Remembrances of Peter Brigham

I was presiding at the first hearing at the Cynwyd Trail, in my capacity as President of the Board of Commissioners. We had had a lot of prior negative pushback with regard to the idea of the Schuylkill River Trail passing through Gladwyne, and I was concerned that the Cynwyd Trail, which was a separate proposal, not suffer a similar fate. The practice of the Board of Commissioners is to have people who are speaking at a hearing identify themselves by name and address. The first three speakers, all of whom were favorable to the idea of the trail, were from addresses which weren’t actually on the trail. Then the fourth speaker got up, announced his address as Trevor Lane, and said (I’m paraphrasing a bit) “My house is one of the first houses on the line of the proposed trail. In fact, my dining room will be on eye level with the people walking along the trail.” [At this point, I was beginning to cringe, thinking, “okay, here it comes . . .”]. The speaker continued: “You’ve heard of NIMBY: Not in My Backyard. Well, I’m PIMBY: Please in My Backyard.”

It was a critical moment. Peter had set a tone which was so positive, so different from what we’d endured with regard to the Gladwyne issue. From that moment on, the entire hearing was clearly pointed at how the trail could be built, not whether the trail could be built. That was due to Peter’s galvanizing comment.

-Bruce D. Reed

We had known Peter since he moved onto Trevor Lane about 18-20 years ago. I am certain Peter had more notable achievements in his life than his comment to the commissioners. But we only knew him as an altruistic and congenial gentleman. He was missed when he move from Trevor — and even more so now.

– Harry and Eileen Conry

A few weeks after we moved into 364 Trevor, a gentleman came to our door with a fistful of mail. Peter lived at 346, so some post got mixed. He was really congenial and so neighborly. He gently inquired about our lives and told us about others on the street in a completely non-gossipy way. Just made us feel welcome.

The following summer, he gave me a hand-drawn map (accurate, too!) to a family summer home on an out-of-the-way Maine island, reachable only by a twice-a-day ferry. Curious, I took a day trip to this Shangri-la while on vacation up there. It was really an amazing place, postcard views in every direction, graveyards full of 18th-century schooner captains, and very old money, as they say. But he was happy to just putter around 346 and kept his home in perfect condition. Just weeks before selling his house, I saw him pulling a stump out of his front yard and redressing the ground. The inside of the house was pristine, too.

Later, knowing Peter’s watershed remarks at the council meeting about the trail, and knowing him, I had no hesitation suggesting his name for FOCHT. I thought he anchored it with an elder’s steady hand. He contributed to workdays right up until he couldn’t. He was just a swell guy, looking kindly at everyone over those reader glasses.

-Erik K. Foster

Peter, like myself, was a revolutionary war reenactor. A year or so ago, realizing his mobility limitations would prevent him from participating in living history events, he gave me his uniform in the hope I could find someone who could put it to good use..
Well, late last year, I participated in a ceremony rededicating a long-lost but recently found DAR plaque commemorating the encampment of 4th Georgia Battalion Continental Army soldiers in August of 1777 where St. John’s Episcopal Church on Levering Mill Road now stands. I shared all this with Peter soon thereafter, and needless to say he was quite pleased and appreciative. A great guy, indeed!

-Brian McGuire

Peter was a wonderful man, and a great friend to the trail and community. Winter or summer, that man was working on the trail. A great loss. He will be missed.

-Bryan Shipenberg

Peter, more than anyone else I’ve meet, had an aura about him that was palpable, and hard to describe, a kind of serenity that enveloped the space around him and the people in it. He was a remarkable and very rare person, and Bryan is right: he will be missed, and the reason we can say that is that he has been – since he moved.

-George Manos

We first got to know Peter in the development phase of the trail. He was out there early clearing material, starting directly behind his house and then moving along the trail. If it weren’t for the conception of the trail, I’m not sure we would have met – and what a loss that would have been. He wasn’t just an early adopter, rather he set out to start the trail himself, inspired by the concept. This is what in fact inspired us as neighbors to get excited and involved. We used to joke with him that the trail was bridging the “tracks”. He will be missed, but we have some great memories that will live on and it is an honor being able to share them.

-Jennifer and Barrett Dunigan

The irony of Peter’s contribution to the creation of the trail is that it then served as the means of introducing Peter to so many of us in the community. Our involvement with the trail brought us many wonderful new friends, foremost among them Peter. He was, quite simply, a wonderful human being.

-Jim Collison and Kathy Burns

Photo credit: Bryan Shipenberg