It is hard to believe Dad is not here. He truly loved to be the center of attention as most of us do; the difference with Dad is that he was good at it. He often reminded us he was a Leo and he absolutely embodied the zodiac characteristics of the Zodiac lion, which is a sun sign, with his strength, brilliance, and magnetic personality. Dad has always seemed a bit larger than life. He was physically large-tall and handsome - his hands were enormous, but more than that it was his personality that filled a room. Rarely at a loss for words or an entertaining story; Dad radiated energy. He was an accomplished man who never lost his boyish sense of curiosity or wonder in the world and he pursued life with relentless vigor, good humor, and a roguish grin that drew others to him.
It is an impossible task to try and distill over 90 years of living with Dad into a few minutes of words. Thinking of him elicits a well spring of entertaining stories from an endless library of experiences. Let's be clear the man and had the interest and energy to shoehorn three lifetimes worth of living into one. So I will simply share my observations about Dad to illuminate an outline of the many-faceted man he was and leave it to each of you to color in the details using your personal memories.
Dad was an everyman who had the ability to fit in seamlessly at the Symphony Ball, the Cosmos Club or the Spaghetti house in Brunswick Maryland. He had a name fit for a statesman - Edward Fulton Brylawski - but throughout his life was known to most as Buddy. He was a world recognized copyright attorney who worked for many famous people, but had little sensitivity to social status and easily attracted friends from all walks and stations of life. He traveled the world, but was at home driving a tractor. He appreciated fine dining, but loved ham hocks and sauerkraut at the Eastern Market or dessert at Sherrills, where the coconut macaroons were so good you excused flies in the food. He was a Jew by birth and culture who became by choice an Episcopalian. He rarely went to church or synagogue, but always treated others with love and respect.
Dad was born 92 years ago to a different Washington D.C. from the one we know now. One where as a boy Scout you could go camping in Rock Creek Park, where children would get live ducks or chicks at Easter time and go sledding in the streets and, in the days before TV adults might host a séance in their home. It was a time when it was high style to vacation in Atlantic City and we went downtown to F Street to shop at Stores like Garfinkels, Woodies, or Raleighs.
For a man who became unusually accomplished, Dad was an undistinguished student as a child leading one public school administrator to warn his parents that "Edward will never be more than an average student". Never one to be told her child was anything but exceptional; his mother withdrew him from Woodrow Wilson on the spot and secured him admission to St. Albans where it became clear that the problem with "Edward" was that he was bored. He was brilliant and most likely ADHD (something no one had a name for then). Once challenged, Dad excelled, earning a trifecta of degrees in engineering, business and law from MIT, Harvard and Yale. He fully utilized and valued every bit of that education and his gratitude is reflected in the many generous gifts he made to the schools that propelled his success as well as gifts to support the education of others including a local church Scholarship he founded in memory of Bunyan Butler, a gentle kind man who had been a custodian at his law office.
After a brief career as an engineer for GE, Dad was enticed or more accurately strong armed into joining his father in a successful niche law practice which specialized in copyright Work primarily related to motion picture titles. Among many, he worked with Walt Disney (the man as well as the Company) and Columbia Pictures. Dad became the leading copyright attorney in the country, and a "Brylawski opinion" became the recognized industry standard in copyright law. His wide-ranging clients included people like Tom Clancy and Dionne Fosse, but Dad was never a name dropper and a bit modest about his legal career titling his memoirs of legal practice "A Gullibles Travels". This was not to say he was modest in his behavior as a lawyer. As he once told us, "When someone is looking for a legal opinion I don't have to do the research, just tell them they're wrong". We often joked that the family motto should be sometimes in error but never in doubt.
Most people would be content to succeed in a single career, but Dad was too bright and hyperactive for that. He pursued his interest in law, real estate, and golf, and used his considerable talent to excel at all of them simultaneously. In addition to growing his legal practice, Dad used his engineering and business skills to develop houses on Capitol Hill and elsewhere around Washington applying some simple rules for success: like always sell your real estate too cheaply (meaning make the sale and don't hold out for top dollar, sell it) or the best way to negotiate for something is not to want it. Car dealers never stood a chance with Dad. He would just walk out if they did not like his number and wait for them to call him a day or two later to make the deal.
And then there was golf... it is hard to think of Dad without thinking of golf. While he never went pro (or to my knowledge considered it) he was an unusually accomplished and competitive golfer winning multiple club championships at Woodmont and Congressional where he was famous for drives well in excess of 300 yards. He continued to even great heights as a golfer when he became a senior because he grew more patient and capable in his putting so what he lost in his long game he more than made up in his short one. He won numerous senior tournaments in both Washington and Florida well into his 80s. Inspiring envy and consternation in 60 year old seniors who vainly hoped they might have an age advantage over a guy 20 years older, but were secretly inspired by him. He scored a hole in one in the Lyford Cay, Nassau, an event witnessed and attested to in writing by none other than Sir Sean Connery.
Being a lawyer and a creative guy, Dad was never at a loss for words, if he was asked about something he did not know, he just made up an answer or diverted the conversation with an entertaining but only tangentially related story - I did say he loved to be the center of attention. His knowledge, creative explanations, and endless repertoire of stories made him excel at being the center of attention. As kids, he would entertain us with stupid songs from the navy including somewhat off key renditions of classics like "I spent last night with Minnie the Mermaid", vaudeville jokes and limericks, a recitation of the Cockney alphabet, the story about his father winning a ride on the wing of a biplane or references to the chain of nicolodeons his family owned at the Warner theater. The best part was the way he enjoyed telling the stories. He would go into great detail - some of it probably creative embellishment - laugh at
the funny parts and grin at you to be sure you thought they were funny too. He had a transparent childlike spirit and love of the world that was reflected in his gleeful grin. It was almost impossible to take a bad picture of him - he was always ready for the camera with that classic Buddy B Smile.
