Smith Brett Lawrence died on Thursday, June 30, at the age of 70, at Fletcher Allen Medical Center in Burlington, VT, surrounded by his family. He was diagnosed with Esophagus Cancer in February of this year and fought aggressively to the end. Brett was an Adirondack Guide, Marine, and Vietnam War veteran; husband to his beloved bride, Mary, and father to their children Bronson and Molly. Son to Mabel and Smith Lawrence of Keene, Brett graduated from Keene Central School in 1963, went on to the Miner Institute in Chazy, NY, where he majored in agricultural studies and lettered in wrestling, then attended SUNY Plattsburgh.
Brett enlisted in the Marines in 1965 and served a tour of duty in Vietnam with a Marine Attack Squadron and was at Chu Lai during the January 31 Tet Offensive. He received a Good Conduct Medal and in recognition of service. Further postings followed in Hawaii and Chicago. Sargent Lawrence, rank E5, was honorably discharged in November 1970.
Upon leaving the Marines, Brett followed three prior generations of his family by becoming an Adirondack Guide and earned an enviably low Adirondack Guide badge number of 309. In 1973, after a six-month courtship, Brett married Mary Stambach at St. Brendan’s Church in Keene, NY.
For 18 winters Brett drove passenger sleds at the Lake Placid bob-run. For 30 years he was an active member of the Keene Volunteer Fire Department. He was a life-long member of the Keene Valley Congregational Church where he often served as a deacon and on new rector search committees. Brett was a spirited member of the Keene Valley Rod and Gun Club and American Legion Post 1312 where he carried the flag and served on the honor guard. At this year’s Memorial Day Service a bench in Brett’s honor was set in front of the Vietnam War memorial.
For many years Brett served as the Chair of the Town of Keene Republican Committee. His greatest service, to most, though, was being Santa Claus. As Santa, for the last 40 years, he visited the Neighborhood House, area hospitals, St. Agnes School, and often made house calls upon request. This year, Keene Central School honored Brett with the Honor Society Distinction Citizen’s Award noting that he was “a graduate who has made outstanding contributions to our town, state, and nation.”
Smith Brett Lawrence is survived by his bride of 43 years Mary; his “number one” son Bronson and his partner “son and a quarter” Mike Northup; daughter Molly, her husband Jeordi “Jordan” McEwen and their son Greggor Emmett; his sisters Donna Combs and Andrea Maberry (John) and many nieces and nephews. The funeral service will be held at the Keene Central School at noon on Saturday July 23rd officiated by Rev. Milton Dudley, Pastor of KVCC, and Rev. John Yonkovig, Pastor, St. Agnes and St. Brendan’s Catholic Churches. In lieu of flowers,
Mary requests contributions be made to the Keene Valley Congregational Church Santa Fund, Brett’s request would be to the NRA or Essex County Republican Committee.
Arrangements have been entrusted to Heald Funeral Home, 7521 Court Street, Elizabethtown.
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