Brett Gourley was born at Cottage Hospital in Santa Barbara, California, on September 17, 1938, to Jean Ballantyne Gourley and Phillip Nordli. On April 12, 2021, he passed away after a two-year battle with cancer. His life was not defined by how he died but by how he lived.
His passion for the ocean and beach was apparent from early in his life, including fishing with the local Italian fisherman, surfing at Hendry’s, and playing volleyball at East Beach. However, after graduating from SBHS in 1956, Brett served in the army instead of heading to surf Hawaii with his buddies. He left the army and went on to complete his AA degree in landscape horticulture from SBCC and then attended Cal Poly Pomona. Returning to Santa Barbara, Brett started his own landscaping business.
In 1961, he married his first wife, Judy Ann Johnson. They had two girls, Gwynn Ellen and Lesley Jean. They moved to Pacific Grove, where he started work for CalTrans as a tree surgeon, arborist, and lead foreman covering all of Monterey County. Part of his responsibilities was to trim and care for giant redwoods in Big Sur. Prior to his retirement from CalTrans, he set the standard of tree work protocol which is still used today.
Ultimately, he was drawn back to the ocean and spent the rest of his working life as a commercial fisherman. He fished many areas off the Central Coast from San Simeon to Half Moon Bay. Although his marriage of 22 years with Judy ended, they continued a lifetime of friendship and a shared love of their daughters.
In 1984, Brett married Lesley Keil and adopted Asia Keil as his first son. Soon after, they had twins, Steven and Keil Gourley. He shared his love of fishing and hunting with his sons, who have avidly continued his passion. Although Brett and Lesley’s marriage eventually ended in 1993, their friendship endured.
After some time had passed, Brett reconnected with a longtime friend, Christie Ford, who became his third wife and the love of his life, in February of 2003. Her three children from a previous marriage quickly became members of Brett’s large and extended family. During their marriage, they shared a passion for the written word, history, politics, a prolific garden, and their dog Nellie. They also enjoyed traveling, fishing, hunting, and the meals they shared with so many friends and family.
Brett was a man of countless talents and attributes, as a builder, woodcarver, and master craftsman. By the end of his life, he had constructed seven boats from a 12- foot Pirogue to a 20-foot Alaskan Skiff. Although he lived a simple life, he was anything but simple. Distinguished, kind-hearted, and gentle to some; rough-edged, untamed, and rugged to others. His love was shown through deeds, not words. As a deep thinker and man of few words, when he spoke, everyone listened, and when you spoke, he always listened.
Brett was preceded in death by his parents and maternal aunt Marjorie. He is survived by his wife Christie, his beloved sister Jill Ryan, two daughters, Gwynn (Martin) and Lesley (Andrea); three sons, Asia (Heather), Steven and Keil (Melissa); eleven grandchildren; nine nieces and nephews; two previous wives; Christie’s children, Peddrick (Johanna), Max (Maria) and Beth (Bruce) and his two cousins Cindy Reed (Jim) and Bryan Clare.
Due to COVID restrictions, at this time, there will be no public memorial.