Bob and Pat Brewster had been married for 62 years when he died on April 13 from COVID-19 complications.
Bob was 88-years old and had been battling Parkinson’s Disease for eight years. The couple had lived in Rancho Palos Verdes since 1959.
Months after her husband’s death, Pat said in a phone interview that it was still very hard to think about life without him.
But Pat is on a mission and she’s not one to back down. The well-spoken former math teacher is known throughout the Peninsula for her work on the Palos Verdes Peninsula Directory—a "white pages" for locals that’s been publishing since 1955 as a fundraiser for Palos Verdes Hills Nursery School.
Pat hopes that by talking about Bob’s death that she can bring awareness about the deadly disease and in some way help others who are also struggling with loss due to the coronavirus cope with their grief.
Shortly after Bob died, their daughter Susan Deng, who was living in Florida, contacted their church, Rolling Hills Covenant Church and they told Deng about GriefShare groups through Zoom that help those struggling with the loss of a loved one.
Pat said the confidential group has been a beneficial way to share her grief with others who understand.
“It’s just helpful to talk to other people,” she said.
Nancy Thomason, a longtime friend of Pat’s, stopped by her residence on Monday to visit. They have been involved in the Voyagers Sunday Bible study for a number of years.
Bob's burial service was limited to 10 people, Pat said.
"Nancy was one of our 10 guests who graciously attended," Pat said.
But Pat said she has not been visiting any people recently because the danger of the coronavirus "seems so real." She is currently going through decades of paperwork, clothing and other items of their life together, with the help of her daughter.
Bob was first admitted to Torrance Memorial on April 9, after his temperature was over 100 degrees. The following day, on April 10, Pat said the hospital called her and said Bob had tested positive for COVID-19.
On Easter Sunday, she received another call from the hospital.
“Do you want to come in and say goodbye to your husband?,” they said on the call.
Pat called their four children—Susan, Sharon, Karen and David—who are scattered from Hawaii to Florida, and her sister.
“Do you want to send something?,” Pat asked her children and sister. “Some memories, happy memories, send me emails and I’ll read them to dad in the hospital.”
“They each sent some happy memories, which I did indeed read to Bob at the hospital, and they pleased him,” Pat said.
When Pat visited her husband, she had to wear gloves, a robe, a N95 mask and what seemed like a welder’s mask that covered her eyes for protection.
The following day, Bob Brewster died.
Pat tested negative for the virus, but she had to be in quarantine for two weeks since she was at his bedside when her husband was dying in the hospital.
Her family did as much as they could from their homes while she finished quarantine. Deng had reached out to her mother’s church. Her daughter-in-law Deborah, found a florist that was open near Forest Lawn so the could have flowers for Bob’s grave, and she also helped set up a UPS pick-up for clothes for his burial.
Guests at his funeral on May 1 at Forest Lawn in Glendale were limited because of the pandemic. They could have a 15 to 20 minute service at the grave. Only 10 people were allowed and no chairs were provided. No visitation time was allowed before the burial. But the church did provide her with a video of the service, which she said she was happy that she has. She watched the video again this week.
“We intended to have a nice chapel service there and all of our family coming, but we couldn’t do that,” Pat said.
Robert Brewster, an Oxnard, Ca. native, grew up in North Hollywood. He attended UCLA and was an engineer. He worked at Hughes Aircraft Company for nearly 40 years. Pat taught mathematics at Leuzinger High School, among others.
Bob and Pat met at UCLA at an exchange dance. They were married in Pasadena.
Pat said her husband, who had a large record collection, was a music lover and they attended many musicals. He took piano lessons for a number of years, beginning when he was a child. He also sang in their church choir.
“He would serenade the children with songs, such as 'Born Free,' at bedtime,” Pat recalled.
Pat, who said she is uncertain where her husband caught COVID-19, said many people are not taking the pandemic seriously enough. On Monday, she said, she went to her mail box with her mask on and saw a few people walking by without masks.
“I said to them please wear your mask, my husband died from the coronavirus,” she said. “I don’t know whether that did anything for them, but it would be nice to see everyone at least doing that much.”