January 10, 2013 | Volume 43, No. 1

Brewster led solitary life, except for pet dog

Jolie Brewster, a reclusive former waitress and dog trainer who lived in Haines 18 years, died last weekend at her Dusty Trails apartment of undetermined causes. She was 75.

Jolie Brewster and Mugs

The few people in town who knew her this week described her as a kind, religious woman who was attached to her English bulldog, Mugs.

“He was her lap dog. That big mutt would sit in her lap and you wouldn’t even see her,” said Kevin Shove, who delivered groceries to her and found the dog for her about a decade ago.

Her best friends in Haines said Brewster did not maintain a relationship with family members, including a daughter in California and a son in the Lower 48. Besides a birth certificate dated July 24, 1937 in Wichita, Kansas, they knew little of the life she led before moving here with family in 1995.

Mike Howard said he’d met Brewster in 1990 through her late son, Paul Spier, when the family was living in Sky Valley, about 20 miles east of Palm Springs. Spier and wife Shonya brought Brewster and their two children north, taking up residence near 3 Mile Mosquito Lake Road and raising Irish wolf hounds, he said.

When the family moved south, Brewster stayed here, taking an apartment downtown. Brewster rarely stepped outside. Howard, Shove and others would deliver her groceries and take Mugs for walks. “I’d take her out once a year for her doctor’s appointment and check-up,” Howard said.

Howard said Brewster’s reclusiveness may have partly stemmed from a glaucoma condition that blinded her in the early 1990s. She regained some sight after treatment.

Howard said Brewster worked in California as a waitress and once trained horses and raised Doberman pinchers. In Alaska, Brewster filled about 50 notebooks about her “walk with God and Jesus Christ” that he dubbed “The Book of Jolie.” She also made pencil and charcoal sketches of Old West scenes, knitted and made tapestries, he said.

Howard said he last visited Brewster Thursday, when she appeared to be suffering from chest pains. She had only recently applied for home health care, he said. “God just took her home. That’s all.” A graveside service was set for Wednesday at Jones Point, said Howard, who was building her coffin Tuesday.

Brewster doted on her animals but didn’t speak much of her life in the Lower 48, he said.

Dusty Trails manager Jessica Rettinger said Brewster was upbeat when she visited. “She talked about her son (Paul) the most. That was most important thing in her life, and her dog. When I’d go to see her, she always had something inspirational or uplifting to say. She was a really neat person, but she rarely left her apartment.”

Howard said Brewster is survived by daughter Rhonda Brown of Vista, Calif., son David, whereabouts unknown, and three granddaughters in Lake City, Fla. She was preceded in death by son Paul Spier.