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.

124 Responses to “A Son’s Story of His Father”

  1. Justin Foster

    Brett,

    Thank you for sharing these stories of your father. It is clear he had a significant impact on your life and was a great man. Reading your post made me reflect on the impact I have on my own child's life and the importance of sharing with her the values I hold closest to my heart. It must have been gut wrenching to turn down the Wal-Mart deal but clearly your dad understood life balance (something I really struggle with at times) and the importance of family, which ultimately is more important than anything else.

    Justin

  2. William Townsend

    Dear Brett,

    I feel very fortunate to have known your father. This is a very nice tribute to your Dad. He was very special, fascinating, and funny. His laugh will be in my heart forever.

    Memories of going to your house and seeing huge aquariums with exotic fish, room full of butterflies (for that one experiment at UT), or an RC car that could go 80mph, home made fireworks as loud as dynamite. Just to name a few.

    I’ll always cherish those times.

    Your friend always- William

  3. William Townsend

    Dear Brett,

    I feel very fortunate to have known your father. This is a very nice tribute to your Dad. He was very special, fascinating, and funny. His laugh will be in my heart forever.

    Memories of going to your house and seeing huge aquariums with exotic fish, room full of butterflies (for that one experiment at UT), or an RC car that could go 80mph, home made fireworks as loud as dynamite. Just to name a few.

    I’ll always cherish those times.

    Your friend always- William

  4. Dear Brett
    I offer you my sincerest condolences. I know how challenging it can be to lose someone you love so dearly, and who is so close to you.

    Just a few days ago, I met an old family friend, who shared with me that they recently were watching a video of us as children, with my grandmother in the background. She passed away when I was only 8, and yet I started to remember her again so clearly, even now, almost 20 years on..

    The way that you describe your father, and the amazing man he was in his lifetime, I’m sure that you must clearly have learnt a lot from him, and in the way you live your life. Remember his example, his legacy will surely live on through you.

    It is a real gift that you can share a snapshot of your father, in such a beautiful way, and I pray, that in time, you’ll be able to remember his wonderful example, and smile, as I do, as I think of my grandmother, and just how much she taught me when she was alive.

    Your father was clearly a man with a kind heart, a gentle soul, a caring spirit, and a curious mind. May you be blessed with such wonderful qualities too.

    Best wishes

    Farhan

  5. Dear Brett
    I offer you my sincerest condolences. I know how challenging it can be to lose someone you love so dearly, and who is so close to you.

    Just a few days ago, I met an old family friend, who shared with me that they recently were watching a video of us as children, with my grandmother in the background. She passed away when I was only 8, and yet I started to remember her again so clearly, even now, almost 20 years on..

    The way that you describe your father, and the amazing man he was in his lifetime, I’m sure that you must clearly have learnt a lot from him, and in the way you live your life. Remember his example, his legacy will surely live on through you.

    It is a real gift that you can share a snapshot of your father, in such a beautiful way, and I pray, that in time, you’ll be able to remember his wonderful example, and smile, as I do, as I think of my grandmother, and just how much she taught me when she was alive.

    Your father was clearly a man with a kind heart, a gentle soul, a caring spirit, and a curious mind. May you be blessed with such wonderful qualities too.

    Best wishes

    Farhan

  6. Chris Malatesta

    Brett,

    I just read this today and wanted to express my sympathy for the loss of your father. My mother also lost her husband a couple of weeks ago on June 19, 2008. Although he was only my step father, I understand what you and your family must be going through. My mother has been devastated and we’ve been visiting her as much as possible.

    Although I only met your father briefly, he seemed like a very generous and friendly man. He really did like to keep a low profile, I had no idea he was such an incredible inventor. Thank you for sharing the amazing stories of your father’s life.

  7. Chris Malatesta

    Brett,

    I just read this today and wanted to express my sympathy for the loss of your father. My mother also lost her husband a couple of weeks ago on June 19, 2008. Although he was only my step father, I understand what you and your family must be going through. My mother has been devastated and we’ve been visiting her as much as possible.

    Although I only met your father briefly, he seemed like a very generous and friendly man. He really did like to keep a low profile, I had no idea he was such an incredible inventor. Thank you for sharing the amazing stories of your father’s life.

  8. Brett Hurt

    Stacie,

    I’m sorry to hear about you losing your father last year. I love the way you kept his message. My parents took many videos of us as children and I will always cherish those and share them with my daughter as she grows older so she can remember her late grandfather.

