SIKESTON - His friends called him Eddie, he was "Papa" to his grandson and as far as his daughter's concerned, he'll always be Daddy.
James E. Brewer Sr. was diagnosed with liver failure earlier this year. Symptoms that started out as painful but tolerable had in recent weeks turned into his being sent home from the hospital and told there was nothing else that could be done.
On Tuesday afternoon his battle with the disease came to an end.
Those who knew him describe Eddie Brewer Sr. as someone who had always been there for others, never giving what he did a second thought. But today his family is asking for help.
Previous health problems made the 64-year-old Sikeston native uninsurable and the family said he was considered too young for Medicare. Having no insurance made the cost of Brewer's medication expensive and the hospital bills insurmountable. "He was the most precious loving man and I looked up to him with all my heart," said a teary-eyed Terri Brewer-Cheatham, the only daughter in the family of five. "He was a loving husband, wonderful father and very proud grandfather."
Mark Cheatham described his in-laws as a proud couple who would not normally ask for anything. But under the circumstances, and with persistence from their children, they agreed they needed help.
"He had a massive coronary in 1980 which made him not insurable," Cheatham said. His wife, Elizabeth, is asthmatic and had open heart surgery and valve replacement several years ago and they have past bills from that. So, when you have people with that type of health record it's just impossible to get health insurance. and if you get a quote on how much it would cost, it's so ungodly you couldn't afford it.
"Eddie has worked hard all of his life and has tried to accumulate what he could to provide for his family," he said. "Then life dealt him this hand. Their medical bills are astronomical, there are so many expenses and I don't care who you are it gets to be overwhelming."
Cheatham said although it wasn't unexpected, Brewer's death has understandably left an emptiness in the hearts of his loved ones, and the fact that it has happened during the holidays makes it more difficult.
"It's been really hard, just the general shock of how quickly he went down in the last three or four weeks. For awhile, with the medication, he seemed to improve but then he took a turn for the worse. Terri is really taking it hard and the rest of the family is holding up as best as can be expected. Elizabeth and Eddie have been married for 43 years. She said the other night that they were kids together and now they were older together. She's worried. She was a stay at home housemaker and he handled everything, she doesn't know what will happen to her."
A trust fund was recently set up to help the family with expenses and Cheatham said he remembers how grateful his father-in-law was about the money that had already been given.
"They are very proud people and didn't know how to accept the donations but the way I explained it to Elizabeth is when Eddie was able he did a lot of favors for everybody," Cheatham said. "If someone was in need he was the first to give and now a lot people want to return those favors. What money has come in has really been helpful," he said.
Cheatham added even in his final days Brewer worried about his wife and family but was aware of what people were doing to help. "He was very grateful and thankful for the generosity that had been shown by people who put money into the trust fund."
To make a donation to the trust fund, mail checks to "Friends of James E. "Eddie" Brewer Sr., attention Suzann Romines, financial specialist, U.S. Bank, 104 East Center St., Sikeston, MO 63801.