My father, Brian Douglas Hurt, passed away last night at 3am. He passed in his sleep from a sudden heart attack and, fortunately, it seems like it happened almost immediately. I got the call from my sister around 3:15am, and I have been ever up since, holding my mother, her, and my niece after it happened.
This is an incredibly tough call to receive, and I have been through a wide range of emotions in the last 12 hours. One way I am dealing with this is by writing this post, which I realize is more personal than my previous Bazaarblog posts, and you will not offend me if you stop reading now.
My father was a great man, but not one to intentionally draw attention. But attention needs to be intentionally drawn. My father was a great husband, father, grandfather, brother, inventor, entrepreneur, patent-holder, and natural-born comedian. He has had a huge influence on my life, especially my drive as an entrepreneur.
My father was an Austin entrepreneur since the time I was born. He blended his passion with his business. He loved to go fishing off the Texas coast (mainly Port O'Conner), and spent 2-3 days almost every week doing that. But he wouldn't just fish – he would innovate. He developed the world's first halogen fishing light. Fish are like insects in that they are attracted to the light. He received a patent for this invention, and shipped the product all over the world. Dad became successful as a result.
Being an incredibly generous man, he would always help his friends. One of his friends was financially down on his luck. My father had been working on a new variation of fishing lights, using a green band of light. This was his "secret weapon" and fish would swarm to the greenish glow in a more unusual fashion than his previous halogen light. Instead of capitalizing on it, my father gave it to his friend – for free. Months later, his friend was selling over $300,000 per month of the product. Dad never asked him for a penny. I have been told by those in the industry that this is the dominant fishing light worldwide now.
Being an incredibly balanced man, he knew what he valued in life. When I was 10, Wal-Mart approached my father to carry his products in all of their stores nationwide. Dad turned them down. I remember intensely pushing my father to do the deal. Dad had declined because he did not want to ramp up his operation to that level. It would have made him extremely wealthy, potentially, but it would complicate his life. And he knew he was happy already. I remember him looking me in the eye and saying, "Son, one day you may realize the value of keeping life simple… or you may not".
Being an incredibly creative man, he followed many passions in life. This made him come off to many as eccentric. But it also made him come off as fun and genius to many of his friends and family. Here are some of them:
- The first synthetic food for monarch butterfly breeding. This earned him accolades in a worldwide monarch fan club.
- The largest hand-made, hand-ground telescope. The mirror has to be accurate to one-millionth of an inch. Dad hand-ground the mirror for eight hours per day, using lasers to measure precision, for more than a year. It was tremendously better than any telescope that most people could afford to buy.
- A fiberglass, street-legal race-car. At over 500 horsepower and weighing 2,000 pounds with an almost perfect 50/50 weight ratio, it was a ridiculous driving experience.
- The first robotic fishing boat. This was his current project, and he had been working on it for over three years. You controlled it using a color digital interface from the shoreline. It would sense when fish were biting and automatically reel them in. Because it was so small and silent, the largest fish in Lake Austin did not expect it (they were smart enough to hear a motorboat – that's why they were so old and large). As a result, Dad caught fish that he would weigh and show that they would be a Texas record. But then he would unhook them and return them to the lake, letting them continue to live. He wasn't looking for glory.
- and I could go on and on about his hand-made aquariums, huge kites, remote-controlled miniature race-cars, Koi pond, and so much more.
I will miss you, Dad. I love you. And I will continue to work hard to be the son, father, husband, brother, inventor, patent-holder, and entrepreneur that you would expect me to be and to become.
And thank you so much to my many friends and family that have been so supportive during this difficult time. I sincerely appreciate your thoughts, prayers, and gifts. I am truly blessed to know so many good people. See a small sampling of the flowers that have been received at our house on Friday. There are many others at my Mom's house.
If you would like, see photos of my father. He was a very popular neighbor. He would give away almost all of the fish to all of our neighbors, and this went on for decades. Red snapper, you name it. I grew up eating well.
Update on Saturday: so many more beautiful flowers have been delivered to our house, and I want to share the images of them with you.