Clayton Minister Commits Suicide He'd Lost His Leg Earlier This Year

Article excerpt

Four months ago, the Rev. Timothy D. Brewer's congregation gave him a standing ovation after he survived a run-in with a train that cost him a leg. Thursday, congregants found out that the popular minister killed himself at his home in far southwest St. Louis County.

Authorities found Brewer's body slumped in his car in the garage attached to his two-story gray-and-white frame home on Carman Road.

Brewer had disclosed his intent to kill himself in a letter to one of his assistant pastors. The letter arrived Thursday.

The assistant called police and firefighters and met them at Brewer's home about 12:30 p.m.. It was too late.

Brewer had tied a vacuum cleaner hose from the car exhaust to the driver's window, police said.

An autopsy is scheduled for today.

Brewer, 36, was senior pastor of Central Presbyterian Church at Hanley Road and Davis Drive in Clayton. With 2,900 members, it is the area's largest Presbyterian Church - and one of the oldest.

Brewer, before losing his leg, overcame a lifetime of troubles.

At 18, he almost died after falling 75 feet while rock climbing in Boulder Canyon, Colo. He broke his back, and both of his feet needed reconstruction.

Leukemia killed a brother.

His father died when he was in college. One daughter is mentally retarded, another is autistic.

In March, a freight train struck Brewer as he walked through a tunnel in the Colorado mountains. Doctors amputated his left leg.

This week, Brewer's staff thought he was on vacation at Hilton Head Island, S.C. His wife and three young children are there.

"To say it was a surprise is a terrific understatement," his secretary, Patricia Schoetker, said of his death. She last talked to Brewer on Monday, when he dictated the title of his sermon for this Sunday: "The Parables of the Lord."

"I thought he was calling from Hilton Head, but now I don't know," she said.

Brewer last preached at Central Presbyterian July 9 before going on vacation. His last sermon was titled "The Kingdom of Heaven."

He left St. Louis late last week, his secretary said, to join his wife, Elizabeth, and children at Hilton Head Island. Loses Leg

In March, Brewer was on a fishing and hunting trip in the mountains north of Denver when he walked through a 12-foot wide railroad tunnel to return to his mother's cabin. It was the only path from the stream to the cabin, one he had taken for many years. Authorities banned train horns in the area because of danger of avalanches. …