On October 2, 2023, longtime West Plains resident and civic leader, Newton Clyde Brill, Jr., 87, died at his home with wife Carolyn by his side. Mr. Brill was born on March 10, 1936 in Mountain Grove, MO in the home of his grandmother Olive Young. The attending physician was Mr. Brill’s great-grandfather, Dr. Samuel Hubbard who practiced medicine in Wright County, Missouri for sixty-four years.
In 1940, Brill and his parents, Newton Clyde Brill, Sr. and Marie Young Brill, moved to West Plains where Newt attended elementary school and high school. For several years, the family lived on Cass Avenue in a cottage at the end of their block. At the other end, just across the street from the city park, lived the family of Joe and Josephine Saunders including daughter Carolyn and son Tom. A warm friendship developed between the two families, and Newt, his brother Jim, Carolyn, and Tom played together nearly every day sharing many adventures.
At West Plains High School Newt played Zizzer football and basketball and ran track. At that time, he also began courting childhood friend Carolyn Saunders. Newt graduated from high school in 1954, and from 1954 to 1958, attended the University of Missouri, Columbia on a Naval ROTC scholarship. Upon graduation he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps, and the following month he and Carolyn were married at First Baptist Church in West Plains.
Following officers’ training in Quantico, Virginia, Newt trained as an artillery officer at Camp Pendleton near Oceanside, California and received additional training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma and at Twentynine Palms, California. During this same period, Brill also trained as a nuclear warfare officer at the Nuclear Warfare College on North Island at San Diego. His two daughters, Julia and Margaret, were born at the naval hospital in Oceanside.
After three years of active duty in the Marine Corps, Brill served as a captain in the reserves while also attending law school at the University of Missouri where he was assistant editor of the Missouri Law Review. Desiring to make their permanent home in West Plains, upon Newt’s graduation, Newt and Carolyn returned to their hometown where Newt joined the law practice of Richard D. Moore. In 1968, son Joel was born in West Plains.
In the early years of his law practice, Newt handled all kinds of cases including family law, criminal law, and litigation. Eventually he specialized in business law, corporate law, estate planning, probate law, and real estate. From 1971 to 2002, Brill owned and operated Kellett-Landis Abstract Company, later known as Brill Title Company.
One of the more colorful episodes in Newt’s practice of law took place in New Orleans in 1968 when he and Dick Moore were representing the Rural Electrification Association at a convention. At their hotel, following a day of meetings, Newt was held at gunpoint as thieves demanded his wallet which he had left in his room. During a scuffle with his assailants, the gun discharged, and Newt was shot in the hip. Thankfully, the wound was superficial. His assailants fled and were never heard from again (at least not in connection with this incident).
Over his lifetime, Brill served his community of West Plains in many capacities, most notably in the fields of health care, elder care, and banking. In 1965, a year after he and Carolyn returned to West Plains, Newt began serving on the West Vue Nursing Home Board of Directors and was elected president of that board the following year, a position he held for nearly fifty years. During that time, he oversaw the establishment of a Practical Nursing School at West Vue and the opening of West Vue Apartments, Pleasant Valley Manor, Pleasant Valley Village, West Vue Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, and the West Vue Green House Homes.
For nearly sixty years, beginning in 1966, Brill worked on behalf of Ozarks Healthcare (known earlier as West Plains Memorial Hospital and Ozarks Medical Center). He served on its board of trustees, its board of directors, and the OMC Foundation Board, later known as the Ozarks Healthcare Foundation.
Brill was also active in the West Plains banking industry, serving on the boards of First National Bank, Centerre Bank, and Boatman’s Bank. In 1997, he was a founding board member of Community First Banking Company, retiring from that role in 2022.
Brill served on many other boards including the West Plains Schools Board of Education, the Board of Trustees of Southwest Baptist University, the Board of Governors of the Missouri Bar Association, the board of Legal Services of Southern Missouri, the board of the West Plains Housing Authority, and the board of Downtown West Plains. In 2005, he was a founding member of the West Plains chapter of the Marine Corps League.
Throughout his life, Brill was the recipient of numerous honors and awards including the West Plains Chamber of Commerce Lifetime Achievement Award, the Purcell Professional Award from the Missouri Bar Association, the Trustee of the Year Award from the Missouri Association of Homes for the Aging, and the Distinguished Zizzer Alumni Award, to name a few.
Newt was a lifelong member of First Baptist Church where he served for many years as chairman of the deacons, president of the church corporation, a Sunday School teacher, and a member of other committees.
Outside of his career, Newt was an outdoorsman. As a youngster, he attended Boy Scout camp where, one year, caught up in the moment, he succumbed to the temptation of a Mohawk haircut. When he returned home, his dismayed mother demanded that he wear a stocking cap to church. In the days when Newt was raising his family, he often went quail and dove hunting with his father-in-law Joe Saunders. For many years, Newt and a group of close friends enjoyed annual fishing trips on the Buffalo River. The high point of each day was returning to camp to fry their day’s catch and share stories over an open campfire. On one such trip, they were awakened during the night as a tornado roared through the area adjacent to their camp. Newt and his friends always returned from these trips relaxed, jubilant, and full of exciting tales.
Two of Newt’s other great passions were food and travel. An accomplished cook, Newt relished trying new recipes and recreating dishes he had enjoyed in restaurants or in the homes of friends. He could whip up any number of outstanding gourmet meals, but he will be best remembered for his light, fluffy pancakes and his mouthwatering cheeseburgers.
The many trips that Newt planned for his family created a lifetime of treasured memories. On one such vacation to the United Kingdom in 1978, Newt rented a car and piloted his family throughout Scotland, England, and Wales. Some highlights of the trip included tea at a castle in the Scottish Highlands, a picnic lunch on the banks of Loch Ness, and a misty, cloud-shrouded walk among the ancient ruins of Stonehenge in the days before a barrier kept the stones at a safe distance from curious pilgrims. Over the years, Newt and Carolyn visited France many times where they were magnificently entertained by Carolyn’s brother Tom who had homes in Paris and Provence.
The one constant throughout Newt’s long life was his beloved wife Carolyn to whom he was married for sixty-five years. Newt is survived by wife Carolyn, daughter Julia Frohlich and husband David of Oakton, Virginia; daughter Margaret Tao and husband Tony of Shawnee, Kansas; son Joel Brill of Springfield, Missouri; grandson Joel Frohlich and wife Katharina Landgrebe of Tübingen, Germany; granddaughter Rachel Tao of Kansas City, Missouri; brother Jim Brill and wife Penny of West Plains, and three nieces including Aimee Webb and husband Bill of West Plains, Carrie Collins and husband Kevin of St. Louis, and Stacy Pyle and husband Joey of Columbia, Missouri.
Mr. Brill was preceded in death by his parents, his brother-in-law Thomas Saunders, and his nephew Jamie Brill.
A memorial service will be held at 2:00 p.m., Monday, October 9, 2023 at First Baptist Church, West Plains, under the direction of Robertson-Drago Funeral Home. Visitation will be held prior to service time from 1:00 until 2:00. Burial will be in Oak Lawn Cemetery. Memorial contributions may be made to the Ozarks Healthcare Development Foundation, and may be left at or mailed to Robertson-Drago Funeral Home, 211 W. Main St., West Plains, MO 65775. Online condolences may be left at www.robertsondrago.com