Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Farewell Fred...

Here is a transcript of the eulogy Debbie Brownfield wrote for her late husband, National Sprint Tour founder Fred Brownfield. It was delivered at his Memorial Service Monday at Gray's Harbor Speedway in Washington, and struck me as one of the most poignant and moving tributes I have ever read. Thanks to for the transcript...

“You know the wife always gets the last word!

For 29 years I have been a living dinosaur; an outdated style of wife that is now practically illegal! I actually set out to stand beside, uplift and support this fascinating man called Fred. I did not have a career, no income! Sometimes it was tough, but I honored him as my leader, the head of our household. I strived to make him proud, to give him rest from his burdens, to be the hard-headed woman that would make him do his best. I was frequently awed by the vibrancy, generosity, intensity, surprises, support, leadership and sacrifice he provided. I treasure his loyalty to our vows. Despite many ups and downs over the years, we hung in there, got to the core of what was important, and ended up making one heck of a team. Without a doubt, we were true partners and what is most special, each other’s best friend. It was worth the journey.

When Fred was racing, I used to get asked a lot if I was nervous, or worried that he would be killed. I always said ‘no,’ until the day I took one of our newborn daughters to the track to watch him race. Waves of panic seized me when I suddenly realized he was the father of our children, not just my husband. (Apparently, I’m a little slow.) I couldn’t possibly tolerate this dangerous behavior that was jeopardizing our family’s future. I had to make him stop! I envisioned myself climbing over the wheel fence, screaming over the motors, `Stop, stop, stop – you can’t do this anymore!' Heart thumping with terror, I went out to the track parking lot, locked myself in our car and prayed. Amazingly, I was given that unexplainable peace that passes understanding. Hadn’t I always claimed that God was the one in control? I knew right then and there I had to commit Fred’s well being to the one who cares the most and sees all, and let him race!

Ever since that day, I have felt the Lord would guide us if we would just ask Him. Only HE would determine when our time was up, and I trusted Him with that. Life was fun over the 23 years Fred drove the racecar, taking an ever-growing batch of kids and nieces and nephews to the track to watch him win! Our family literally grew up in the racing community, and how lucky we are for that. It’s our family heritage! And promoting just added to it.

Is there racing in heaven? I say YES! The news I found out about heaven from the most reliable source, informs me we will be occupied doing the “work of our hands”; not sitting around on clouds playing harps! So whatever it is on earth that we love to do, God has more of it in store for us, only this time it won’t get screwed up!

Fred loved racing. I used to wonder what it was about racing that made perfectly intelligent and ambitious men want to drive around in circles, in dirt, over and over, trying to prove that if they ran hard enough, they’d eventually get somewhere! Kind of like the hamster in the wheel.

But then I started thinking about how we are formed in the image of God and He originally created us to have dominion over a perfect world. To me, that kind of explains why people have that inner drive to achieve perfection (and master things like sprint cars!) Competition and the drive for perfection are built right into us! Competition brings out our best efforts, self-discipline, a search for answers, creativity, planning, cooperation, innovation, introspection, commerce, excitement, emotion and respect for Nature! These are all noble things! When I explained this brilliant revelation to Fred, he gave me that “You have been out in the hot sun way too long” kind of look, but he did smile. He had already determined that God was ok with all this horsepower stuff.

Because Fred raced and promoted races, friendships were formed and nurtured, as other families came to relax and enjoy the entertainment together, until the race community itself became sort of an extended family. I can’t tell you how many kind words and deeds, times of camaraderie and opportunities have come to our family over the years because of the racing. It’s pretty special. So let’s keep it up!

Fred was so happy that he had the opportunity to meet all of you. Every fan that asked for an autograph or told him “Good job” made his day brighter. When his idols Ted Johnson, Carlton Reimer and Steve Kinser started calling him just to chat, he knew he’d earned a very special gift of friendship! How proud he was to be included in your world. I know he’s having a ball seeing how popular he is right now, and how, SUDDENLY, all his faults have been forgotten and only the good things he did are being talked about! Man, he could have used some of this P.R. a few months ago!

I am so thankful that Fred’s death was immediate. It fits the rest of his personality, which was decisive, absolute, totally committed, final; no wishy-washy waiting. He knew what he wanted and went after it. He never backed down from a challenge. He is the perfect illustrator of the NIKE phrase “Just DO It.” I don’t swear, but I have to say there was nothing “half-assed” about him! He was a force to be reckoned with, and the true stature of the man should have been 6’ 6”!

I always thought we would die together. You would have thought so too if you’d seen him driving our motorhome on the way to a race – one hand and ear busy with the cell phone, another hand holding iced tea, munching potato chips in between, which of course had to be dipped, steering with his elbows or knees while reading the map or rule book, then…..letting completely go while he made wild hand gestures to illustrate his point to the person on the other end of the phone (who was probably in Timbuktu and couldn’t see his hand gestures anyway!!!) That is how I learned my opera singing skills.

I will miss the Hostess chocolate cupcakes that mysteriously appeared in my nightstand and the hundreds of other bighearted gifts he sneaked into my world. I will miss seeing his eyes widen in horror as I launch myself onto the bed from 15 feet away, interrupting the latest chapter in Dave Argabright’s “The Best of Times” saga, I will miss crushing his guts as I insist YES we CAN fit together in this recliner! I will miss his eyeballs rolling up in his head over one more of my hair-brained disasters. I will miss admiring him from the infield, amazed at his expert timing and power of command. I will miss a lot of you, who I met only because of him. I will miss being safely in his care. I will miss sharing the love and pride we have in our children and grandchildren. Mostly I will miss his companionship and all those kisses. I will need all of your prayers for a very long time.

To all of our family and friends and the big extended race family out there; I thank you for your astonishing show of support. It has sustained me through this, the darkest of all my days. But this is not the end. Especially for Fred, this is not the end. He has moved on to the beginning of a glorious new reality that puts this world to shame.

I stole this from a magazine cover:

Every race seemed bigger.

Every room brighter.
Every worry lighter.
Every obstacle smaller.
Every smile truer.
Every dream clearer.
When you were in the company of Fred Brownfield.

God Bless you all.”

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