Quiet Giant: Students remember longtime Berryville educator

Friday, March 27, 2015

When Silas Brewer suspected one of his students of making a mistake, he'd pull the student aside for a one-on-one talk.

Brewer, who was a principal and superintendent in the Berryville School District for 31 years before retiring in 1983, died March 22 in Piggott. He was 93.

Brewer's caring nature, according to many of his former students, has stayed with them long after graduation and will remain following his death.

Former student Mary Lou Harp called Brewer, who stood well over six feet tall, a "quiet giant," saying he was never mean even when disciplining students.

"He was never ever judgmental but always there to help give you guidance. I can't think of anyone who didn't think he was a wonderful person," Harp said.

She noted that Brewer attended everyone's class reunions until he couldn't anymore. "That says a whole lot for a principal," she said.

James Neal said that Brewer was not so stern and austere as many students thought he was. He had a sense of humor, Neal said, and joined in on pranks and jokes.

"For some reason, he kind of adopted our class of 1963. We were a small class and very close," Neal said.

During those years, Neal noted, Brewer attended every sports event and play practice, being available to help any student with a problem. Neal said Brewer was just as attentive to his family as his students, remembering him as a devoted family man.

"He would work non-educational summer jobs when he was not going to summer school. One year, he told me that he had wanted to find a way to make one more penny that summer because he had made exactly $999.99 and thought it would have been good to say that he had made a thousand dollars that summer," Neal said, adding that Brewer was an honest person who refused to round a dollar amount up even if by a penny.

"He is one of the few people I have ever met that I would trust as a 100 percent straight shooter with no reservations whatsoever," Neal continued.

After graduating from high school, Neal and his wife began visiting Brewer when in Berryville on vacation. During those visits, Neal said, he and Brewer began to have a friendship eclipsing the student-teacher relationship.

"I treasure the time we were able to spend with him as friends, because he was the old school kind of teacher/administrator who truly cared about every kid in school," Neal said.

Debbie Clark Mayes said Brewer remembered her name and her parents' names when she was in school and was involved with various school and community activities.

"Others mentioned they were scared of him. I was not, just afraid to disappoint him," she said. "He gave the air that he cared about you."

Linda Ferguson Winkle pointed out everything Brewer did in the community, including serving on on the Berryville Rotary Club and the board of the Carroll Regional Medical Center.

"He was loyal to his students and community and to BHS graduates. Mr. Brewer was larger than life," Winkle said. She added that Brewer hired many Berryville graduates to come back and teach at the school, saying this proved how loyal he was to the community around him.

Brewer was preceded in death by his wife of 53 years, Margie Dee Brewer. He is survived by a son, Edwin Brewer; two daughters, Sharon Smith and Gayla Taylor; three grandchildren, Jennifer Dearman, Ashley Smith and Jill Evans; four great-grandchildren, Ryan, Colleen, Casey and Rowan Dearman; one brother, two brothers, C.C. Brewer and Eston Brewer; and four sisters, MaryAnn McClarin, Irma Self, Eva Holland and Mae Weger.

His family opted for a private service.

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