Namara Brede

January 09, 1988 - March 05, 2021

Namara Brede

January 09, 1988 - March 05, 2021


Born: 1.9.88 Santa Rosa, CA

Leukemia survivor: Diagnosed 6.14.97, protocol ended 9.2000


  • National Merit Scholarship winner
  • Double major w/one minor @ Mac, Summa Cum Laude: religious studies and geography honors degree, minor in anthropology
  • 4.0 GPA, pre-med coursework

World traveler:

  • Ecuador AFS yearlong exchange to Quito 2004-5 school year
  • China (teaching English, 2007, summer)
  • Mongolia working as research assistant to his mentor/prof in geography while also researching his own National Science Foundation grant (2009, summer?)
  • 2013-14 travelled throughout South America before med school


  • World travel
  • Sociology, geology, comparative religion
  • Physics
  • Earth sciences (biology, deep evolutionary history, plants)
  • Flight
  • Medicine
  • Novelist
  • Astronomy
  • Cooking
  • He was a renaissance man!


  • Macalester College: double major in geology (honors) / religious studies, anthropologySumma Cum Laude
  • Harvard University: extension school, pre-med, 4.0
  • Rochester University School of Medicine: partial coursework

Survived by:

  • Alex Brede, father
  • Meg Jobe, mother


The most striking aspects of Namara Brede, ones that were consistent throughout his too short life, was his intense curiosity, his sparkling intelligence, his humor and his mastery of language. He could turn a phrase like the pros, write a paper on any deathly boring subject and it would be at least entertaining if not downright funny. He was able to genuinely help others without them feeling less than. If only we had him here to write about his life, it would be so much more entertaining!

Namara came into the world with his hands outstretched and his eyes open. His parents, Meg Jobe and Alex Brede, had no idea what they were doing or the magnitude of the act of bringing him into the world. He would, over the course of his childhood, teach them many things.

His was a fussy infancy requiring much movement, rocking, jiggling, bouncing… as if to drive his spirit into his body. He later explained that he did not like coming out into the world: it was warm inside and there was always this whooshing sound, he was never hungry and he was safe. When he came out, it was cold and bright and awful. With every ability he gained to communicate his needs and thoughts, he became more of a joy to be around.

His intense curiosity about the world was the thing that was most striking about him from a very early age. His folks moved to ever more remote locales in his early childhood so plants, animals, nature and books were his world. His unique perspective was innate and evident to those around him.

After the family relocated to the PNW, he continued to feed his interests in plants, evolution, nature, stars… then flight, aviation. He loved outdoor adventures. He cut 4 molars on a backpacking trip in the high Sierras, spent 13 days in a canoe paddling the Bowron Lake circuit, rode on the back of a tandem from Bellingham to California at the age of 6, the list goes on. Not your standard young child activities, but perhaps his parents didn’t know better? It certainly helped shape him and opened him to the possibility of the options that would be ahead for him.

While he was super comfortable around adults and younger kids, it was challenging for him to relate to peers as a youngster.  He investigated things deeply and his curiosity was intense; whether he was avidly learning about prehistoric mammals or the Latin names of plants, it was hard for him to figure out how to take interest in his classmate’s transformers and figure out their play. He was articulate and verbose, qualities that only started fitting into a school environment in 2nd-3rd grade. Fortunately, at that young age he was not aware of being lonely.

His childhood was interrupted when he was 9.5 when he was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. While he navigated the next 3+ years with as much grace as could possibly be expected, these were lonely, isolated years. Being a self-winding learner with the brand-new internet to bring worlds to him, he simply stuffed his brain with a wealth of knowledge. History, astronomy, aviation, science, literature, poetry, games, cooking, evolution, oceanography, you name it, he learned it. It was during his protocol that his interest in aviation became fully formed. He and his folks built remote control airplanes which he learned how to fly, sitting in his chair for hours out at the flying field. Learning what activities he could do with limited energy from the chemotherapy was the key to surviving the formidable challenge of childhood leukemia. Going to Zuanitch park and flying double stringed kites was another such pastime that could make a day ok. He fund-raised for the Leukemia and Lymphoma society and towards the end of his 3 years, he was offered a Make-a-wish. He asked for flying lessons. This was a big request, but his interest in aviation and the steps he had taken personally towards that interest were compelling. The Harvey family at Snohomish flying field granted his wish. His lessons began when he was 13 and had to sit on books to see out the window of the little Cessna plane and continued until he soloed on his 16th birthday and got his license when he was 18.

