Obituary: Leslie Arthur Brewer
Principled, resourceful, modest, insightful
Leslie Arthur Brewer, 97, lived life with integrity, used words sparingly but effectively, and was well known for his dry, clever humor. In many ways, he lived a remarkable life, but did so unassumingly. Known by friends and family as Les, he was a lifelong resident of the Pomona Valley and died peacefully in his sleep on Thursday, December 24, 2020. The cause of death was COVID-19.
As a boy he was immersed in his parents’ continuous matching of others’ needs with items from their own larder and garden; as an adult his generosity was a way he lived, regardless of how much or how little he had. He helped tend the densely planted three acres in Pomona that supplied many other households with food and flowers. The California live oak planted by him and his mother when he was a toddler continues to grow. Throughout his life, he cultivated and shared what he had, be it camellias, peaches, or money.
He was born to Clarence and Mary (Goodrich) Brewer in 1923, joining his older sister Edna. A graduate of Chaffey High School, he was attending Chaffey College when he was drafted into World War II. Actively engaged in combat in Germany, he later served as a guard at the Nuremberg Trials. His strong sense of justice was honed in that courtroom and expressed in many ways throughout his lifetime, including fairness shown to all individuals, regardless of race, gender, and other distinctions. What mattered to him was what kind of person one was. Another lifelong impact of the war was his great reluctance to speak of it.
Returning home a decorated soldier, he was eager to put his wartime experience behind him. For two years he crewed aboard the R/V Caryn of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. Sailing year-round and in all kinds of weather between the Canadian Maritimes and the Caribbean, it was stories of these years that he spoke about for the rest of his life. Legacies of this experience included his resourcefulness, his tidiness, his working until the job was done, and his use of humor to maintain camaraderie and defuse tension, especially during difficulty. His knot tying skills, learned on board ship, were thoroughly integrated into daily living at work and home.
He wed JoAnn Lewis in January 1953 at his cousins’ church, St. Mark’s Methodist in Los Angeles, where her father was the minister. Soon after, he began work at Stillinger Interiors in Pomona where he continued for 30 years. Later as an independent contractor, he worked an additional 10 years in homes throughout the San Gabriel and Pomona valleys. To both designers and clients, he was known as a creative problem solver, an insightful implementer of ideas, and an ethical coworker and advisor.
He and Joann were active members of the United Methodist Church in La Verne for 17 years in the 1950s and 1960s, serving in a variety of capacities. Being more in sync with the children’s schools, the family transferred its membership to the Claremont United Methodist Church in 1970, where it remains.
He and Mrs. Brewer enjoyed many hours together working in their Claremont garden. They cultivated camellias, as had each of their parents, and became active in both the Pomona Valley Camellia Society and the Southern California Camellia Society. After many years winning awards for their blooms, the couple found great satisfaction in helping younger, newer members develop skills in cultivation. They conducted popular seminars on disbudding and pruning, and techniques in presenting flowers for shows.
“Les’ character was demonstrated daily in various ways,” his family shared. “He was quiet and creative with a sense of humor that often took the listener by surprise. While he avoided the limelight, he provided solid support for the projects and leaders around him, often leavened with insightful wit. He carefully weighed others’ opinions, regardless of who they were, basing his responses on the merits of their ideas. He practiced speaking less and was listened to more. Respect was embedded in everyday conversation. For instance, through regular greetings to a potential juvenile delinquent usually shunned by others, Les began to be greeted in kind, a first noted by those who knew the boy.”
As a heart patient, he was a regular participant in the cardiac rehabilitation program at Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center for 25 years and credited that experience with many additional years of relatively good health and strength. Later as his capabilities diminished, he delighted for four years in the weekly visits of nurse Kro Won, who provided engaging humor, intellectual stimulation, and meaningful fun, all while attending to his physical needs.
For the last 18 months of his life he lived at Southwoods Lodge for memory care at Hillcrest in La Verne where he resided in quiet security under the effective leadership of director Anitra Harvey. One day, when caught without his walker in the far garden and admonished to use it, he responded disarmingly, “Why?” He appreciated the skilled, affectionate attention he received there and recognized the exemplary care he was given by staff whose names he could not remember, but who knew his family’s names. He cared for and had good adventures with the gifted Sylvia Reyes of Home Care Assistance, who helped him daily.
Mr. Brewer is survived by his wife of nearly 68 years, JoAnn Brewer; daughter Melanie Little with her husband, David Little, of Claremont; son Lindsey Brewer with his wife, Sue (Bliss) Brewer, of Yorba Linda; son Marshall Brewer with his husband, John Calvi, of Putney, Vermont; and daughter-friend Rebecca (White, Franke) Ward with her husband Kevin Ward, of Bozeman, Montana. He leaves four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, including Todd Brewer of Colorado Springs, Colorado; Lauren (Brewer) Wallace with her husband, Brent Wallace, and son Benjamin of Yorba Linda; Samantha (Little) Ramirez with her husband, Frankie Ramirez, and daughter Maya of Scottsdale, Arizona; and Spencer Little of Claremont. He leaves three nephews and their families: Perry Makins of Orange, Douglas Makins of Fremont, and Earl Makins of Edmond, Oklahoma.
A virtual memorial service is being planned for Saturday morning, January 23; details are available upon email request to firstname.lastname@example.org
The ashes are to be inurned in the memorial garth at Claremont United Methodist Church.
Donations in Mr. Brewer’s name may be made to the Claremont United Methodist Church Permanent Endowment Fund at https://claremontumc.org/donate, or by check to 211 W. Foothill Blvd., Claremont CA, 91711; or to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Massachusetts at https://gift.whoi.edu/page/7738/donate/1, or by check to 266 Woods Hole Rd., Woods Hole, MA 02543-1050.