James “Jay” Brewer said he took life day by day: “Live today. Let it come.”
And he did, said daughter Carol Burton. “He had a good long life.”
Brewer was still working as North Kansas City collector when he died Dec. 21 after a short illness at the age of 93. He was first elected to the job 33 years ago.
“He has done most of the things he wanted to do in his life,” Burton said, adding that he worked the day before his heart attack.
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“He had a pedicure that morning.”
Brewer had recently decided he would not file for re-election in April. Following that decision, the City Council voted to eliminate the office, which paid $6,600 a year. City taxes are now collected by Clay County and deposited to the municipality.
But it was not always that way.
When Brewer became collector the city not only collected the taxes, but someone walked the deposits to the bank. Brewer kept meticulous records, but as the job became more technology driven and the county took over the tax collections, he worked fewer hours.
Brewer took his job very seriously, and the shorter hours led him to believe “he was overpaid,” said North Kansas City Mayor Don Stielow.
“But he also said that made up for all the years he was underpaid.”
At City Hall, Brewer was known for a wicked sense of humor and his ability to get along with everyone.
Brewer was a supporter of North Kansas City before he ran for public office. He was honored with a key to the city in 2009 and inducted into North Kansas City High School’s Hall of Fame in 2004.
He was a graduate of North Kansas City schools, built a home for his bride a few blocks from where he grew up and was living there at the end of his life. Raising his daughter there, he became involved in her activities such as Rainbow Girls and participated in community events. He was a Mason, a charter member of the North Kansas City Historical Society and an 83-year member of The First United Methodist Church in North Kansas City
After his first career with A&P and Safeway as a meat cutter, he operated The Little Store at 21st and Knox for six years.
North Kansas City Police Chief Steve Beamer was a fan of the business.
“We had an open lunch at North Kansas City High School,” Beamer said. “It was a tradition to go to The Little Store for lunch.”
Brewer’s innovation was the combo meal the students could order. The Little Store also served the larger community. Customers could call in their orders, meats would be custom cut and the order delivered similar to today’s concierge groceries.
Brewer put those skills to work at home, his daughter said, always carving turkey on Thanksgiving. This year, though, he relinquished the carving knife to his grandson-in-law.
“I never heard anyone say anything bad about Jay,” Stielow said. “If we all lived our lives as he did, we would all be better off.”