Dennis Brislawn

One of my strongest and most formative experiences involved my dad.  We were at Westport, Washington in a small store run by a family friend.  I was about 5 years old or so, and I heard a little boy crying and a man yelling.  My father saw the man hitting his young son with the metal end of belt and stepped in.  My dad was about 5 foot six inches, medium build, and the guy was huge.  I was hiding near a comic book stand, afraid that my dad would be hurt by this man.  But my dad, a WWII Navy combat pilot, knew exactly what he was doing.

My dad went right up to the man and said STOP THAT RIGHT NOW.  WHAT ARE YOU DOING?  THAT’S YOUR SON.  KNOCK IT OFF.  The guy was so stunned by this small guy that he outweighed by 60 pounds or more challenging him and taking charge that he stopped.  He appeared ashamed, mumbled an apology, and drove off.

I hugged my dad.  In that moment I learned something about right and wrong, and doing the right thing no matter what.  My dad was a quiet hero who did not brag and who had faith.  He liked to laugh with my mom and me.

My mom was creative, sometimes demanding, with a love of people and laughter.  An early player in television, she gave it up to raise me.  My mom created a Christmas tree skirt with my grandmother that is still my most prized possession, and she put on incredible theme birthday parties when I was young with costumes and games.  Batman.  Flintstones.  Pirates.  She also, with my dad, made sure I studied and applied myself, that I got my Eagle Scout, and that I had lots of opportunities to grow and learn.

Education was important to my parents, and they sacrificed to give me great opportunities.  My dad was a government employee and our family did not come from money.  They found a way, with some help from my grandparents, so that I could I attend Seattle Prep and Gonzaga, both of which I loved.  I had two opportunities to study abroad.  My parents were proud of my active duty service in the U.S. Army and all I accomplished there, but my mom always said “you should be an attorney” since I liked people and also talking… not that any of my friends or clients would notice that.

Sister Crescentia, an Irish nun, took note of my early leanings towards a law career.  She did not really appreciate my substantial commitment to developing my verbal abilities in the classroom.  In first grade, after failing to get me to stop asking questions and then commenting on the answers to other kids, she brought out the metal edge ruler and beat a tattoo on my knuckles.  When I told my parents, they bundled me into the car, drove to the school, and let Sister and our Principal have it.  They did provide me some time out as punishment, but let it be known that physical beatings of this sort would NOT happen again.  Wish they had told the Jesuits that when I went to an all-boy high school that still had hacks (spankings with a leather or wooden paddle.)  That’s another story and thank goodness a short and one time only experience.  Who says that teenage boys don’t learn?  I learned not to laugh during assembly in the gym when the Vice Principal is on a rampage…

My parents helped me to develop a moral and ethical code built upon knowing right from wrong.  Both are gone now, but the legacy they left me is about love, commitment, and standing up for others.  I pass on this legacy through my law practice and the duty I have undertaken to protect other people who need help.

dbrislawn@ohswlaw.com


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