|GEORGE W.W. BREWSTER III|
George Brewster; bond trader let optimism shape outlook
To take the full measure of George Brewster’s unyielding optimism, it is instructive to consider the heights that inspired his good cheer, and the depths that never managed to drag him down.
He spent a career in the inner circles of municipal bond trading in Boston, and looked good doing it. Few in the financial district could claim to love daily rigorous exercise as much as Mr. Brewster.
Luck wasn’t always a chum, though. Struck by a car while roller-blading, he struggled to regain short-term memory. His two marriages ended, and a cancer diagnosis put him on a 15-year journey that included 15 surgeries and five experimental treatments. Through it all, pessimism never nudged open a door into his life.
“One of the things he said to me near the end was, ‘I’m sitting here in all this gloriousness. It’s just a world-class day,’ ’’ said his oldest child, Elise, of Berkeley, Calif. “That was one of his famous statements, ‘It’s just a world-class day and I’m taking it in, every bit of it.’ ’’
Mr. Brewster, whose sunny nature was a beacon for family, friends, and anyone he encountered on his always brisk walks through Boston, died July 14 in his Back Bay home of complications from melanoma. He was 70.
“My dad was an unbelievable optimist,’’ said his son, George IV, of Seattle, “a glass over-filleth, runneth-over with enthusiasm for life kind of guy.’’
When adversity was a daily companion on his walks and runs, Mr. Brewster simply moved faster.
“We sometimes wondered, how is this guy always so on and so up, given what he’s facing,’’ his son said. “He had an incredible ability to be a world-class cheerleader and focus on the positive things in life. Even when cancer odds were bad, he would immediately jump on the 5 percent chance of success, not the 95 percent chance of failing.’’
People who only knew Mr. Brewster as the sharply dressed man who walked past each day could see that determination in the way he strode through the Back Bay.
“Walking for him was not like strolling along,’’ said his younger daughter, Joanie, of Breckenridge, Colo. “He walked with intent and purpose.’’
When cancer treatment meant trips to Massachusetts General Hospital for surgery, Mr. Brewster brushed aside suggestions that he ease up on exercise.
“We’d say, ‘Take a cab,’’’ his son said, “and he’d say, ‘No, I’m walking home.’ ’’
If mind-set can triumph over disease, even briefly, then perhaps Mr. Brewster found in his walks a brief detour from death.
“It’s my strong belief that his positive attitude - his ‘can-do, I’m going to beat this, there’s going to be some option that’s going to work’ - contributed to his longevity,’’ his son said. “It kind of became his calling.’’
George Washington Wales Brewster III was born in Boston and grew up in Brookline, the oldest of three sons. His father was a prominent architect, and his mother wrote poetry and took courses at Harvard Divinity School.
Mr. Brewster graduated from the Dexter School in Brookline in 1954 and the Groton School in Groton in 1959. The private school background, along with the imposing length of his name, could give the wrong impression, his children said.
“People make assumptions,’’ Joanie said, “but he was a down-to-earth people person.’’
If business brought him to a place such as the Ritz, Mr. Brewster was on a first-name basis with everyone from residents on the upper floors to the doorman who ushered him off the street.
“There was an equanimity,’’ Elise said. “I really admired that.’’
Mr. Brewster majored in government at Boston University and graduated in 1963, later serving as a leader of alumni groups and receiving a distinguished alumni award in the late-1990s.
Within a couple of years of graduating from BU, Mr. Brewster went to work for many years at Bank of Boston. After a brief interlude at State Street Bank, he joined the Boston office of the Bear Stearns investment firm, remaining there until he retired four years ago.
Competitive by nature, Mr. Brewster was as zealous in the world of finance as he had been playing hockey in his youth. He specialized in municipal finance and for years “if there was money to be raised for public projects, my dad was in the mix,’’ his son said.
Mr. Brewster was married to Elise Cutler, who now lives in Seattle, for about 27 years, and to Heidi Geissenhainer of Boston for about five years, his children said.
Much of his first marriage was spent in Dover, where his children grew up. Divorced and single, after he moved to Boston “he really became an urban guy,’’ Joanie said.
As the son of an architect and a poet, Mr. Brewster had precise tastes in everything from art to sound systems and tailored suits.
“He noticed the most intimate details and pointed them out,’’ Elise said. “He was very highly eloquent and he could hold a room like nobody else. You knew that and you felt that and we all enjoyed it. He just had an ‘art of the word,’ and there’s this silence now.’’
In addition to his three children and former wives, Mr. Brewster leaves two brothers, Galen of Cushing, Maine, and Donald of Sherborn; and three grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Tuesday in Episcopal Church of Our Savior in Brookline.
Long before Mr. Brewster was stricken with melanoma, he battled alcoholism in a way that also inspired others during 27 sober years as a member of Alcoholics Anonymous.
“There’s a huge amount of influence he had in that community where he has an incredible following of people he sponsored and supported over a long period of time as they found their footing in life and sobriety,’’ his son said.
The overlapping circles of friends in Mr. Brewster’s life - in finance, the cancer treatment community, AA, and running along the Charles River - meant that “we could not walk down the street without running into five or six people that he knew,’’ his son said.
And that, his children said, reflected a kind of success that went beyond athletic prowess or work accomplishments.
“What really speaks on his resume is love, the love he expressed and that others expressed to him,’’ Elise said. “You cannot get a graduate degree for it, you cannot get a job for it. It’s outside all those things that get added up at the end of the day.’’
Bryan Marquard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org