Could everyone write one simple essay about something that once happened in Saltaire…that they saw or were a part of…and put it on one big website? Somebody should collect a lot of stories before we all forget. Otherwise it is like a line in “On The Beach” : The history of the war that now would never be written.” -(JO'H)

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Frank and Doris Braynard

Note: this was First Posted: January 12, 2008

The memorial service for Frank Braynard had been in planning since he passed away in December. Doris Braynard, his wife, had planned just about every aspect. She picked out the songs. She chose who would speak. She even chose the readings- the Twenty Third Psalm and the Sermon on the Mount and the music: sacred music by Sibelius, Mendelssohn; Beethoven’s Ode to Joy. When Rev. Constance Pak mentioned that Doris had lined up so many speakers that Rev. Pak did not feel compelled to speak, Doris would have none of that: "Of course you will speak. You are the pastor."

A brochure was printed up. At the First Methodist Church of Sea Cliff where the Braynards had been active and taught Sunday school over the years, everything was set and ready to go, with Doris the director. The service would be on Saturday, January 12 at noon.

Friday afternoon Joy Brown of Saltaire and New York City spoke with Doris Braynard. "Doris sounded good. We were talking and she said she is holding up and she gave me all the details about how to get from the LIRR station to the church." Doris told Joy where to get off the train. Doris would see to it that a taxi was waiting.

Friday night at 11:30 Rev. Pak received a call from the family.

There was a taxi waiting at the station Saturday at 11:16A.M., just as Doris had promised Joy. I and Diana ran into Joy Brown and two other people from the City and we all shared the cab that Doris had lined up.

Walking into the church, there were family and friends, and we were all waiting to get started. The song books were all laid out on the pews and ushers at the door handed out the program: "A service in Celebration and Thanksgiving for the Life of Frank Osborn Braynard. August 21, 1916-December 10, 2007."

The church was filled, with people standing in the rear and along the sides. After a little bit of low organ music, Rev. Pak. opened the service:

"I have very sad news today" said Rev. Pak.

"Doris Braynard died last night."

There were some soft gasps. Then silence.

"I got an urgent call from the family last night,." said Rev. Pak to a silent audience. "Doris passed away suddenly, a heart attack. The family wants today's service to go on, as Doris would have." After all, Doris prepared the whole ceremony. The prayers, the scripture readings, the speakers, the music. To Rev. Pak, Doris had seemed tireless. Later, during the cermony a Sea Cliff Library member recalled that "Frank Braynard never said no. The word was not in his vocabulary. And if he ever hesitated to agree to a project, Doris always chimed in with 'Oh yes-- we can do that. "

So the service went on as scheduled. Only now it was “A service in Celebration and Thanksgiving for the Life of Frank Osborn Braynard and Doris Braynard."

The ceremony was not all about Frank, with a few afterthoughts about Doris. Full, fond, equal attention was given to each. They traveled the world together. She taught piano and provided commentary for opera. He showed people how to sketch. Their home library was often a research source-- and inspiration-- for some of the maritime writers that spoke at the ceremony. She was active in the American Association of University Women.

Their son David Braynard spoke. "I was overwhelmed with what happened last night" he said "and I was already overwhelmed." But looking out over the packed church, he said "but this is the good kind of being overwhelmed."

David reminded the audience that his father had organized not only Operation Sail '76, but an op sail in 1964; an "operation steamship;" the "Around Long Island Sail," and, among family members one day at Saltaire, an "Around West Island" sail. Frank was author of numerous books, and countless sketches; speaker, fundraiser. The family has a picture of Frank and others with JFK in 1963 discussing the plan for Op Sail '64. JFK thought it was a great idea -- but never lived to see it. Frank was a maritime reporter for the NY Herald Tribune; later a public relations man for Moran Tugboats. Frank knew how to solicit for fundraisers and contributions. He knew the people to call on for assistance and sponsorships. A reluctant Mayor Lindsay here, a skeptical financier there never phased him. Frank was pleased about a successful meeting with the brass at AT&T. As he left the meeting he made an offer to the President of AT&T "Lets meet for a hot dog some day."

