HOLIDAY SHORES - Dr. Brent Leh is remembered today by his family and friends on Christmas Day for what he meant to all of them in so many different ways.

Leh died in a tragic motorcycle crash this year, but on this special day today when the world celebrates Christmas, his family gathers and will talk of the man, a veterinarian, who cared about animals, but also his gift with people.

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Brent’s aunt, Emily Ottwein, is the chorus director at Edwardsville High School. These were her words to describe her nephew:

“Brent was an incredible person. He always had a spark...even from when he was just a little boy. He always had a smile and a twinkle in his eyes and laughed so easily. He was incredibly smart and cleverly funny. Brent was always looking for the next adventure, the next laugh, the next joke, the next minute of living life. He loved hard and truly. He made friends with everybody and cared about all - and this, of course, includes the animals for whom he cared. He truly lived life to the fullest.”

Emily Ottwein continued: “All of these qualities are so similar to my dad, Merrill Ottwein, it is amazing when I think about it. My dad is always upbeat, always looking for the next laugh, never met a stranger, and has the uncanny ability to make every person he meets feel like the most important person he met that day, because as he says, "Whoever you meet IS the most important person you will meet that day." He truly lives this as he spreads generosity of spirit and a true interest in the lives of those around him. My father is also incredibly smart and clever. He and my mom are the most incredible, generous people - role models for lives filled with love and caring.”

Merrill was a significant mentor to Brent and is the reason he ended up in the veterinary field. Merrill was a long-time vet in the region.

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Merrill was so proud of Brent’s accomplishments. He was a star Edwardsville High School wrestler and captain his senior year. The memorial service for him was held in the wrestling complex at EHS to honor his life. He remained associated with the program until his death, coaching kids.

“Brent was only 32 years old when he died and he had a great future snuffed out,” Merrill said. “He was all settled in a with a life’s mate and her future was also greatly affected. Everybody, his grandma, grandpa, parents, other family, and friends, were shocked at his death. The family hopes there is some sense of legacy left for Brent for the spirit he had in life, his work ethic, the way he lived.”

Merrill continued: “Brent had an outside optimistic personality and was a likable, charismatic person. He made a lot of friends in all walks of life in his profession and otherwise. He was very successful in his profession partly because everybody liked how he treated people. He treated people like he wanted to be treated himself. He treated the rich man and the poor man the same way.”

Merrill said Brent was not afraid of anything and he showed that with his daily approach to life and his career as a veterinarian.

“I founded Hawthorne Animal Clinic in 1960 and we had a lot of little conversations about philosophical things about the practice,” he said. “I thought he would do extremely well and he always gave more than you expected with a smile. We had a lot of conversations about the technical aspects of being a veterinarian and diagnostic things. The thing he shared with me the most was gratification he had for treatment of pets. He was a people person all the way.”

Emily closed with a beautiful final message of thanks for her lovely nephew:
“Thank you, amazing nephew, for being so completely and unabashedly YOU. You filled this world with joy of all kinds TO all kinds. Thank you for taking your life and making a difference. I'm grateful for you, Brent. Love always, Auntie.”

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