While he pretty much missed out on school because of his cancer, he re-entered full-time school seamlessly, becoming a very social, successful student who was well liked and admired. He was disarmingly intelligent while also being approachable and funny, a winning combination to navigate often withering school social environs. In his first full-time year of schooling after the end of his cancer protocol, he fell into a group of friends who stuck together through many adventures and years of schooling. They went on epic bike rides down the Oregon coast together, shared classes and nighttime hikes through the forests, and navigated their ways to adulthood together. All 4 boys were National Merit Scholarship finalists. They were peers on many levels.

So many things come to mind when I think of the high school years. Namara was among a great group of kids at Sehome, but he was also frustrated at the pace of education and the number of classes that were in his courseload  that were not challenging. He tried to lobby his mother (me) to let him just skip to university at 16 like he heard other brilliant people fenegle their way to. Mom said no, don’t do that. Go abroad and have an experience. You’ve always wanted to travel. So he applied to AFS and was accepted to go to Quito, Ecuador for an exchange junior year. This was such a growing experience for him. He left a boy and returned a man, fully fluent in Spanish and with so many experiences under his belt. Lifelong friendships followed him home and he jumped back into Sehome for one last year.



 I missed the first part of eighth grade. When I came back, all my friends told me excitedly about the new kid Namara—someone whom I would just obviously want to know. They were right.

In high school, our social circle promptly found its place: the nerds. We were never at the center of the social scene, but never really marginalized either, just left to contentedly do our own thing. We took all our classes together, often jokingly competing on tests—high achievers all, but none more so than the brilliant and idiosyncratic Namara. We ate lunch together, off in a corner where we could argue and laugh uninterrupted. We had sleepovers, playing epic games of Risk and taking midnight hikes into the deep, beautiful woods around Namara’s house. In the summers, we went on bike trips down the Oregon coast and sailing trips around the San Juan islands.

We were intellectual omnivores, interested in literature and physics and math and chemistry, uninterested in specializing just yet. As we went off to college, most of us began to specialize to some degree, but Namara never really did—not in the sense of ceasing to study everything else. At Macalester, he focused on sociology, geography, and religious studies, but he remained fascinated by the whole broad project of knowledge. On long car rides, he didn’t want to discuss gossip or news—he wanted to discuss ideas, and ideally debate them. A voracious reader, he came into every conversation fresh off of encountering something provocative that he just couldn’t wait to share. Most people leave their marks on places, on people, on moments—associations that forever bring them to mind. Namara did plenty of that, but he also left his mark on concepts. Quantum mechanics, deep time, the multiverse: I’ll never be able to think of these ideas without thinking of him.

He wasn’t just interested in science; he was passionate about it. I remember arguing with him about some metaphysical idea or other and pointing out how unintuitive his claim was. Immediately, he responded that the work of science is to nudge us away from our fallible intuitions, and that being intuitive isn’t just bad evidence for a claim—it may be viewed as evidence against it, because what are the odds that something that is true should just happen to be intuitive? This wasn’t just a profound and interesting point; it was an idea that meant something to him, filled him with real fervor. I got the same energy from him as he expounded on the amount of processing that takes place between light entering the eyes and sight being experienced in the brain: look how unreliable our interfaces to the world are, he seemed to be saying, and yet we can still pursue truth and progress! I got it again during medical school, in his delighted account of how doctors and nurses would rely on dirty jokes and limericks as a mental shorthand for recalling details about treatments and conditions: look at this edifice of plywood and duct tape that is everyday cognition, and yet if we’re disciplined we can use it to accomplish real things!