    Thanks,
    Brett

  9. Brett Hurt

    Stacie,

    I’m sorry to hear about you losing your father last year. I love the way you kept his message. My parents took many videos of us as children and I will always cherish those and share them with my daughter as she grows older so she can remember her late grandfather.

    Thanks,
    Brett

  10. ken seiff

    Brett,
    I didn’t know your father, but as I read your description, I couldn’t help but think it was a description of you. Thank you for sharing it.

    It is clear he must have seen and been very proud of the great influence he had on your character and life.

    I so happy to learn that your father clearly left you the thing that mattered most most to him–his values.

    Ken

    Ken

  11. ken seiff

    Brett,
    I didn’t know your father, but as I read your description, I couldn’t help but think it was a description of you. Thank you for sharing it.

    It is clear he must have seen and been very proud of the great influence he had on your character and life.

    I so happy to learn that your father clearly left you the thing that mattered most most to him–his values.

    Ken

    Ken

  12. Stacie

    Dear Bret – I lost my father last year and as I read your story I felt your pain. There has not been a day that has passed that I don’t think of my dad in some way. About a month after my dad passed I had a message on my machine. Forgetting that I also had messages saved, I just hit play and went about my business. The old messages began to replayed and there on my machine was my dad singing Happy Birthday to me. The message was a few years old but I saved it because my favorite part is at the end he says ‘I love you’. Even today I listen to that message when I need to hear him again. And if its even possible, I miss him more with each passing day. What I have learned from my pain is love, and I mean real love like that of a father and child, goes deep. There is no forgetting just remembering. And I commend you for your tribute to your dad. Thanks for sharing.

  13. Stacie

    Dear Bret – I lost my father last year and as I read your story I felt your pain. There has not been a day that has passed that I don’t think of my dad in some way. About a month after my dad passed I had a message on my machine. Forgetting that I also had messages saved, I just hit play and went about my business. The old messages began to replayed and there on my machine was my dad singing Happy Birthday to me. The message was a few years old but I saved it because my favorite part is at the end he says ‘I love you’. Even today I listen to that message when I need to hear him again. And if its even possible, I miss him more with each passing day. What I have learned from my pain is love, and I mean real love like that of a father and child, goes deep. There is no forgetting just remembering. And I commend you for your tribute to your dad. Thanks for sharing.

  14. Troy Brown

    Bret –

    Wow – what a legacy! Your dad was incredibly interesting. How awesome it is to have such a memory bank to draw upon. It is truly inspirational to me, as a father of 3 sons, to see your tribute and realize the super positive impact dads can have on their sons.

    I hope I live a life and set an example for my sons that earns just a fraction of the respect and admiration your dad rightly deserves.

    Peace to you and your family –

    Troy

  15. Troy Brown

    Bret –

    Wow – what a legacy! Your dad was incredibly interesting. How awesome it is to have such a memory bank to draw upon. It is truly inspirational to me, as a father of 3 sons, to see your tribute and realize the super positive impact dads can have on their sons.

    I hope I live a life and set an example for my sons that earns just a fraction of the respect and admiration your dad rightly deserves.

    Peace to you and your family –

    Troy

  16. Staci Spencer-Roth {cousin}

    Brett,
    My memories go swooshing back to when we were both little kids at your Granny’s house in Austin… that big old house that constantly creaked…with the baby grand piano… :) Your dad was so big, larger than life, but his words were always so kind and soft… I never could understand that… then as I grew older – I understood – he was a “gentle giant”. Not simply in stature, but in spirit. And oh how he loved you… you were a little snow blonde boy – inventing stuff yourself from the time you could walk! Oh my goodness the memories! I knew many things about your dad, but like many families who are at opposite ends of the worlds – time and distance kept us apart… but your words about your father, for those who did not know him – were so very accurate… he was probably one of the most brilliant men God ever created… yet as you said – he never drew attention to himself – never. He lived his life – content and at peace… with himself and everyone around him… with the entire universe…
    What an amazing legacy he has passed to you…
    Love & Prayers,
    Staci

  17. Staci Spencer-Roth {cousin}

    Brett,
    My memories go swooshing back to when we were both little kids at your Granny’s house in Austin… that big old house that constantly creaked…with the baby grand piano… :) Your dad was so big, larger than life, but his words were always so kind and soft… I never could understand that… then as I grew older – I understood – he was a “gentle giant”. Not simply in stature, but in spirit. And oh how he loved you… you were a little snow blonde boy – inventing stuff yourself from the time you could walk! Oh my goodness the memories! I knew many things about your dad, but like many families who are at opposite ends of the worlds – time and distance kept us apart… but your words about your father, for those who did not know him – were so very accurate… he was probably one of the most brilliant men God ever created… yet as you said – he never drew attention to himself – never. He lived his life – content and at peace… with himself and everyone around him… with the entire universe…
    What an amazing legacy he has passed to you…
    Love & Prayers,
    Staci

