In 1982, as an unintended consequence of accepting an engineering position with Altec Lansing in Oklahoma City, OK, I had the exceedingly good fortune to become acquainted with the Bremseth family: three individuals who would arguably become the most important people in my life for the next thirty-some years.
I previously wrote about my relationship with the husband/father Gerald, a truly brilliant engineer and remarkable human being whom I continued to work closely with until his untimely demise in 2013, in my Post called Tribute to an Unsung Hero, so I won’t say any more about him here. Sadly, the focus of this Post must now be on his wife Vera, who passed away mere days before my recent trip to the UK to conduct a Liberated Horsemanship Gateway Clinic.
How do you sum up the granddaughter of a respected physician/state senator and princess of the Chickasaw tribe, and daughter of an Army lawyer stationed all over the United States with his family, in just a few sentences? Vera probably had the richest and most varied set of life experiences of anyone I’ve ever met! A teacher by training, she spent much of her life working with and for various arts- and education-related organizations such as the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, the Ouray County Historical Museum, the Foothills Craft Guild, and the McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture, establishing education programs, managing gift shops and shows, and handling public relations and marketing tasks.
But mostly, for myself and for many, many others who were fortunate enough to have their lives touched by Vera, she helped people. Without question, she was the most generous person I’ve ever known; she would’ve given a total stranger her last dollar or the clothes off her back if she believed they were truly needed. But she was so much more as well – a genuine force of nature: always the polite, well-turned-out lady, intelligent, wise, and inherently benevolent, she was also fiercely loyal to, and supportive of, her friends and family. Being at odds with Vera was definitely done at one’s own peril (a position I somehow always managed to avoid).
In fact, the last time I saw Vera, we were attempting to have dinner together in Maryland at a very busy restaurant. The hostesses kept putting us off, and, after a very lengthy wait, finally told us our table was ready and then seated another party at it instead. By this time, I had complained to the hostess several times about the delay, and then about giving our table away, but without any obvious effect on the situation. Finally, Vera decided she’d had enough. I have no idea what she said to the hostess, but the next thing I knew, we were being shown to a table by multiple people who were practically falling over themselves apologizing! As I said, it never paid to cross her!
Vera and I had a wonderful relationship consisting of every positive aspect of one between mother and son coupled with that of the best of friends. We spoke multiple times each week, and, like it or not, I cherished her advice because I could always count on her to tell it to me straight and it was nearly always spot-on. And she definitely had a sense of humor as well, as you may glean from the photograph below. After all, how many people do you know who’d willingly pose for a portrait wearing a pink plastic raincoat while holding a friend’s stuffed Highland cow wearing a (custom-made!) raincoat?
This wouldn’t be complete without mentioning that Vera loved real animals as well, and at times they had as many as five dogs and two cats in the house. Most were strays of one sort or another; just as with people, Vera looked for opportunities to help animals too – to the extent that Gerald used to say he hoped to come back as one of Vera’s dogs because she took such good care of them!
But for me, one of the most memorable things about Vera was her laughter. The four of us – Gerald, Vera, their daughter Victoria, and myself – spent a great deal of time together over these past thirty-six years, and Vera would regularly laugh as I regaled her with one of my crazy stories about my own crazy life! I really liked that she said I always made her laugh, and I know she looked forward to those visits and conversations as much as I did. She was a very special person to me, and one particular kind of conversation we had many times over the years sticks in my mind. I’d frequently return to the house at 2AM or so, having been out listening to jazz in one or more of the clubs in Knoxville, and I always feared waking her as I came in through the front door and crept up the stairs to my room:
Me: “I hope I didn’t wake you up this morning. Sorry it was so late when I came in.”
Vera: “Nope. Didn’t hear a thing. And I’m not your mother.”
You’re absolutely right, Vera: you weren’t my mother. You were so very much more to me than that. Thanks for all the wonderful memories and everything else you’ve given me these many years, and I trust you can still hear my crazy stories and you’re still laughing…somewhere…
…and Always With Love.