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Father's Day: After losing dad, Blake Brewer launched mission to help dads write letters to their kids

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How does Blake Brewer feel about being a father?

“It’s the best thing,” he said.

Blake, wife Amanda and their three children — GracieKate, 6; Bo, 4; and Brooks, 19 months — reside in a metro neighborhood blessed with ponds.

“We went and caught two baby turtles yesterday, and we had a blast doing that,” he said. “We fish out there. It’s a lot of fun.”

The kids enjoy visiting the zoo and the aquarium. They like to wrestle. Maybe they’ll gang up on Dad this Father’s Day.

Blake said Father’s Days were “harder” before he and Amanda had children. He saw other people celebrating their fathers. He lost his father May 23, 2003.

Larry Brewer, a Hillcrest Hospital administrator, was 54 when he drowned despite Blake’s efforts to save him.

The tragedy gave Blake a calling. He made it his life’s work, through legacyletterchallenge.com, to help 1 million dads write meaningful “legacy letters” to give to their children.

Blake knows how impactful a dad letter can be. He received one shortly after his father died.

How it started

Blake’s story, in his own words:

We were in Hawaii on a family vacation. The first day that we were there, we decided to go to the beach. I’ll never forget just standing at the beach about to jump in the water with my dad. Even though I was 19 years old, I still felt like a little kid just standing next to my dad. Part of it was my dad was a big guy. My dad was 6-foot-3 and 230. I’ll never forget my dad smiling at me and saying ‘Man, I’m glad you are here with me.’ It was just one of these moments. Like, man, I’m here with my dad. Things could not get any better.

So we jumped in the water and he kept going further and further out and that’s when we got separated and that’s when I started looking for my dad and finally saw him. He was treading water, but he started yelling for help. My dad had this big, deep, booming voice, but it was just more like a whimper.

I did my best to get to him as quickly as I could. As soon as I got to him, he was already underneath the water, unconscious. My mind was reeling at that point, like surely the worst-case isn’t about to happen. I’ve got to get my dad to shore. I got him to shore and honestly I almost drowned myself in the process, but luckily some people showed up and started helping and they started doing CPR to my dad.

I just knew that any moment he was going to come to, just like in the movies. He was going to flicker his eyes and water was going to come out of his mouth, but it never happened, so my dad drowned.

I was so devastated. I was just in shock. What the heck just happened? We went ... to visit my dad’s body at the hospital. My mom, my sister and my brother and I went there and saw his body one last time and went back to the condo. That’s where I was sitting in the back of the bedroom on the edge of the bed just wondering how is my family going to make it and how am I going to make it?

And that’s when my mom appeared in the doorway and said she was going through my dad’s briefcase and found something that he was going to give me on this trip. I had no idea what she was talking about, but she walked across the room and handed me these sheets of paper and, as it turns out, it was a letter.

Apparently my dad had been working on this letter for several months. It wasn’t even the words (that struck me) at that exact moment. I just felt so loved knowing that my dad would take the time to write us this letter. He just knew his 19-year-old son needed his words.

There are some other things that my dad wrote in that letter that just really stuck out. One of them was the last line of the letter. He wrote “as you are being faithful to God, you are often going to find yourself in the minority here on earth, but I assure you that in heaven you will be in the majority with dear old dad.”

That right there gave me so much confidence, like my dad’s in heaven right now. I came to this point pretty quickly of just gratitude. I was grateful that I had a dad for as long as I did. Some people don’t even know their dad. I can just be thankful I had a good one for 19 years.

Then my dad’s letter is really what got me through the next year because I was grieving really hard. Then I graduated college and got married and started having my own kids. My dad’s letter was still there. His words were still guiding me. They would take on new meaning as I started a new phase of my life.

Spreading the word

When Blake became a dad, he followed his father’s example and crafted a letter for his kids. He wanted them to know how he felt about them and wanted them to know about family values that are important to the Brewers.

“It was really, really hard staring at that blank sheet of paper to get my thoughts out,” he said. “I powered through, and it felt really good to get this letter done.”

Around the time when Blake introduced the letter to his daughter, two people came into his life and told him stories about getting life-changing letters from their fathers.

“When I heard the second story, I was like, ‘oh man. I get it. I’ve got to help more people get a letter from their dad, and I’ve got to be the one to help dads write this letter.’”

Blake dived into books and articles, while also relying on his father’s letter, to come up with a process for dads to write legacy letters. The legacy letter challenge became his full-time job in the fall of 2020.

“You can imagine what my wife thought when I tell her, ‘hey, this is what I’m going to do’ and she’s looking at our three kids and it’s like ‘so you’re going to provide for our family by helping dads write a letter.’ I’m like, ‘yep.’ But I had a vision in my mind of how it could go.”

Blake dipped into the family savings while waiting for the legacy letter endeavor to gain momentum. He said he prayed for something good to happen.

Credit football (it’s in the family DNA) with an assist.

Blake’s dad was a standout tight end at Louisiana Tech, where he was one of Terry Bradshaw’s favorite targets in the late 1960s. Bradshaw was the first pick in the 1970 NFL Draft. Larry Brewer (30 catches for 357 yards as a senior) was selected 193 picks later by the Atlanta Falcons, but a training camp injury sabotaged a possible professional career.

Blake played at Sand Springs, where he once intercepted three passes in a game, and he was selected All-Metro and honorable mention All-State by the Tulsa World in 2001.

Blake would have played high school ball in Allen, Texas, except a job change routed the Brewer family to Oklahoma. Blake returned to Allen to watch a high school playoff game when Kyler Murray was in the midst of leading Allen to three consecutive state championships and captured a video clip of Murray throwing a touchdown pass. He posted the clip to YouTube.

Murray now is the starting quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals. Blake happened to be watching TV when he saw his video of Murray show up in a “mini-documentary” on Murray. Blake contacted the Cardinals to inform the club the video was used without his consent. Call it a happy accident. Blake got a call back from Tim DeLaney, a vice president with the team. They hit it off and Blake offered to help DeLaney write a legacy letter. Now you can find endorsements from DeLaney and Ken Canfield, president and founder of the National Center for Fathering, on legacyletterchallenge.com.

DeLaney helped Blake make additional NFL connections. Blake said other things have happened to give him affirmation in his quest to help 1 million dads write legacy letters.

“I’m wanting to grow this one day to where there is a big team helping me do it,” he said. “Right now it’s just me.”

About the letter Blake wrote for his children: He said he read it to his daughter when she was 4.

“Normally I’m reading a princess book to her or something like that,” he said. “But that night I’m getting so emotional just reading this letter to her. I’m thinking ‘what in the world is my daughter thinking right now watching her dad read this letter?’ So I get to the end of the letter and I looked up at her and she said ‘Dad, can you read me the princess book now?’ I said, ‘yeah, I can read you the princess book.’”

The next day, GracieKate approached her mother and said her daddy had read her a message — the letter — and she really wanted him to read the message again tonight.

“She got it,” Blake said. “She got the main concept. She’s got a daddy that loves her.”


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Scene Writer

I cover pop culture and work as a feature writer at the Tulsa World. A former Oklahoma sports writer of the year, I have written books about former OU coach Barry Switzer and former OSU coach Pat Jones. Phone: 918-581-8389

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