GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Thousands of people from diverse backgrounds gathered Saturday in Greensboro for a memorial service celebrating the life of former FOX8 sports anchor Rich Brenner.
Speakers at the event included FOX8's Neill McNeill and Kevin Connolly, former FOX8 co-anchor Carol Andrews, Guilford County Sheriff BJ Barnes, Greensboro’s assistant fire chief Skip Nix, HP Community Foundation President Paul Lessard and Rich Brenner's younger brother Berry Brenner.
The service took place at Aycock Auditorium on the campus of UNC-Greensboro. People started filling the auditorium around noon, which holds more than 2,200 people.
Brenner, 65, died Monday night after speaking at the Red Cross Salute to Heroes event in Greensboro. He started at WGHP in 1987 and retired in April 2008.
Connolly said that Brenner taught him about more than just TV. He said he taught him how to treat others and make a difference in the community.
"He was hands down the most influential person in my life. And I know many of you share that thought," Connolly said of Brenner.
Berry Brenner said he has never been more proud to call himself Rich's younger brother. He described Rich as the "consummate sportscaster."
Berry said Rich gave him balance and made him a better person.
“All he ever asked in return was a little respect and a little love," Berry Brenner said. "And if he ever had to choose between the two, he would choose a little love every time.”
Former FOX8 co-anchor Carol Andrews said Brenner would have had his 38th wedding anniversary this Friday.
“He believed in news and he believed in sports and he believed in making whatever he brought to the public the very best," she said. He graced the airwaves.”
Sheriff Barnes said that Brenner was a hero and that he held sports accountable for its actions.
Barnes said Brenner was a father and husband and that was his pride.
“Rich was truly a patriot," Barnes said. "Everything he did was dedicated to this country. He was a Marine. He was a captain. He never once said ‘I’m a captain.’ He said: ‘I’m a fellow Marine.’ Marines are a special breed.”
Brenner was originally from Merchantville, New Jersey, and a United States Marine. He got started with broadcasting in 1967, between his sophomore and junior years of college, as a correspondent in Vietnam.
Rich started in TV full-time in 1975 as a sportscaster in Lynchburg, Va. He later worked in Portsmouth, Va., Raleigh and Chicago before coming to FOX8.
Greensboro’s assistant fire chief Skip Nix said Brenner was also a mentor for children. Nix gave a personal salute to Brenner following his speech.
HP Community Foundation President Paul Lessard said Brenner truly loved what he did. He used the Winston Churchill quote "Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life again," to describe Brenner's passion.
Former FOX8 reporter Caron Myers sang a tribute for Brenner. Neill McNeill gave commentary in between the speakers.
“Rich Brenner was my friend," McNeill said. "He was the best friend anyone could ever have. May God continue to bless all of us through the life of Rich.”
A public visitation was held Friday night at the Hanes Lineberry Sedgefield Funeral Home on High Point Road. A long line had formed shortly after visitation started. Besides family and friends, the line was filled with fans, politicians and media colleagues.
Once Rich retired from television, he did many public appearances, particularly those that saluted people in the community, including the military.
Along with Judy, Rich is survived by his son, Shawn, his daughter, Leslie, and two grandsons.
In lieu of flowers, the family is asking people to donate to one of three charities close to Rich: the Carolina Field of Honor with the War Memorial Foundation, Victory Junction and the UNCG Rich Brenner Scholarship Fund.