He was, I think, the most intelligent person I’ve ever known, in the holistic sense that encompasses raw processing power, knowledge, and creativity. He was easily one of the funniest people I’ve ever known, with a keen sense of the absurd —I still think of his preposterous, irreverent one-liners when I need to make myself grin for a photo. He was unabashedly, unerringly himself: he purchased, cooked, and ate a conch out of curiosity, then carried around the shell; he got pretty into (what else?) playing bagpipes; to fill long hours driving, he listened to the whole Bible and Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of The Roman Empire; he loved flight, from model airplanes to paragliders; he gave home-dried fruit, hand-knit wool goods, and “DIY sous vide kits” as wedding presents.

Throughout high school, we were all extremely close; in college, naturally, we began to grow in different directions. We would see each other a couple times a year, almost always (at least) around Christmastime. There was something lovely about reuniting year after year, each of us with new adventures and experiences, to resume this cadence of friendship, suspended in time as everything else changed. These were probably some of the most representative experiences we had of Namara: intense, hilarious, limited. Limited in that, after the holidays ended and we went our separate ways, we saw so little of the rest of his life—a life so broad you can only really understand it through multiple accounts. Everyone is multifaceted, but Namara was singularly so. We were just one facet in his life, and—though whenever we were with him, it felt like the laser beam of his personality was directed at us unblinkingly—he was an equally vivid presence for so many people all around the world. He packed a far longer lifetime’s worth of experiences into his 33 years: childhood cancer survivor, Pacific Northwest outdoorsman, world traveler (Ecuador, Mongolia, China), social scientist, passionate rationalist, paraglider, gardener, medical student, novelist.

I miss you, old friend. Wish you were here.


That’s one facet of Namara’s life. Here are some of the many other lives he touched:

Holly Barcus, professor of geography, Macalester College

His presence was such a bright light for me – he would stop by my office often, just to chat and laugh. I’ve missed him these last years. Among our many adventures on the Mongolia trip, I particularly remember being amazed at how easily and quickly he attracted friends. We could be sitting in an airport entirely alone and within minutes, there was a whole group of young people. He had such a magnetic personality and his enthusiasm was nothing short of infectious. He will be deeply missed, not least by me.

Namara made a big impression on us all. … I just want you to know how much he will be missed and how much of an impression he made on all of us. He is remembered fondly here and always will be.

I’ve attached a few pictures from 2009. They make me laugh and remember.

Anna J

Namara flying his model airplane (or was it a drone?? some small flying object) in the new Athletic Center, senior year at Mac. He was literally standing in the middle of the track, flying this thing around, occasionally causing it to nearly collide with dismayed students who were trying to exercise. Chuckling hysterically in his Namara way, of course.

And – Thanksgiving freshman year when Sara and Namara and Chloe came home to Milwaukee with me!!!! So many memories from that experience. 1. Namara in the back seat of my dad’s car, Sara and Namara frantically discussing how to get Gabriel a visa to visit from Ecuador (I think that was it). 2. Namara hanging out with the cat my family had had since my 6th grade year, Daisy. 3. Namara on my parents’ couch, I think next to my Aunt Becky, eating pumpkin pie. 4. Namara et al running around the playground in the park near where I grew up. It was seriously a weekend/holiday full of memories, my parents were so happy to host him (and everyone!) and he brought all his energy and warmth to the occasion.


The last long phone call Namara and I had was in his first year or two of med school. He was telling me how they’d had to write a New Med Student Manifesto mission statement to guide them through their careers. Namara suggested inserting something into the manifesto about, you know, helping those who most needed it and providing medicine in a just and equitable way— and got a lot of objections from fellow students. After going back and forth for a while, Namara finally threw down his pen and demanded, “What are you guys, Republicans????”

The room went silent and Namara realized that, for the first time in his literal life, he actually was in a Republican-dominated space. Lolol. He made a flamboyant first impression that day, as he often did.


My first semester at Macalester, I was taking Econ-101. Someone had given me their old 3rd edition textbook for free, but it turned out the professor wanted us to have the 4th edition for class. Namara accompanied me to the bookstore to cross-check the two books and see if I could make the 3rd edition work instead of buying the 4th edition. Turns out the 4th edition cost $200 and the only difference was that every single page number was different. Namara was incredibly pissed off at this development and was unable to stomach the idea of me shelling out $200 for literally the same book. He suddenly said, “Switch it, Sara.”


