So much can be said of his life and his spirit. What will remain with us perhaps most profoundly is the example of his life that shows us what true altruism looks like in our contemporary society. To give of oneself so thoroughly, to adhere to one’s beliefs so passionately and to love so unconditionally is more the mark of a spiritual leader than an average man.
Brent’s Life Story
Brent Nettle died peacefully on June 1. He was born in Michigan to Evelyn (Renchard) and Harry Nettle and grew up with brother Barry in Detroit.
He graduated in Business from Michigan State University, and served in the Air Force National Guard. After working as a public relations executive, Brent worked for The Christian Science Church in Boston for nearly a decade beginning in the late’60s. He served as a Regional Advisor for the Mid-West and headed up a worldwide campus ministry.
After working as an investment advisor for an architectural firm, he moved to San Francisco in the early 1980s. Brent was one of the most committed (and patient) members of the grass roots effort to help at-risk youth ultimately founding The Polk Street Town Hall, known today as Larkin Street Youth Services).
Born out of his passion for fostering positive connections between elders and the wider community, Brent founded Eldergivers in 1985 (then the San Francisco Ministry to Nursing Homes), dedicated to lessening the isolation of nursing home residents. He was Executive Director until his retirement in 2013.
Started as a faith-based volunteer visitor program, it expanded in 1991 to include a second program-Art with Elders (AWE)-which sends professional artists into care facilities to teach art not only as therapy, but as a real form of fine art instruction.
AWE now offers classes in 32 facilities in six Bay Area counties and exhibits the elders’ work in traveling exhibits. The artwork and lives of the elders have been celebrated in several books and in the annual Elder Arts Celebrations.
Brent gave his heart to this professional work and a smile to everyone who came to know him (and even those that didn’t). He was filled with wisdom and love, and strived for the highest ideal. He always had the right thing to say to anyone who was in need and asked his advice, and changed the lives not only of many elders, but the art teachers, writers and colleagues he mentored. Brent’s life showed what true altruism looks like in contemporary society. A private person who resisted taking credit for his accomplishments, he gave of himself tirelessly, and adhered to and fought passionately for his beliefs. At the core of his being and actions was a strong sense of spirituality that recognized the worth of every person.
Brent is survived by his ex-wife Susan Feringer-Coury (Colorado), his loving friend and “sister” Claudia Ballard (Oregon), a widespread circle of friends, and the Eldergivers community. Special gratitude is owed to his caregivers in the last year of his life: Betty Becker Little, Diane Fisher, Kim Gamble, Sarah White-Bowman and especially to Suzanne M.M. Warner.
Donations in Brent’s memory may be made to:
Art With Elders, 236 West Portal Ave. #845, San Francisco 94127 or at online here.