Jeffrey George Brace
East Wenatchee, WA
“Another turning point, a fork stuck in the road. Time grabs you by the wrist, directs you where to go. So make the best of this test, and don’t ask why. It’s not a question, but a lesson learned in time. It’s something unpredictable, but in the end it’s right. I hope you had the time of your life.” ~ Green Day
Jeff died peacefully wrapped in the loving arms of his wife on Friday, November 23, 2012. At 60, Jeff was finally free from the limits Alzheimer’s Disease inflicted on the creative flow of his mind. Jeff was born in Hood River, OR (nearest hospital to Bingen) on March 1, 1952, to Tom and Ruth Brace. His father’s job with the railroad moved the young family from Bingen, WA to Albany, OR, to Vancouver, WA and finally, Longview, WA, where Jeff attended high school. Jeff followed in his dad’s footsteps, working for the railroad in whatever capacity was available. Jeff attended CWSC briefly and first met Diane there in 1972. Jeff’s focus was drawn back to the railroad and he spent the next 22 years working the trains, most of the time in Klamath Falls, OR, eventually qualifying as an Engineer in Vancouver, WA - a career goal. Jeff loved the freedom of running a train, but was always in awe of the power. During this time, Jeff had two short marriages and many adventures interacting with deep friendships that have survived the test of time. Jeff’s unique take on the world gathered people on his journeys, making a difference along the way. Jeff was very serious about his friendships and made it a point to keep in contact, even when distance, work, life made visits infrequent. Jeff was honored in Washington DC with a Pacific Division Presidential Award from Burlington Northern in 1991, (recognized for dedication, initiative, job knowledge, teamwork and positive attitude - four were selected out of 4100). In 1992, Jeff was selected as BN’s Safety Employee of the Year. His supervisor said, “(Jeff) has shown both tenacity and willingness to go the extra mile to work out solutions to the safety concerns of the people.” Tenacity and willingness to go the extra mile describe Jeff’s leap into every facet of his life. Jeff moved to Seattle in 1993, loving the city, closeness to good friends and having a home back in the northwest. Diane appeared in a dream and Jeff tracked her down through a mutual friend. A bond formed by 1994, and inspired by stories of teaching, Jeff left his lucrative railroad career to finish a teaching degree started years ago at CWSC. Jeff moved to Wenatchee in 1994, and after completing his AA at WVC, joined a merge group through CWC to attain his BA. In 1995, bringing dreams to reality, Diane and Jeff joined their lives. In 1998, Jeff was able to follow his passion of teaching young minds for eight years at Orchard Middle School. Jeff loved teaching. It (along with his wife) completed his life. The sign outside his classroom read: “The Wizard of Ahhssss; Your Guide to Lands and Languages; For the: Eye, Ear, Hand, and of course, the Heart; Guide-in-Residence: The Wizard Brace.” He believed in everybody’s ability to succeed, student and adult alike. Jeff liked to acknowledge an individual’s strength in the success of a school and community. Jeff’s days always included a random act of kindness. Paying it forward came naturally to Jeff. Artistic photography reflects each phase of Jeff’s life. Jeff was an accomplished photographer and loved to share his pictures. Jeff took pictures for Orchard’s yearbook and end of the year power points. Creating his special ‘Arms’ project at Orchard, honoring cultural diversity, gave Jeff great pleasure. Jeff photographed the Special Olympics’ dance for ten years. He used his high energy to volunteer for the Wenatchee Literacy Council’s Rock and Read, and was an avid blood donor. Jeff believed in being a participant in life. Jeff loved his family and visited often by phone, when he couldn’t visit in person. Communication was Jeff’s greatest gift, and when he lost the ability to communicate at the level he was accustomed to, those of us around him watched the light to his soul flicker, till it eventually went out.
He was preceded in death by his parents; his dog, Bilbo; and two cats, Princess and Squeaky. Jeff is survived by his wife of 17 years, Diane of East Wenatchee; his brothers, David (Freddie) of Vancouver, WA and Tom Jr. of Los Angeles, CA; his in-laws, Dave and Pat Swanson of Wenatchee; sister-in-law, Joanne (Bill) Sanford Young of Wenatchee; niece, Kara Sanford of East Wenatchee; nephew, Kyle Sanford of Mt. Lake Terrace, WA; brother-in-law, Mike (Wendy) of Bothell; niece, Julie Swanson of Spokane; as well as the many students and dear friends, who touched his life along the way.
A special thanks to John Bingham, for filling Jeff’s last year with the warmth, caring and laughter of an old friend. Thank you to Hospice, for making Jeff’s last week comfortable. A hug to all of the nurses and caregivers at the Cottage, for taking Jeff into your hearts and making us feel so warmed and welcome.
Celebrate Jeff’s life. Please dress up, have a party, hug someone you love, talk to an old friend, contact someone you have lost your connection with, read a book, share your knowledge and live every moment of every day to the fullest. Donations may be made in Jeff’s name to Hospice, hospicencw.org