Friends and family bid goodbye to Dave Brower at his Celebration of Life at The Meadowlands and beyond.
by Debbie Little
Mahatma Gandhi said: “There are no goodbyes for us. Wherever you are, you will always be in my heart.”
That’s true for our friend Dave Brower, who was given a loving send-off on Saturday (Nov. 12) at The Meadowlands.
Rather than hold a traditional wake and funeral following Brower’s unexpected passing on Friday, Oct. 7, his mother, Rose, and sister, Laura, chose to hold a “Celebration of Life” service and sprinkle some of his ashes on the track at The Big M. The Browers are a small, close family that also include Laura’s sons, Devon and Mason, granddaughter, Amanii, and cousin, Gary Nikorak, that were present that night.
“Harness racing was his passion,” said Laura. “I’m being opened up to that world now and I almost feel like I have to do right by him and I want to go to Kentucky and I want to go to The Jug and put a little piece of him everywhere he’d want to be.”
The ceremony took place in the winner’s circle prior to the races and was hosted by Brower’s long-time TV partner and friend, Dave Little.
“Brow was always the host for important events at The Meadowlands, so it’s weird for me to be the one hosting, because he no longer can,” said Little.
Interviews were done with Brower’s friends Bob Heyden, Gabe Prewitt, Nick Salvi and Les Stark, as well as his friend and boss, Jason Settlemoir, who was responsible for bringing Brower back to The Meadowlands after a seven-year hiatus.
Prior to spreading Brower’s ashes on the track, a photo montage, put together by the Meadowlands TV department, was played leaving very few dry eyes in the house.
Little also spoke with Brower’s cousin, Gary, and his 7th-grade social studies teacher, Jim Shoop.
This story from Mr. Shoop has been shared before, but it is certainly worthy of repeating.
“I was talking about famous Mongol leaders who invaded China in the 1200s and I just wanted to see if my students knew who Genghis Khan was,” said Mr. Shoop. “So, I said to my class, ‘Who is Genghis Khan?’
“First hand up, Dave Brower. I said, ‘Yes Dave.’ He said, ‘Genghis Khan just won the Driscoll Pace at The Meadowlands Racetrack.’ So, I said, ‘Not the answer I was looking for, but it’s correct, you get an A.’”
One of Brower’s closest friends, Scott Thornton, was unable to attend because he’s out of town taking his boards to become a veterinarian.
Anyone who followed Brower on social media has seen many pictures of him at the house on upstate New York’s Lake Sacandaga, owned by Thornton and his wife, Laura.
“He would come up every summer for 20 years,” said Thornton. “He’s the only one of our friends who had been to every single Labor Day that we had up there.
“He always sat on the deck. He had his chair on the deck. He would face the water and he would sit there for hours. Literally hours. And the first thing he’d do when he got to the lake was put out his chair and that would be his spot for the weekend.”
Thornton has many Brow lake stories, one of which involved needing Brower to row across part of the lake to pick him up.
“He was very incompetent when it came to anything mechanical,” said Thornton. “And if you don’t know how to row a boat, it’s very confusing. It’s amazing how many people do not know how to row a boat and he is one of them. So, he was trying to get off the dock and he didn’t know which oar to use. He’s going backwards and it’s just a mess. And he’s finally getting out to me and he’s rowing along and suddenly he stops and is just going in a circle.
“And I’m like, ‘What the f*** are you doing?’ But I knew what he was doing. We have a huge rock and we call it the Volkswagen because it’s actually bigger than a Volkswagen. And he went aground on the rock. So, he’s in the middle of the lake on a rock trying to row and he’s just going in a circle. And he’s like ‘What am I doing? What am I doing?’ I said, ‘You’re being an idiot.’ And we were both laughing. It was just a typical Brow kind of thing.”
Another lake-house memory involved a lot of water.
“We have a whole crew up there and we’re all jokesters. And one of the things I do is I leave super soaker water pistols all over the place. So, anyone could shoot at any time. Brow always kind of stayed off on the side with that stuff. So, he was sitting in his chair, and we were walking up from the lake and the bastard had one of the super soakers and he shot me.
“And my saying whenever someone shoots me is if you set out to kill the king, be sure you kill the king because I’m going to get you back. And he knew that but he shot me and he’s thrilled and everyone else is laughing.”
Thornton went on to explain that later that afternoon when it was time to get ready for dinner, Brower took a shower, which signaled payback time.
“I said to my buddy, who also got shot, it’s go time,” said Thornton. “So, we got these huge five-gallon spackle buckets and we fill them with water. And we climb up on the roof with these two huge buckets of water. The house had sliders that open onto a deck and everyone would just hang out on the deck because it’s summertime.
“It couldn’t have been more perfect. He stopped right as he came out onto the deck and he slaps his hands together and says, ‘Let’s party.’ He stood there and 10 gallons of water came kaboom directly on his head and just soaked him 100 per cent. That’s my favorite memory of him.”
The Celebration of Life service and the photo montage are both available on the Meadowlands’ YouTube channel.
There are plans in place to spread some of Brower’s ashes at the lake next year.
“I tried putting out his chair the weekend after he died,” said Thornton. “I put the chair out with a little drink as an homage but I had to take it down. I wasn’t ready for that.”