In Memoriam: Brandon J. Nelson

[Lisa and I delivered this eulogy at the wake for Brandon’s family on March 5th, 2017.]

Hi. For those that don’t know, my name is Matt Netkow. I’m here today with my wife Lisa, also a close friend of Brandon’s. I worked at SAVO with Brandon for a few years and we remained good friends after he left for Slalom Chicago. He eventually referred me to Slalom Seattle, so we’ve been connected through many avenues these past few years.

In our circle of friends, my wife and I tend to be the ones that bring people together. It’s a lot of hard work. Coming up with a plan, timing, coordinating, and herding people - it can be really difficult! Brandon, however, was a master at this. It was effortless to him. He was both the life of the party and yet quiet and contemplative. He was in a class of his own. So immensely private but yet had endless personality and unique relationships. And oh boy, quirky! It took us years before we found out any small details about his life. For example, he would take these annual trips to California. As any good friend would ask, “Where in California? His mysterious response: “Somewhere”. “Uh huh - who are you visiting?” A sly smile, “Someone”. At times hilarious, at times frustrating. On the flip side, ask him what bar to meet you at or what song was playing in said bar, and he would answer without a second thought!

Brandon knew the value of a great friendship and would never let distance get in the way of maintaining one. He became integrated in our immediate friends groups without fail and within no time, we brought him along on our annual college reunion trips and our friends instantly liked him. When Lisa and I moved to Seattle almost two years ago, it was very difficult to be so away from all of our friends and family. However, before we even moved, he committed to visiting us. He came last Summer and enjoyed the city, except for having to walk up the steep hills we have! I said to him, “Let’s walk from Slalom’s office to Pike Place Market, it’s less than a mile away!”. The look of fear he gave me was priceless. After the Seattle portion of his trip, he continued on to California to see his best friend, Wes, the same one he visits every year without fail.

One of the reasons we love Brandon so much is his never ending quirkiness. We once drove over 8 hours with him in his car to join other friends in Nashville. After that trip we declared privately that we’d never again do that! He drove us nuts. He likened himself to Jack Reacher, a James Bond-like macho man character and spy. Which, sure, is cool in a book, but in real life resulted in strange behavior under the guise of preparedness. It was the Summer, 70’s out, so no real risk of being stranded - yet he insisted on stopping for gas when his tank reached the halfway point. Which was often. Hilariously frustrating. As you all know, us Chicagoans are taught early onto fill up the tank in freezing weather and at a quarter tank, but Brandon had to be even more prepared than that. On the drive down, a very intense rainstorm hit us. It was raining so hard, we could barely see in front of us. Despite this, he refused to use the windshield wipers, because he claimed they weren’t necessary - he had some sort of special fluid applied to the windshield that repelled rain, which we learned very quickly did NOT work. That was probably the only time we legitimately got angry with him which is a true testament of our friendship. After the trip, on our drive home, we stopped at The Waffle House, where he ordered exactly 4 slices of bacon to go. He had Lisa break off little pieces and feed it to him because he refused to let us drive! I gave up and took a nap.

Over the past few days, I’ve been blown away by the outreach from my friends and family expressing their condolences. Reflecting on their heartfelt comments, I am in absolute awe. You see, these are from friends several degrees removed from Brandon himself! A couple of them he only met once. If that doesn’t speak to his character and his personality, I don’t know what does. He left that great of a lasting impression and is therefore, truly one of a kind. We are honored and incredibly appreciative of the time that Brandon spent with us. When I broke the news to Lisa, she almost immediately cried out that I had to be mistaken - Brandon had already been planning for months to come visit again, this time to surprise me on my 30th birthday. Priorities change as we move through Life, but Brandon always kept friends at the top of the list.

About a month ago, I received some text messages from him that really capture his love and humor: “As men. We don’t say this enough. But I’m gonna say it. I love you. You are a great person and I’m honored to know you. I look forward to seeing you in life. Thanks for being you and being in my life.” (there was a pause, and then:) “Ah, shit. Tell Lisa I like her too.”

Brandon lived each day to its full potential, each one filled with adventure. He took advantage of every day that he had - loving his friends and family, giving back to others, and viewing the world as one big adventure. His full life was unfairly cut short, but I’m happy to emphasize that it was a full life. I know he loved every part of it. Gathered here today, true to his nature, he has brought us all together again. I encourage everyone to focus on this togetherness today and moving forward, to strive to demonstrate and give out the love he had for us to others, and to celebrate this great man’s life. He left a mark that will not be forgotten. Thank you.

comments powered by Disqus