  18. Jon Nordmark

    We have exchanged a few emails already in the last day Brett, but reading your story reminded me of how I felt after my Dad passed away three years ago (almost to the day), also from heart failure. I still miss him — I miss calling him after a tough day at work, I miss hearing his golf stories, I miss watching him play with his grandkids. In any event, you missing your Father is a good thing because it shows and allows you to feel what a positive person and influence he was in your life. It also helps you understand how important it is to be an important influence in your childrens’ life. That is a gift that your Dad has also given to you. Thanks for sharing your story here. As I know you are doing, be sure to spend time with your family. Nothing is more important than that right now.

  19. Jon Nordmark

    We have exchanged a few emails already in the last day Brett, but reading your story reminded me of how I felt after my Dad passed away three years ago (almost to the day), also from heart failure. I still miss him — I miss calling him after a tough day at work, I miss hearing his golf stories, I miss watching him play with his grandkids. In any event, you missing your Father is a good thing because it shows and allows you to feel what a positive person and influence he was in your life. It also helps you understand how important it is to be an important influence in your childrens’ life. That is a gift that your Dad has also given to you. Thanks for sharing your story here. As I know you are doing, be sure to spend time with your family. Nothing is more important than that right now.

  20. Brett Hurt

    Ken,

    Dad found inspiration from everywhere. At that time, I was very into lifting weights and drinking protein shakes. He started to experiment with some of those and derived the right formula for the monarchs.

    I cannot even imagine the impact Dad would have had at a company like 3M, Procter & Gamble, or Xerox (PARC, of course). He was the most innovative person I know, when viewed from a breadth perspective. Always tinkering with everything and incurably curious. But he knew he never wanted to work in a traditional job, and he never did.

    Thanks for your kind words. I feel truly blessed and humbled to read so many comments from so many incredible people. I also wonder about the impact that this will have on my daughter, Rachel, in this Internet age of archived content that we live in. My grandfather on Mom’s side passed away when I was 2-years old (Rachel is 3 today). But in 1974 there is nothing but photos and a few old videos (my parents were early on that adoption curve) that I can reference to learn more about that sad day, and I do not remember it myself as I was too young.

    So, thanks to all of you for not just touching me by your incredible outpouring of support but for also giving Rachel something to remember him by.

    Sincerely,
    Brett

  21. Brett Hurt

    Ken,

    Dad found inspiration from everywhere. At that time, I was very into lifting weights and drinking protein shakes. He started to experiment with some of those and derived the right formula for the monarchs.

    I cannot even imagine the impact Dad would have had at a company like 3M, Procter & Gamble, or Xerox (PARC, of course). He was the most innovative person I know, when viewed from a breadth perspective. Always tinkering with everything and incurably curious. But he knew he never wanted to work in a traditional job, and he never did.

    Thanks for your kind words. I feel truly blessed and humbled to read so many comments from so many incredible people. I also wonder about the impact that this will have on my daughter, Rachel, in this Internet age of archived content that we live in. My grandfather on Mom’s side passed away when I was 2-years old (Rachel is 3 today). But in 1974 there is nothing but photos and a few old videos (my parents were early on that adoption curve) that I can reference to learn more about that sad day, and I do not remember it myself as I was too young.

    So, thanks to all of you for not just touching me by your incredible outpouring of support but for also giving Rachel something to remember him by.

    Sincerely,
    Brett

  22. Ken Eisner

    Brett,

    So sorry to hear about your father’s passing. He sounds like a remarkable individual. I really enjoyed hearing about all of his inventions, especially the synthetic food for the monarch butterfly that earned accolades from his lepidopterist friends. What varied interests, intellect, and passions!

    I hope it helps to know how appreciated and admired you are in this very large community.

    Ken

  23. Ken Eisner

    Brett,

    So sorry to hear about your father’s passing. He sounds like a remarkable individual. I really enjoyed hearing about all of his inventions, especially the synthetic food for the monarch butterfly that earned accolades from his lepidopterist friends. What varied interests, intellect, and passions!

    I hope it helps to know how appreciated and admired you are in this very large community.

    Ken

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