Remembering Mervyn Neil Brockett, Sept. 29, 1946 – Aug. 26, 2015
August 28, 2015
Born in Portsmouth, England, Mervyn Brockett began the peripatetic phase of his life at the age of 3 months when his mother took him to join his father Neil (an auditor in the British Colonial Service) in what is now Tanzania. He was the middle boy of three brothers (Andrew, Mervyn and Adrian). By the time Mervyn was 8 years old he had lived in Tanganyika, England, Aden (now part of Yemen) and Kenya. The family then settled long enough to allow Mervyn to complete nearly all his elementary schooling and all his high schooling in Kenya. In 1964 he was off to Oxford University to study French. His program included a one-year stay in France – the beginning of a life-long appreciation of French culture.
In 1968 he took his first trip across the Atlantic to begin research at Cornell University (Ithaca, NY) in the works of the 15th Century French poet François Villon – research for which Mervyn was awarded a Ph.D. At Cornell he met, and married, a Canadian: Bonnie Russell.
In 1972, Mervyn and Bonnie moved to Vancouver, B.C. where he taught French at the University of British Columbia. So began his love of the West Coast – and his career in academia. While in Vancouver, he took the opportunity to learn ancient Hebrew at Regent College. He was still on the move, however, and in the late 1970’s Mervyn and Bonnie moved to Victoria, B.C. where he worked as an administrator in the Department of Public Administration at the University of Victoria.
In 1982, Mervyn was devastated by Bonnie’s decision to leave their marriage. Through the difficult time that followed, he was supported by his friends Chris and Gloria Morgan in Victoria and by the fellowship of St. George’s Cadboro Bay Anglican Church. He also taught himself to become a fine woodworker and furniture-maker, a gardener (flowers his specialty at this time of his life) and a lover of French cuisine and wines. He took a year out to go to England where he earned an M.A. in Industrial Relations at the University of Warwick. Then it was back to Victoria where he moved to an administrative position in the Faculty of Law.
Old friends from his student days in France in the 1960’s, Judy and Doug Carpenter, had other ideas for his life. At Christmas time 1986, they introduced him to their neighbor in San Jose, CA: Tamara Grimes and her children Nina and Eric. The introduction was the beginning of a love between Mervyn and Tamara that lasted the rest of their lives together. In 1988, he quit his job at UVic., moved to the United States and began studying at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of Oregon in Eugene so as to be nearer to Tamara. On June 17, 1989, Mervyn and Tamara were married in the Episcopal Church in Almaden, San Jose.
In 1990, Mervyn’s wanderings finally came to an end: he became assistant vice president for academic affairs at Lewis and Clark in Portland. This was the beginning of a 23-year career from which he retired in June 2013 as associate provost having been, at various times, secretary of the college, assistant to the president, vice president for finance & treasurer and interim registrar. A tribute to his work can be found in the Lewis & Clark publication The Source. As that publication points out, he also taught a course in the Hebrew Scriptures and led student overseas programs (one to East Africa in 2006 and one to India in 2013).
Mervyn and Tamara set up home in Lake Oswego – where Mervyn transferred his gardening skills from flowers to vegetables. They loved to entertain friends – usually with fine French meals prepared with infinite care by Mervyn. More important, however, was their family. Nina and Eric completed high school in Lake Oswego and went on to further studies. To everyone’s great joy, a son was born to Tamara and Mervyn in November 1991 and they named him after Mervyn’s father: Neil.
In 2008, Mervyn suffered a massive aortic aneurysm: his life was saved only by the outstanding skills of the surgeons and staff at the Oregon Health & Science University Hospital. Recovery meant a temporary cessation of French cuisine – indeed Mervyn was induced to swallow the prescribed nutritional drinks only by the dire threat of a return to hospital if he didn’t. But the seven years that Mervyn enjoyed after his recovery were years of much happiness – with his family, in his garden, on walks with the family’s Australian Terrier Ebony and in the life of Christ Church Episcopal Parish. Those years included the marriage of Nina and Tony in 2012, Neil’s graduation from Lewis & Clark in 2015 and the recent news that Nina and Tony are expecting their first child. Seven years to the very day after his surgery, Mervyn died at home from another unexpected and sudden aneurysm.
Fundamental to Mervyn’s life, through all its changes, difficulties and joys, was his faith in Jesus Christ – a faith that, at many times, must have been severely tested. The outpouring of love and support for Tamara and her family at this time of great loss are witness to the grace of God that was made so richly evident in Mervyn’s life. Well done, good and faithful servant!
Mervyn’s ashes have been interred in the Memorial Garden of Christ Church Parish.