Dad cared a lot about family and heritage. In addition to an oral tradition of Colorful family stories he was the force behind numerous far-flung family reunions before the existence of Ancestry.com. The big advantage of having a name like Brylawski is that distant cousins are pretty easy to find. Using a phone book, Dad would hunt down Brylawskis we had never met from Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Southern MD to come for a day of country music and barbecue at the farm and fill in the family tree. From one we learned Brylawski is a name of some pedigree. He brought a framed bio profile of Count Brylawski - a polish nobleman, though our name actually derives from the Polish word Brylaw which means a clod of earth. So we are by name clodhoppers or farmers. Maybe that is where the country in Dad came from.
Dad was a city boy that loved farms. Not just because the country was beautiful, he loved the Country with the zeal of a ten year old boy. He loved the snakes, the ticks, the bushes that needed to be bush hogged, the groundhogs that needed to be exterminated, the fish that needed to be caught and the muddy ponds that begged to be swum in. Dad fell in love with and purchased farms from Fredericksburg to Middleburg to Harpers Ferry where he could be a weekend farmer. He adopted a country accent referring to women as Miz, drove his tractor over the fields and drove his truck to the dump. Dad was a brilliant and accomplished but there was not an ounce of pretension in him.
Dad enjoyed being successful but success never spoiled Dad. He never forgot the value a nickel and made sure he accounted for every penny owed him. For years he would wear shoes that hurt his feet or pants that were too short because they were on sale at Syms and he relished being an accomplished do it yourselfer who would fix windows, paint doors, spray fruit trees, or haul trash.
Despite his penny watching, Dad was an impulse buyer with eclectic tastes. His acquisitions included auction curiosities like a ceramic women with lightbulbs coming out of her head, a house in Mallorca bought off an ad in the Wall Street Journal, a Benelli motorcycle which he rode around DC but never registered, a Greek amphora bought en route to the airport in London, a leopard skin rug, and a giant medieval chess set. He filled the farm house in Knoxville with whatever appealed to him at auction: slot machines, a Wurlitzer bubbling jukebox, a full sized horse surrey that sat in the front hall with two monkeys in French provincial clothes in the drivers set. He saw beauty in simple things, but also appreciated fine art and dedicated a room at the Philips gallery in Washington DC to his parents.
Dad was always restless to find something to do or somewhere to explore. His endless energy and curiosity made Dad an avid world traveler, but he never learned a foreign language. His geniality and expressiveness went a long way in communicating across language barriers. He could successfully navigate wandering alleys in foreign cities without a map and do a successful pantomime for turpentine, but was also famous for malapropisms like the time he meant to tell the taxi driver in Paris he was with two others (Je suis avec deux autres) and instead told the manJ'aime avec deux autres which is to say I love with two others or the time he first met my Italian grandfather who lived on lake Como and meant to ask if he liked to go fishing in the lake (pescandonel lago) but instead asked if he liked pishando nel lago which means he asked the man who would become father in law if he enjoyed pissing in the lake.
Dad's first World tour had led him to a fateful swim in Lake Como where he met my mother Laura Carizzoni on a float and in the space of a few days enticed her to look him up in Washington when she came to the US a few months later to visit another young man. He must have been his charming self because she ditched the New York boy and ended up spending most of her time with Dad in D.C. who decided to propose marriage to her after knowing her no more than a few weeks - I did mention he was impulsive -. Needless to say his parents were shocked, but in the way most things went for Dad it all worked out very well. They had three children myself, my brother and sister and were married almost 25 years.
Dad was not an emotionally expressive father when we were growing up and was, for the most part, focused on other parts of his life like work and golf. But when he was available, he was a lot of fun because he had a lot of kid in him. He would suddenly decide to go to the World's Fair, or Disneyland, or New York, or California and take one or two of us kids with him where for a few days we would get his undivided attention and create indelible memories.
As Dad got older he transitioned from focusing on his career to focusing on friends and family. He became more in touch with his emotional side and expressive with his feelings embracing his sons in law Neil, Steve, and Frank as his own children. He did not miss an occasion to celebrate family. He took all of us to Bermuda to celebrate his 80" birthday and at the age 88 went to Tulum Mexico to celebrate our daughter Alexa's wedding where he danced up a storm with her 20 something girlfriends.
His love for Barbara further helped him to fully become the loving and expressive person he was later in life. The love was always there inside him, he just didn't know how to say or show it. By the time Dad met Barbara he had accomplished so much, but often at the expense of lingering and enjoying the moment before he was on to the next thing. In his life with Barbara, Dad finally slowed down to truly smell the roses and focus on relationships and simple pleasures in life from planting orchids in the garden, to driving a boat to dinner, to enjoying spending time with the family without having to "do" anything. Marrying Barbara was not something Dad decided to do on impulse or because he wanted to be married - he wasn't intending to marry again. He married her because he loved her and because life was richer and more fun when they were together. Dad brought his effervescent attitude toward life and adventure and Barbara brought a grounding love that enabled him to express his emotions in new and unexpected ways. Before Barbara Dad often would tend to emotionally react the way he felt people expected him to, with Barbara, he was able to just be himself and allow us to more clearly see him as the complete and wonderful man he is.
I know many of you are sad today, but Dad would not understand why you should be. He had an uncanny ability to ignore or shrug off the negative in life and find something more fun to think about. He never dwelled on mistakes, mourned missed opportunities, or perceived malice in others. He made the most of every moment, saw everyone as his friend, and truly knew how to have fun. I am sure he is delighted to see all of you today and I can see him flashing all of us that mischievous grin as he looks forward to his next great adventure.