Sunday, November 14, 2010

Michael Gessner Brown had a contagious smile that lit up the room and warmed everyone around him. 'He was one of those bright shining stars that you only encounter a couple times in your life,' a friend said. His death on November 2, 2010 left a hole in the hearts and lives of those who knew him.

Gessner was born on April 13, 1977, to Thomas and Barbara Brown and sister Diana (Hall). He was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis as an infant, but never let his illness stop him from living life and inspiring others. As a child, Gessner was always on an adventure and always trying new things. Gessner loved the outdoors and took every opportunity to be active. He loved to hike, fish, camp, and rollerblade. He earned black belts in four different martial arts and completed a half-marathon in 2006.

Gessner loved kids and they were drawn to him like magnets. He was always ready to get down on the floor and play or use his slap-stick antics to make kids (and adults) laugh. A friend's nephew never missed a chance to ask if Gessner could come over to play. He was always willing to let his niece Hannah dress him up and fix his hair. Hannah's favorite video to watch over and over again is one of Uncle Gessner acting like a ham and pretending to fall just to make her laugh. He was a great storyteller and entertained many with his tall tales. One friend said she is sad her new baby girls will never get to know him.

Gessner enjoyed animals just as much as kids. He had plenty of pets, from snakes to lizards to a baby turtle he smuggled home in his pocket on the plane last year. He had a great love for his beagle Beauty and never missed a chance to play chase or snuggle with her.

A true romantic, Gessner loved to surprise his wife and his love for her was apparent to all who knew him. A friend described Gessner as one of the most romantic and devoted husbands she has ever met. Gessner met his wife Lisa (Worthington-Brown) in college and they were married for nearly 12 years. 'Gessner would leave love notes for me to find and write messages to me with soap on the mirror. He always told me how much he loved me and made me feel so special,' his wife said.

Gessner loved his job and excelled in his profession. Most recently, he worked for Expedia as an Offshore Initiatives Project Manager. Coworkers saw in him a passion for work and a loving, generous nature. Gessner refused to let CF keep him from working and advancing his career. He would attend conference calls from his hospital bed or secretly infuse IV antibiotics while giving a presentation. 'Gessner was always so positive and upbeat, yet laid back. Now, knowing that he was facing a life threatening illness, it's all the more amazing what a great attitude he had,' said one coworker.

Gessner loved to make people smile and nearly everyone who met him has a story to tell about something he did. From his silly outfits, to his signature sound effects, to his bizarre gag gifts, it was hard not to burst into laughter when he was around. A generous and helping spirit, Gessner was always ready to step in and assist others. He was thoughtful and encouraging, forever sending notes and gifts to remind people that he loved them. As his health deteriorated, Gessner strived to keep a positive attitude and live life as much as possible.

Even in death, he wanted to help others. He donated his corneas and they were transplanted to improve someone's vision the day after his death. He also gave his lungs to research. 'Gessner was one of a kind,' a friend said. 'I knew he was something the first time I met him. I will miss his friendship. Gessner is an inspiration to me. Words can't describe how much I respect and admire his courage.' His family was thankful to have him for his short lifetime. 'He was the strongest person I have ever met,' his sister said. 'I am a better person for having known him.'

To further Gessner's desire to help others, donations can be made to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation in lieu of flowers.
Published in The Seattle Times on November 14, 2010

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