When James Wheeler Brewer proposed to his wife, he made an unusual promise, to do all of the cooking.

It seemed like a reasonable expectation since all the while they were dating, he’d cook Sunday dinners for her family.

He was a better cook than her mother, says Beth Son Brewer.

But as it turned out, Brewer got jobs doing shift work and much of the cooking fell to her anyway.

The cook

“It became a running joke,” she says. Still, he made a lasting impression on the family with his culinary skills.

She and the children came to expect his chicken and rice for Thanksgiving dinner and the day before Christmas.

He was also appreciated for his Frogmore stew.

“When our oldest children got married, he cooked it (Frogmore stew) for the pastor and the ladies that helped us serve,” she says.

Cooking, tinkering in his shed, listening to the Gaithers and helping found two rescue squads are things people will remember about him.

Brewer was born Nov. 9, 1937, and died July 23.

His wife says he cooked by taste, sampling as he went along and adjusting the seasonings until he got the dish perfect.

“It was like a pinch here and a pinch there. He really couldn’t tell you how much. It was his taste.”

At work, Brewer, a shop steward at Charleston Paper Mill (Mead Westvaco) would cook for those with whom he worked.

“He’d fix it here (at home) and take it to work,” she says. “He always loved lima beans from scratch ... with ham hocks or ham and whatever his pinches were.”

He helped to organize the Berkeley County Volunteer Rescue Squad, and would cook for them as well.

“He really enjoyed helping people,” his wife says.

There were dramatic moments in his rescue service: Once they were passing through Walterboro taking their children, who were very young, on vacation to Florida.

“He picked up a call because we were close by. Some kids were going 100 miles an hour and hit a tree. We had to stay on the scene until the paramedics came. He helped save a girl’s life and the city of Walterboro gave him a letter of commendation.”

The tinkerer

He hated to throw anything away, hence the tinkering, she says.

He always thought he could fix it.

“He was always working on things,” Beth Brewer says.

Their daughter, Cindy, will miss spending time helping her father in his shed.

“I was more or less his assistant as he would come up with creative ways of fixing things or making things work,” Cindy Brewer says.

He made little rubber gaskets for chair legs because sliders would still scar up the wooden floors. He put new switches on lamps.

He would grind a screwdriver down into an awl for pre-drilling a hole in PVC so the drill bit would not walk off the tubing.

That’s the kind of thing he did all the time, Cindy Brewer says.

“It’s really helped me a lot as an elementary school music teacher,” says Brewer, who teaches at Boulder Bluff Elementary School in Goose Creek. “You have to fix instruments and sometimes they don’t sell the parts anymore.

Over the last few years he’d been repairing the string art boats his father made for the family, Cindy Brewer says.

The technique involves creating a design by stringing threads between nails affixed to a wooden background.

“He had started working on the ones for my sister to pass down. Now, it’s fallen to me to complete that.”

Reach Wevonneda Minis at 937-5705.