From other speakers:

Doris was an outstanding musician; she loved music and opera; taught piano. The couple seemed inseparable; but each complemented the other with strengths of their own. Some talked about their cruises around the world together and others talked about the mark they made on the "One Square Mile" Village of Sea Cliff.

But it was mostly about family and friends, love of the sea and music and ships and teaching and the drive to live every minute of the time you have on this planet earth that came through at the ceremony for this amazing couple.

"We are all Sailors on Space-Ship Earth" -- Frank O. Braynard

"To this day I call her my Girl Scout leader,"said Claudia Moyne, Mayor of Sea Cliff, "She was my Girl Scout Mother when I was a girl-- I still think of her when I sew on buttons."

Speakers included tugboat men with New York accents and vets of the Merchant Marine; reps of marine museums and an old man with a brogue and people from the "National Maritime Hall of Fame" of which Frank was a founder. "For inductees Frank always looked for the less publicized." Sure, they had inducted Robert Fulton, and all the famous steamship pioneers, but Frank looked for less publicized people who deserved recognition. His efforts led to the induction of a woman who was the first female to get a pilot's license on the Mississippi.

Joy Brown pointed out: In 1976 New York City was at a low point. "I think Operation Sail turned around New York City--- and the country."

Hugh O'Brien: "I was watching a tape of 'On the Waterfront' for the umpteenth time one day" when he noticed and recognized in the background of a scene a ship passing along the on waterfront. Eventually he got Frank Braynard to look at that sequence. "Play that back, Frank said, Play that back." He asked Hugh to play it back a few times to get a good look." Frank asked what year the film was filmed. They figured that out.

"The Andrea Doria” said Hugh.

"You're right," said Frank, distinguishing the Andrea Doria from its almost identical sister ship. He stuck out his hand and exclaimed “Marvelous!”,

"Never better" is what Frank Braynard said whenever anyone asked him how he was feeling. "Never Better."

"Never better" is what he told friends when he was in the hospital during his long and trying illness. "Never Better."

The day before he died, a doctor leaned down over the bed guard rail and asked the frail and dying man how he was doing. Frank whispered, barely audibly, "Never better."

The day before she died, Doris probably looked "Never better." She certainly was acting the same as ever, finalizing the plans, calling friends, greeting incoming family members. She couldn't have known that she was planning for her own memorial service. "She looked strong on the outside but she had a heart failing on the inside.” said Rev. Pak.

At the service, Paul Braynard, a nephew, talked about summer nights at the Braynard house in Saltaire. They played hearts, told old stories, and Uncle Frank would talk about excursions up to the beach in hope of one day finding a piece of the remains of the "Savannah" among the flotsam and jetsam. And of course, "at night we would see the light from the Fire Island Light -- and Uncle Frank knew exactly how many seconds it took for the light to come around again."

"I have a picture,” Paul Braynard said, "of Uncle Frank and Doris in Saltaire. You can't see their faces because the picture was taken from the back. Frank has his cap on and they are holding hands and walking together... That is how I see them now."



Monk said...

Stunning news, tragic but then maybe not so. She made everything ready, then she rested.

Your post is beautifully written (for an attorney).

Aside from spending many summer evenings playing cards on their front porch, Lauri and I had the pleasure of cruising with them on the historic Delta Queen to New Orleans, then flying straight over to Florida to catch the brand new mini-cruise liner Newport Clipper for a ride home along the ICW. Two solid weeks of his storytelling, both at the dinner table during his "lecture circuit" duties.

Wish I could have joined you there.

JOH said...

I want to see more comments here about these two amazing people.

by the way, did Frank ever tell you that he wanted to find the wreckage of "Savanah" some day?

Monk said...

Can't say that finding the bones of the Savanah was quite an obsession for FOB, more of a life-long quest. After hurricanes or strong Nor'easters , he would walk the beach, particularly in the area from Dunewood to Robbins Rest where he believed she grounded. I accompanied him a couple of times, just to hear more of his tales of such great ships. It was infectious.
I have several pages from his sketchbook(s) drawn for me. The "Copy Lady" at Staples couldn't understand why I insisted that the perforations from the spiral binder were almost as important as the drawings themselves. I'll post these originals when completed.