John Jeffrey (Jeff) Brash April 20, 1946 - April 3, 2023
Jeff embraced life with enthusiasm and wonder and an indefatigable curiosity. A man of land, sea, and air, from his earliest days he explored it all. Whether as a teenager in California, living with red-tailed hawks and owls and a tortoise that clambered across the lawn to munch on dandelions; or as Chief Engineer on passenger ships and container ships in the U.S. Merchant Marine getting to know the waters and the peoples of the world; or flying his Cessna 180, enjoying the view from a perspective even higher than most birds — Jeff’s wandering soul knew no bounds.
After graduating from California Maritime Academy, wander he did. He used his time off from shipping duties to teach survival skills to young adventurers at Outward Bound in Maine. He sailed back and forth across the Pacific Ocean in his small private sailboats. He explored lands from Alaska to Australia and places in between.
Jeff retired from the Merchant Marine in 1993, and returned to his home base on San Juan Island. In 1998, he bought land in San Juan Valley, where he built a house with a view of the Straits of Juan de Fuca and the Olympic Mountains. He opened Valley Steel & Stone, a metal design and fabrication shop, in his daylight basement. He remained in San Juan Valley for the rest of his life with the love of his life, Wendy Shepard; their gratitude for 30 years together also knew no bounds.
On San Juan Island, Jeff served on the San Juan Island Parks and Recreation Board, helping to create the present day Sunken Park in Friday Harbor. He also joined the Board of Friends of the San Juans, which works to protect the environment of the islands. His stone sculptures appeared at the Roche Harbor Sculpture Park, and his metal work adorned and strengthened many a new home. He provided the cover photo and charcoal drawing for Wendy’s book, “Lucky to be Alive: A Love Story,” celebrating his ten years with Lucky, the San Juan Valley Border Collie that adopted Jeff when he first bought the property.
During Jeff’s 45 years on the island, he made many friends. Early on, a workout/morning coffee group of retirees entertained each other, some for the last 25 years. Known for his generosity of spirit, Jeff was there whenever friends and colleagues needed help, whether with technical projects or personal support. His honesty, goodness, and kindness to people and animals alike endeared him to those who knew him.
A champion of truth and justice, with a lively sense of humor, Jeff continually sent both serious articles and jokes to friends and colleagues. Reading those missives became a welcome ritual for recipients near and far. We will miss him.
Jeff wanted no funeral or memorial service, but in the months to come there might be an informal gathering to share stories and jokes. In the meantime, if you want to send contributions to The Animal Protection Society, the Wolf Hollow Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, or The Friends of the San Juans, Jeff’s beloved creatures of land, sea, and air would benefit from your help.
Note: provided photograph: © Mark Gardner