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Family to represent Chester Brewer as posthumous Homecoming grand marshal

Tuesday, October 11, 2011 | 3:01 p.m. CDT; updated 5:39 p.m. CDT, Thursday, October 13, 2011
Chester Brewer, former MU athletic director, established MU's first Homecoming on Nov. 25, 1911.

COLUMBIA — Chester Leland Brewer, the athletics director credited as the father of MU's homecoming, will be honored as the posthumous grand marshal for the centennial Homecoming parade.

Brewer's daughter-in-law, seven grandchildren, six great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild will attend the Homecoming parade and game on Saturday to represent him. 

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Daughter-in-law Martha Brewer knew Chester Brewer while she attended MU in the 1940s and before she met his son.

"I used to stop by and talk to him on my way home from school because I found him so interesting, and he was such a lovely person," Martha Brewer, 87, said. "I'm just sorry that most of his grandchildren didn't have an opportunity to know him."

Chester Brewer died at age 77 in 1953, but his legacy remains strong at MU.

On Nov. 25, 1911, Brewer invited alumni to "come home" to see their old school for the Missouri-Kansas rivalry football game, which was being played on one of the campuses for the first time. To encourage people's excitement, he put together festivities such as a parade and spirit rally. 

A record 9,000 fans showed up to the game at Rollins Field, and although the Tigers tied the Jayhawks 3-3, it marked the beginning of a tradition that has been celebrated by alumni and students for a hundred years. 

At the time Brewer put together the first homecoming, there were not many hotel accommodations available. To house the alumni, Brewer and other Columbia residents welcomed people into their homes.

"We must have had 10 or 15 at my home," Brewer previously told The Kansas City Star. "They were stretched out on cots in almost every room."

"My mom always remembered that he just had a really big heart," Brewer's granddaughter, Molly Roland, 51, said. "He loved people and was a very warm and wonderful person. The more I learn about him, the more I am very pleased and proud of him, and I think, 'Wow, I wish I would have known him.'"

This past summer, Roland was contacted by Todd McCubbin, executive director of the Mizzou Alumni Association. He asked her, along with other family members, to represent Brewer this year as grand marshal.

This family reunion will bring together some who have never met and some who have lost touch throughout the years.

"It will be wonderful," Roland said. "It kind of fills in all of the blanks because when I pull out all of the old photo albums, there were some there I had not met."

Roland would not have learned as much as she has about Brewer and her estranged family if it weren't for him being honored. 

"We've lived in different parts of the country, and we are all very excited," said Martha Brewer, whose husband also was named Chester Brewer, after his father. "All of these cousins that are coming together have very interesting and different lives, so it's going to be a lot of fun."

The elder Chester Brewer began his career at MU in 1910 as the athletics director and physical education professor after graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Throughout his time at MU, he coached basketball, baseball, football and track.

"He believed everybody should be active; he even taught fly fishing in his later years after coaching," Roland said.

In 1917, Brewer left to serve in World War I as a director for the U.S. Commission on Training Camp Activities. He returned to MU in 1923 and stayed until his retirement in 1947. 

On the night of the 1911 game against Kansas, Brewer founded the M Men's Club, which sponsored intramural sport championships. Now known as the Varsity M Association, it supports current and past student athletes while following the mission of athletic excellence. 

Brewer oversaw the addition of bleachers to Rollins Field, which were the first concrete stands built in the Midwest, a fact backed up by Roland and a 1950 article in the Columbia Missourian.

"He didn't hire some firm," Roland said. "He went back to the engineering department, and the students designed and mixed the cement for the bleachers." 

He was also responsible for the creation of Memorial Stadium in 1926 and his namesake, Brewer Fieldhouse, in 1930.

"Chester L. Brewer is probably the most outstanding man in Missouri's athletic history," Don Faurot is quoted as saying in the 1950 Missourian article.

Roland recalled going to Missouri football games when she was a child and hearing stories about Brewer from her mother, MU alumna Jean Brewer, Chester's daughter. But Roland never met him. 

"My mom was a school teacher, so we couldn't always get away, but she listened to every game on the radio. Our mom didn't really yell very much, and all of a sudden she was very fired up," Roland said. "My mom was a very humble and modest person, so I don't think she ever got across to us what a big deal her dad was."

Brewer made an impact not only on the university, but also on the city of Columbia and the outside sports world.

In 1923, he sponsored the first Boy Scout troop in Columbia and was president of the organization for seven years, Roland said. He received the highest award in scouting, the Beaver, which recognized him for long service, she said. 

He was also a part of the NCAA, serving on the rules committee, executive council, panel board and as vice president, according to the 1950 Missourian article. 

"The world was a lot smaller back then, and we had someone from our town helping shape the world of sports and way it evolved," Roland said.

"You know he was a competitor, but he was a gentlemen," Martha Brewer said. "He was a dear person, and I just think it's wonderful that he is being honored and that I'm around to know about it."


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