William John Brett


Dr. William "Bill" John Brett left this earth on Sunday, July 1, 2018.
He was the embodiment of generosity, positivity, curiosity and unconditional love--a life force with a strong work ethic, vibrant spirit, witty sense of humor and a tireless mind. Bill was a mentor, sportsman, baker, jack-of-all-trades, philanthropist and storyteller. He possessed a gentle, disarming and magnetic quality that made him popular among children of all ages. He lived by the principles of frugality, living beneath his means and using his resources to help others. An untold number of lives have been touched by his thoughtfulness.
Bill was a beloved husband, father, grandfather, uncle. He is survived by his wife, Judy; his children, Ed Brett (Lorna), Aaron Warner (Karla) and Christa Warner Cruz; his grandchildren William Warner, Journey Warner, Emily Cruz and Tess Cruz; his sister, Eileen Grigalauski; his nieces and nephews and their families, Harold Cox, Becky Cox, Deborah Kennedy, Karen Huser, Denise Huff, Brett Nivinski, Dawn Nivinski.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Richard John Brett and Emily Salter Brett, and siblings, Richard Brett, Emily "Jean" Cox and Elizabeth Nivinski.
Born in Chicago, Bill and his four siblings were raised by their mother in Capron, Illinois, prompting a collection of short stories, A Poor Boy Growing Up Rich; he considered his life to be rich with adventure, relationships, opportunity and love. During WWII, Bill served as a pilot in the 101st Airborne of the U.S. Army Air Force, earning the EAME Theatre ribbon with Silver and Bronze Star Medals. He earned his Bachelor's Degree at Northern Illinois University, Master's Degree at Miami University and PhD at Northwestern University, preparing him for a teaching career of 60 years. As a professor of life sciences, he taught at Loyola University in Chicago, Millsaps College and 57 years at Indiana State University, where he also served as Chairperson of the Life Science Department for 15 years. During his career he was the member of countless boards and committees and received numerous awards for his commitment to students, teaching and the sciences, including the Caleb Mills Teaching Award and the Inaugural Presidential Medal at I.S.U. A legendary, passionate teacher, he taught with heart and was a favorite among students. He took no shortcuts, painstakingly creating new and innovative approaches to teaching each semester. His review sessions were known for their energy, humor, prizes and refreshments.
Bill was a highly regarded member of Unity Presbyterian Church. He loved his church family and the opportunities to be of service.
Bill was a patient, devoted and selfless family man who lived by the belief that "love is a verb." He made each of his children and grandchildren feel valued and loved and filled them with memories of fishing trips, family vacations, home improvement projects, thrift shopping, card games and sage advice. They gave him joy and made him proud.
Bill and Judy lived a love story; their union was that of fairy tales and love songs. Bill adored and admired his bride. In their home, where all were welcome, he fostered love, laughter and play. Together, they blended a family, traveled the world and formed a philanthropic partnership that benefited individuals, families, education and the arts both near and far.
Judy and her family thank all who contributed to Bill's care, made him feel loved and gave him joy. If he touched your life, may his spirit live on in you: comfort the frightened, listen to children, feed strangers and forgive friends. Some people leave footprints while on this earth. Bill Brett left heartprints.
A Celebration of Life will be held at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, July 14, 2018 in First Congregational Church, 630 Ohio, with Pastor Andrew Black officiating and military services by V.F.W. Post #927. Visitation will be from 3:00 - 7:00 p.m. on Friday, July 13 and from 9:00 a.m. - 11:00 a.m. on Saturday July 14 at the church. Arrangements are under the direction of Callahan & Hughes Funeral Home, 605 S. 25th Street.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations in Bill's honor be made to the Potts Food Pantry at Unity Presbyterian Church, 1207 E. Springhill Drive, Terre Haute, Indiana 47802 or to the William J. Brett Scholarship at the ISU Foundation, 30 North 5th Street, Terre Haute, IN 47809. Funeral Information is also available at:
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Published on July 3, 2018
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