Brett Ropes

He was tall and lanky and had dark hair and bright eyes. Brett was an athlete, he had been since he was a boy, and he carried it with him into his 40’s as he continued to be an avid golfer and surfer. We met 20 years ago for the first time when he subbed for me as I missed school one day during my first year of teaching at Camarillo High School, seven years into my teaching career. We remained friends since.

Brett passed away yesterday at 5:40 in the evening surrounded by his family after a brief illness.

We weren’t natural friends–that is, we didn’t spend all of our time together. We had common interests, though and those grew as I got back into baseball these past few years. In August of last year, we went to an Angels game together along with my wife, Sue, and had a great time.

Brett was a funny man, full of laughter and sardonic wit. He was part of “the breakfast club,” a group of us teachers who gather every morning to share a cup of coffee, some laughs and kvetch about the ongoing foibles of our lives in education.

Shannon is a year older than Brett’s daughter and when they were young, during the summer months, Shannon and I would go to Brett’s house and swim in his pool while Shannon and Brett’s daughter did, too. We were dads, we had that in common too, and we would bbq a couple of hot dogs, drink a beer or two and spend the summer afternoons hanging out together. As the girls grew into teenagers and went their way, we both looked back on those times fondly and we talked of them often.

My heart has been broken so many times this year, that it is mere scar tissue holding it together. Brett was 45 years old and had people he loved and who loved him very much. He was lovable and kind–always looking out for others. He kept secrets about himself, that is true, but perhaps we all do at some level.

I remember referring to Brett as “the rookie,” and he continued with that moniker, at least to me, for many years. Brett loved teaching–he loved history and he looked forward to days he had organized and focused lesson plans to share with kids. He liked kids, too. He related with them well and he enjoyed their company. He was good to them and they responded to that. He would often leave early from the “breakfast club” because he had to set something or other up for his morning. He would unlock his room early so kids could leave things in there–athletes left gear, others left unused textbooks or projects they couldn’t carry around all day. Brett was their go-to guy.

Brett was an atheist, or perhaps agnostic. In the years I knew him, we would talk about faith and God and he would say, “I’ve never experienced it–never had the feeling.” He tried going to church, but said “it didn’t work for me.”

More than anything right now, I’m praying that God has introduced Himself to Brett and that He is rejoicing at his coming home.

But for me, the one thing that keeps coming to mind is a quote from the film made from one of my favorite books, A River Runs Through it, in which the Reverend McLean says:

Each one of us here today will at one time in our lives look upon a loved one who is in need and ask the same question: We are willing to help, Lord, but what, if anything, is needed? For it is true, we can seldom help those closest to us. Either we don’t know what part of ourselves to give or, more often than not, the part we have to give is not wanted. And so it is those we live with and should know who elude us. But we can still love them – we can love completely without complete understanding.

I love and I miss my friend, Brett Ropes. And I always will.

13 thoughts on “Brett Ropes

  1. This is a lovely tribute Mark; Sam just mentioned this to me this morning and I have to say I was a little shocked to hear the news. I miss my breakfast club people and it just won’t be the same without Brett.

  2. Lovely tribute, dear Mark. Your gracious talents as writer fittingly benefits a life cut way too short but will linger with us all a long time due to your nostalgic reflection.

  3. You have captured and so beautifully expressed the thoughts and feelings of many Mark. Loving Brett was easy not only because of his receptive expressions towards me or my family but we shared a love of Lorin’s passion for golf, life and family and especially of teaching. Years of knowing Brett brought many smiles but also concerns for the trials and challenges that he faced. Many did not show kindness or understanding and times were often painful and hard for Brett. Thank you for your expressions of understanding and love for Brett, Mark. You have been our conduit and voice so often in caring and professional passions. We have lost a piece of life so young and the sadness is profound. ❤️

  4. This is a very nice tribute to Brett. I knew him because my son, Ross had him for European History at Camarillo High School but I also knew him as the Geography Challenge coach. For 20 years I have been reading the questions for the competition at Oxnard College and we would chat about how Ross was doing each year. This year’s Geo Challenge will not be the same without Brett. I am so very sorry to hear of his death. He will be sorely missed.

  5. This was beautifully written. You, Mr. Storer, and Mr. Ropes were a couple of my favorite teachers at Camarillo high. You both helped me in many ways, and truly care for your students. It’s with saddness in my heart I’m writing this, so sad for the loss of Mr. Ropes… I was his student aid then had his class the next period, in that time he gave me so much advice and filled the day with happiness and laughter. When we lost our good friend Sean Harris, you both were so supportive and caring to the students. After high school I would run into Mr. Ropes at Vons and such, I always said we would catch up, but unfortunately we never really got the chance… Rest In Peace Mr. Ropes, you will be missed by many <3

  6. I learned of this on social media and could not believe it. I happened to find this by chance and i thoroughly enjoyed reading this. Very well written and it made me feel much better. Thank you Mr. Storer.
    Petty Officer 3rd Class (STS3/SS)
    Austin D. Shirley, USN

  7. Mr. Ropes was the ACHS Leo’s Club advisor for three years, and I was his little prodige. I was president, and he helped me not just with the club but with my life. He was an incredible teacher, an incredible advisor, an incredible man. I’ll forever be grateful to him for everything he did for me. This tribute to him is beautiful and tragic. God speed.

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