molded him into the loving husband and great father that he is today. His adventures were just beginning. He hunted the pheasants in the Dakotas, ducks in Manitoba, caribous in Quebec, bears in Saskachewan and Ontario, mule deer in Montana and white tails-- from the woods of Northern Michigan to the hills of Southern Ohio. He enjoyed these adventures with his family and friends. His favorite partners in his numerous adventures were his wife Pam, and his two sons, Quinn and Jake. On his bow, he placed a picture of them so whenever he went in the woods, they went with him.
We can see the love in Jake's eyes, especially for all the animals in the world, whether its a dog, raccoon or skunk, they will all find safety in Jake's arms. We see the courage in Quinn's chest that tells me he will be his own man and I know he will have the honor to always do what's right.. With the experiences and foundation that Johnny and Pam have given them, these two young boys will grow up to be fine young men.
I have come to believe that everything happens for a reason. And sometimes it might take awhile to figure out what God's plan is. But now I know why a cute blonde haired, blue eyed little girl from Union Street on the westside of town joined the Army. God needed to make her strong because He was going to need Johnny before she would be ready to let him go.
Why Johnny? we are all asking. I believe God had three messages.
The first is for the young people here today: Johnny wants you to have the courage and the honor to do the right thing. Johnny did not believe in underage drinking, or the use of tobacco or drugs. He is watching you now and hopes you have the courage to do the right thing and to help your friends do the same.
Secondly, for the parents here: Johnny showed love for all children, not just his. One time he told me that he thought it was awesome the way I treated each kid on my team and that I treated every kid like my own. And then he asked me, “What about the kids on the other team?” And I thought “well, what about those other kids? They are someone else's.” And then he said, “don't you think every kid deserves your knowledge and enthusiasm?” I want to challenge all the parents here today. in Johnny's honor, to try to make every child reach their potential.
Lastly, to the community who we saw in the Field of Dreams for Johnny's birthday bash: Look what we accomplished when we all worked together! My mom, who Jeff Johnson says could solve the war in Iraq if she just had ten minutes to think about it, was the most impressed, saying that this group was the best group of people she has ever worked with. This won't be the last time that someone in our community needs support and help. In Johnny's honor, we need be aware and be active. We will step it up.
We never knew a day without our brother and we never will. Because in the woods, and in the water, and in our hearts, he will live forever.