Kent Brewer

Over time, humility seems to be a common characteristic of our Beacons. Time and time again, when chosen, we hear “But I was just a ...” So when Kent Brewer deflected any credit away from himself and expressed his admiration for the coaches he watched work and the kids he's had the opportunity to photograph throughout his many years at McKay with the expression “I just took pictures”, he confirmed what so many people already know - he's a Beacon.

Over the past three decades Kent Brewer has become a fixture and a bit of an icon at McKay. Game after game – football, basketball, swimming, wrestling, softball, track and field, etc. - Kent would be there, camera in hand, snapping pictures of kids and coaches on the fields, courts, courses, mats, pools, and tracks. More, when a Royal Scot was honored elsewhere, for example on an early Friday morning by Salem Sports and Breakfast Club at Willamette University, Kent, inevitably, would be there too.

Kent's story isn't one of a great athlete or coach. It's the story of a dad who started to take pictures for the simplest of reasons – his son John was playing. It's the story of a man who over time realized just how important those pictures were, not only to his family but also to the other people involved. It was a teammate of son John who asked if he could get a picture from Kent. One thing led to another, then more asked. Coaches asked. Eventually the man with the camera became ubiquitous at McKay. It became a calling. Long after his own boys had graduated and John's high school athletic career had come to an end, he continued.

Kent's pictures have painted a mosaic of McKay athletics and, for thousands of people involved in McKay athletics, he forever captured a special time in their lives. By his own account he has averaged approximately 15,000 “shutters” every athletic season – fall, winter, and spring. From those 15,000 he selects and edits, cataloging them to “each student's personal folder so, at the end of the season, I can give them copies”. He has retained every past student's folder to external hard drives. He estimates that he has well over 200,000 pictures “at my desk just waiting for people to contact me for replacement copies”. His is a labor of love that he continues to this day.

Brewer was born and raised in Salem and, other than a 7-year stint in Spokane, Washington, has lived in Salem his entire life. He attended St. Joseph's Catholic School from 1st grade through 8th grade, Parrish Junior High for his 9th grade year, and North Salem for grades 10-12. It was at Parrish where as a member of the 9th grade basketball team he was coached by Salem legend Millard Bates. Brewer remembers that “I was almost the slowest player on that 9th grade team when running conditioning sprints”, but Millard also “regularly had us run backwards to stretch out our hamstrings” and in running backwards “I was able to outrun all but one of my teammates” to which Millard responded, "Brewer I have been running you the wrong way all this time." At North Salem Kent played “3rd string” junior varsity basketball for another Salem-area legend, Lou Littlejohn.

His Parrish and North Salem school and athletic experiences were important. But it was at Parrish that his life was changed because it was at Parrish that Kent met his future wife Christine Mattox. Middle and high school sweethearts, he recalls that they held hands in 9th grade and had their first kiss when Kent was a junior at North Salem. They would be married for 49 years. They would raise two sons – Brian, a North Salem grad, and the aforementioned John, a McKay grad. Sadly, Christine passed away this past November.

Kent retired after working 32 years for Les Schwab tires, including that 7-year stint in Spokane. He started his Les Schwab career on “home turf”, only a short distance from McKay, at the Market Street store. He finished up his career in Stayton. 

Brewer speaks fondly of coaches – Bates and Littlejohn - who shaped his life and gave him a love of sports . He speaks admiringly of coaches he's watched work as he's snapped pictures at McKay – Greg Lafountain, Jay Minyard, Jack Martino, Rick Herrin, and more. And athletes such as David Rubio also have a special place. 

A Beacon isn't the sum of touchdowns scored, baskets made, or home runs hit. It's not the total of games, meets, or matches won or lost. Beacons are people willing to be part of something bigger than themselves. They are examples for the rest of us. Kent Brewer has given back to the McKay community for no other reason than he knows it's important to those participating. To walk down a hallway at the school and have student-athletes, many of whom don't know his name, smile, say hello, and recognize him as the “picture guy” reaffirms the lives he's touched. For all the fingerprints he has left on the lives of people at McKay, Kent Brewer is a Beacon.

By Bryan Sutherland