Whether touring worldwide as a drummer for Omar and the Howlers or teaching Austin kindergartners, Gene Brandon impressed people with his low-key, evenhanded approach to life.|
He taught for the last 15 years at Travis Heights Elementary where he was sometimes known as the "kindergarten whisperer" because he was so calm with students, said one of his daughters, Sophie Brandon.
Gene Brandon died Wednesday at age 59 of a heart attack at South Austin Medical Center.
"My son was in his class this year," said Benita Castillo on a website devoted to Brandon's memory. "My son was terrified of school. Mr. Brandon made him feel happy and safe there."
Sophie Brandon said her father was "kind of a quiet guy but very silly and goofy and always there for our family."
Before Brandon turned to teaching he was a member of the electric blues band Omar and the Howlers from 1981 to 1994 before quitting to spend more time with his family. Omar Dykes, the founder of the band, said he met Brandon when they both lived in Hattiesburg, Miss. and asked him to move to Austin in 1981 to be in the band.
"He was very skillful and one of the most terrific guys you could ever meet," said Dykes. "He had a soothing monotone voice that was just wonderful and he was very diplomatic. Everyone would be in an uproar talking and then everyone would calm down and listen to him."
One of Brandon's childhood friends, Buddy Elkins, said Brandon came to a fishing camp annually that Elkins owns near Hattiesburg to barbecue, play horseshoes and sometimes drum on garbage cans.
"He was the most gentle person you could ever meet," said Elkins.
Brandon's ashes will be spread in a creek near the camp. A memorial service will be at 3 p.m. Sunday at Woodlawn Baptist Church at 4600 Manchaca Road in Austin.
His survivors include his wife Gwen; his three daughters, Hannah, Sophie and Emma; and his sisters Margaret Ann Johnson, Cindy Brandon and Judy Brandon.
Published in Austin American-Statesman on Jan. 13, 2014