“Stuart Coleman, do you know him?”
It was a text from my friend Cheryl, who is from San Angelo but who lived in Brown County when she was a girl when her dad was a banker in Brownwood. The question seemed so random that it took me a moment to sort the who’s, what’s and where’s – never mind the ramifications of the question – but the floodgates of the process had opened when I replied that yes, I did.
“They’ve called hospice,” she responded.
Haven’t we all had those moments? What was there to do, or say or even share? But I stood where I was and thought the good thoughts and humbly considered the great deeds of one of Brownwood’s very finest gentlemen and citizens, and in that process, I felt very blessed to be able to say, “Yes, I knew Stuart Coleman.”
Funny that I naturally wrote “floodgates” about the process of remembering the good man, because my first association with him had to do with the Brown County Water District.
I hadn’t been working for the Bulletin a full week in 2002 when Mr. Coleman came into the newsroom and asked if we could talk. It was an election year with some pretty hotly contested local races getting their share of ink, but the board elections for the Brown County Water District No. 1 were hardly getting a mention. That’s probably because there wasn’t any real friction between the candidates and also because I simply wasn’t yet aware of the board, its charge or its important deeds.
Mr. Coleman had come to educate me about the water district in his own kind, gentlemanly, logical and authoritative way and welcome me to Brownwood in the process.
“Genuine” is a word that – depending on perspective – is over- or underused a lot. In regards to Mr. Coleman, the word is genuinely appropriate. That’s what he was.
After my brief education that afternoon and when the story ran the next day, Mr. Coleman made a special point to let me know I had done a “fine” job. At that point I was drowning so in the who’s, what’s and where’s of the community’s intricate details, his compliment of “fine” was like a life preserver.
“Maybe I can do this,” I began to think.
Oh, and within a week of the story’s publication, Mr. Coleman arranged for me to go on a tour of Lake Brownwood and the dam to further my education about the water district and its import.
Significant is another word most appropriate where Mr. Coleman was concerned. I couldn’t pretend to know all he did, how many he helped, how much he spent, how graciously he gave, how often he came forward to change what needed to be changed or to save what should be saved. But I know he never faltered or shied away. What he could do, he did, and when a team was needed, he knew how to gather it. And would.
As a new citizen to Brownwood, I thought you could weigh the importance of an event by the roll call of well-known citizens who showed up for it. It wasn’t that way, though, for Stuart and Margaret Coleman or – really – any of the other wonderful characters who in their own indomitable way had the cares for Brownwood’s progress and development and concerns for its maintenance and sustenance in their hearts and minds.
They were there, always, and if the mic was handed their way at the time of recognition, they would (it’s amazing the times I have seen this happen) credit those who had less to do with the project and thank us every one for allowing to be done what needed to be done.
Oh Brownwood, how did I love you? I cannot count the people, or remember the ways without happily smiling at the characters and personalities who not only tended with great dedication to the necessities, but got successful results and made all the steps along the way enjoyable whether we participated or simply reaped the benefits.
By the time I came to Brownwood, the city’s most storied movers and shakers, doers and makers, were retiring and passing on the well-lit and carefully fueled-for-the-future torches. I feel blessed to have gotten to “know” the ones I did.
Stuart Coleman, you were a great and gracious man. I wish my return compliment of “fine job” would have the impact and significance yours had for me. I am so proud I knew you.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Candace Cooksey Fulton is a freelance writer, formerly of Brownwood, living now in San Angelo. She can be reached at email@example.com .