His passion for the ocean and the beach was clear from the start. He fished with a local Italian fisherman, surfed at Hendry’s and played volleyball at East Beach. However, after graduating from SBHS in 1956, Brett served in the military instead of going surfing in Hawaii with his friends. He left the Army and earned an AA degree in landscape horticulture from SBCC before enrolling at Cal Poly Pomona. Back in Santa Barbara, Brett started his own landscaping company.
In 1961, he married his first wife, Judy Ann Johnson. They had two daughters, Gwynn Ellen and Leslie Jean. They moved to Pacific Grove where he went to work for CalTrans as an arborist, arborist and senior foreman for all of Monterey County. His duties included cleaning and maintaining the giant sequoias of Big Sur. Before retiring from CalTrans, he set the standard for the tree protocol that is still used today.
Eventually he was drawn back to the ocean and spent the rest of his working life as a professional fisherman. He caught a lot of fish on the central coast from San Simeon to Half Moon Bay. Although his 22-year marriage to Judy ended, they remained friends for a long time and shared the love of their daughters.
In 1984, Brett married Leslie Kale and adopted Asia Kale as his first son. Soon after, they had twins, Stephen and Keel Gourley. He shared his love of fishing and hunting with his sons, who enthusiastically followed his passion. Although Brett and Leslie’s marriage ended in 1993, their friendship continued.
After some time, in February 2003, Brett was reunited with his longtime girlfriend, Christy Ford, who became his third wife and the love of his life. Their three children from a previous marriage soon became part of Brett’s extended family. During their marriage they shared a passion for writing, history, politics, the fertile garden and their dog, Nellie. They also enjoyed traveling, fishing, hunting and the food they shared with so many friends and family.
Brett was a man of many talents and qualities as a builder, carver and craftsman. By the end of his life, he had built seven boats, from a 12-foot pyrograph to a 20-foot Alaskan skiff. Although he lived a simple life, he was anything but simple. Respectful, kind and gentle to some; coarse, insensitive and harsh to others. His love was shown in actions, not words. A deep thinker and a man of few words, when he spoke, everyone listened, and when they spoke, he always listened.
Brett was sentenced to death by his parents and his maternal aunt, Marjorie. He is survived by his wife, Christy; his beloved sister, Jill Ryan; two daughters, Gwynn (Martin) and Leslie (Andrea); three sons, Asia (Heather), Steven and Keel (Melissa); eleven grandchildren; nine nieces and nephews; two former wives; Christie’s children, Peddrick (Joanna), Max (Mary), and Beth (Bruce); and his two nephews, Cindy Reed (Jim) and Brian Clare.
Due to COVID restrictions, there will be no public memorial service at this time.
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We’ll get through this together, Atascadero…