Goodbye, 'Mr. Wonderful'
Longtime Rogue Valley businessman and jokester Keith Curtis Brostad was born on a dark and stormy night. He actually wasn’t. But he insisted for years to friends, family and local media, that he’d like his obituary to say as much.
Brostad, 73, the owner of the Horse Blanket in Central Point for nearly two decades, died Saturday after complications from a surgery and other health issues, his family said.
Large in stature and even larger in personality, Brostad was serious when absolutely necessary, educated on important issues and never was one to let a difference of opinion cause hard feelings, those closest to him say.
From helping 4-H kids purchase animals to promoting equestrian events for his wife’s beloved miniature horses, Brostad was known as much for his baritone laughter as the fiberglass horse statue atop his downtown saddlery. Nicknaming himself “Mr. Wonderful,” Brostad was often seen sipping coffee from a mug imprinted with the moniker. Born Dec. 30, 1944, during markedly uneventful weather, Brostad was one of four children of Ruth and Karl Brostad. He was raised on farms in Linn Grove and Spencer, Iowa. The family moved to Ashland, where Ruth, a member of the Sisseton Wahpeton Sioux Tribe, once attended Ashland Normal School, now Southern Oregon University.
The farm-raised siblings had never lived in an actual town before, said his sister Mary Beth Brostad Summers, and they made the absolute most of it.
“We moved to Ashland in 1956 and it was not what it is today. We were farm kids and we ran wild in the streets of Ashland, playing and having fun. Shakespeare was only in the summer and we would volunteer to work and we saw every show,” Summers said.
“Your parents, back then, would say ‘good morning,’ and you might not see them until dinner time. We would go two or three times a day to swim. We lived in a big, wonderful old house a block from the plaza, even though Keith liked to say we had to walk a mile to school, uphill both ways, in a blizzard at winter and flooding in the spring.”
An avid reader who spent half days at the nearby library, Brostad would stand out for wrestling and for tormenting his teachers.
“He was a goof-off. He could’ve cared less about lessons. We had a teacher, Mr. Iba, for a world history class. We were two years apart in school but we took the class together and I would do the assignments and he would copy mine,” Summers recalled.
“He wouldn’t even change it, so our work would be identical, but I would get an A and Keith would get a C! I’m sure, because he was so mouthy.”
Mouthy indeed, sparing no one from playful teasing or sage advice. His favorite claim to fame was delivering the Ashland Daily Tidings in the late 1950s, also, allegedly, on horseback and in several feet of snow.
“That horseback paper delivery story is pure Brostad bull-pucky. He delivered the paper on his bicycle and there was no snow,” Summers said.
“We lived a block from the Plaza and there were no horses in his life until, I’m sure of it, he met and married Lisa.”
Marrying Lisa Scholer-Brostad was one of Brostad’s more serious pursuits. After joining the Navy and working as a radioman during Vietnam, Brostad returned to the Rogue Valley where the couple met in 1979, during a session at Medford’s then Skate University.
“It was not love at first sight,” said his wife of nearly four decades. “He had a girlfriend and I was dating somebody else. He was a farm boy. I came from a rather sophisticated type family and he was just ... kind of ... Keith!”
Ever the charmer, Brostad always identified his wife, nine years his junior, as “the boss,” or “my lovely wife.”
“Sometimes he’d even say, ‘The goddess,’” Lisa said. “He always embarrassed me that way and put me on a pedestal. But it’s going to be very hard to come down.”
The couple worked for years as traveling salesmen for competing horse tack companies around the western U.S. Keith Brostad also served several stints in law enforcement, including time spent as a dispatcher for Washington State Police. Wherever they lived, they volunteered for the mounted sheriff’s posse. Even in the most serious of circumstances, he could always crack a joke.
Said Lisa, “One time, he was doing mounted patrol at the airport and a jet flew by. His horse spun around several times throwing him to the ground. He told us it didn’t hurt, other than he landed on his pistol and his pride.”
Longtime friend and 4-H volunteer Ron Manoguerra said he would be hard-pressed to think of someone more genuine than his late friend. From inside jokes and Viagra pens to ordering each other to pick up favorite citrus when either ventured south, Manoguerra said Brostad’s death would leave a large void in a lot of lives.
“I’d go down for a doctor appointment and he’d call me and say, ‘Don’t forget my oranges!’ There were so many things. Every woman who would come into the store was his girlfriend. I’d say, ‘How many girlfriends do you have?’ He’d say, ‘I have a bunch!’”
Summers said extended family immediately headed for the Rogue Valley upon learning of Brostad’s death.
“He was our Mr. Wonderful, our Uncle Wonderful and our Brother Wonderful. The world will absolutely never feel the same for any of us. He was one of a kind and he absolutely, for those who loved him, walked on water,” she said.
“I don’t even know how it will feel to open the door of the Horse Blanket again. It will just never feel the same.”
In addition to his wife and sister, Brostad is survived by son Stephen Brostad; grandson Peyton; sister Sylvia Brostad Wick of Reno; brother Kent Brostad of Ashland; and countless nieces, nephews and cousins.
Services are planned from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, March 31, at the First Presbyterian Church of Central Point, 456 W. Pine St.
Reach Medford freelance writer Buffy Pollock at firstname.lastname@example.org.