Sergeant First Class (Ret.) Joseph Maurice Francois Brent, 90, of Summerville, S.C., husband of the late Ruth Ann Churchman Brent, entered into eternal rest on Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020.
A private graveside service will be held at Summerville Cemetery.
A loving husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, great-great grandfather and decorated military veteran who served with distinction during World War II and Vietnam, Brent devoted his entire adult life to serving and protecting his family, his community and his nation. Following a stint as an Army paratrooper, he went on to serve as crew chief of the presidential helicopter Army One under three U.S. presidents. While his military service often took him around the globe, Brent always returned to the arms of his beloved wife of 70 years Ruth and their three talented and beautiful daughters.
Known to family and friends simply as “Joe,” he was kind to all, could fix anything and would lend a hand to anyone in need – whether it was overhauling an engine, raking a neighbor’s leaves or helping a stranger change a flat tire.
Born Oct. 25, 1929, in Scaer, France, he immigrated to the U.S. with his family when he was 6 and was raised in New York. In November 1947, at age 17, he enlisted in the U.S. Army, completed Airborne School and served as an aviation and engine mechanic in the storied 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C. He was a crew chief on numerous military airplanes, including the P-47, P-51 and the F-80 Fighter. He also worked as a fixed-wing mechanic on the L-5, L-19 and L-20 aircrafts. While serving in the Army, Brent, a natural born citizen of France, was amused at repeated attempts by the French government to draft him into that country’s military. Even under the most stressful circumstances, he remained calm and good-humored. Once, while flying aboard a transport plane in his mid-20s, Brent’s vaunted military career nearly ended too soon when both of the plane’s engines died in mid-flight. After he and the others onboard survived a frightening belly-landing in a field of tall weeds, Brent quipped to a newspaper reporter that, “We didn’t have time to pray. We were too busy fastening our seat belts.” Following an overseas assignment in Munich, Germany, he returned to the States and was selected to serve at the White House on the United States Army Presidential Helicopter Flight Crew (Executive Flight Detachment) at Fort Belvoir, Va. He served as a crew chief under U.S. Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson. Although he witnessed many historic moments and brushed elbows with world leaders and celebrities during his years transporting presidents, Brent, the ever-loyal public servant, was always discreet and devilishly vague about details. After his retirement from the Army in 1967, he joined the Civil Service and spent the next 20 years as a jet engine mechanic at the Charleston Air Force Base.
Brent never stopped working or doting on his children and grandchildren. He loved attending the sporting events and performances of his grandchildren, helping his daughters and their families with projects, and he beamed with pride at the arrival of each new family member. In every sense of the word, he was the patriarch of a family whose roots run deep and in whose lives his legacy of service, kindness and strength will live on. Long after his retirement, he could be found working shifts at a convenience store pizza shop. He was passionate about serving others perfectly crafted pizzas, and most of his customers had no idea of his many military exploits because he never bragged; he viewed military service as an honor and an obligation. In his final years, still fit and solid as a rock, he enjoyed doing yard work, hosting family get-togethers and meticulously maintaining his prized home on Summerville’s Tasker Drive, where he lived with Ruth for more than half a century.
Brent was preceded in death by his wife Ruth Brent (2018) and is survived by daughters Joanne Smith (Johnny, deceased), Debbie Green (Keenan) and Denice Carlile (Ed); 6 grandchildren, 13 great-grandchildren, 1 great-great grandchild and his sister, Danielle Birkhead.
Arrangements by PARKS FUNERAL HOME, 130 West 1st North Street, Summerville, SC 29483. www.parksfuneralhome.com. Masks are recommended.
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