Switch the books. Nobody will know.”

I switched the books and we walked out of the bookstore. I was on a high for the rest of the day at having stolen a textbook. It was such a Namara thing to do, an unwillingness to see a friend get ripped off, even if it meant committing an objectively greater infraction.


In Ecuador, after graduating from high school, Namara and I went to Esmeraldas with our friends’ group. At a market, I spotted a two-piece beach outfit that I wanted, but it was running for $30, which I decided was too much. Gabriel went up to the woman and tried to barter with her. She brought it down to $25, but wouldn’t go below that.

Namara said, “I’ll get it down to $15.”

Gabriel said, “What?! Namara, I’m from Ecuador and I only got it down $5. There’s no way. That would split her profits in half.”

Namara said, “Watch me.” He went up, chatted with the woman, bought the outfit for $15 and brought it back to me. The woman was still grinning at him as he walked away, pleased by the stimulating conversation. We never could figure out how he pulled it off.


Our sophomore year of college, Namara got really into dumpster-diving, and showed up at Anna, and Lisa, and my apartment one day with a big haul: a Christmas tree that lit up, spun in circles, and played music when you plugged it in, and a bunch of trash bags filled with T-shirts with some kind of East Asian writing on them. The clothes fit me perfectly, and I wore them around campus for months, always wondering whose clothes they were.


From our first day on campus freshman year, to our very last graduation parties, being Namara’s friend meant walking into any party on campus—even one in which the only person I knew was him—and having the first sound I heard be him, turning around mid-conversation to throw both arms in the air and shout, “Sara!!!!!” In the last voicemail Namara left me, in November of 2020, that’s how the recording starts, too. “Sara!!!!! It’s Namara.” I will always treasure the memory of that sound.


There are so many beautiful things to remember about Namara. You could see him as weird, but to me, his weirdness was authenticity. When he came to visit Quito in 2015, I took him to a sociologists’ get-together, but I spent almost the whole night talking just to him. He’d take out his cell phone every few minutes to check the constellations, and we spent a long time talking about genetics. He said he thought it was important to have children, to leave our strong genes behind—he considered himself special, haha. He wanted to study medicine partly in order to make a lot of money, retire early, and buy a yacht to invite his friends on—but he also said that being a doctor was a concrete, real way to be useful, to help, to make change. I loved his visit, and we said goodbye with the promise that once he had his yacht, he’d invite me aboard. I wrote to him several times after, but didn’t get a response. His death brings me so much sadness. I’m going to truly miss Namara. I hope that going through this will remind us all, collectively, to love and care for ourselves and each other, and to love life as best we can.


Though Namara and I spent lots of time together in big social groups, we only had one one-on-one conversation. It was at Macalester. We were outside the dorms on a starry night, and within the space of ten minutes, we ended up debating the origins of the universe. We’d been in Religious Studies classes together, and I took the “faithful” perspective that even if science can explain how every particular thing in existence came to be, there surely must be a place for the mystery of: “Why does everything exist, in place of nothing?” Talking about subject matter I would never have understood had I read it in a textbook, Namara used layman’s terms to explain to me exactly where the stars had come from. His point: there was no mystery. “But, still,” I said, “don’t you think you’ll eventually encounter something that we don’t know the explanation for?” “Nope,” Namara said. “We might encounter something we can’t explain, but that just means we don’t understand it yet. We can always peel back more and more and more layers of understanding until we understand everything. That’s the mystery—not God.”


Namara and I spent 4 years together in Macalester’s African Music Ensemble and lived together our junior year in college. I remember wondering, “can I comfortably live with a male friend? What if he sees me in my bra?” But Namara didn’t make me uncomfortable like that. He was goofy and weird and could care less about such trivial matters. Well, not like he didn’t care about the trivial things, too – so much of our friendship bonded over the funny oddities in life, like the weird German singer Gunther who somehow got famous on songs like “Tutti Fruitti Summer Love,” the very strange comic “Salad Fingers,” and getting drunk and reading from the Book of Leviticus (which, to this day, I think was one of his golden ideas). He just didn’t make me uncomfortable for being myself because he was so brazen himself. I needed more of that. He helped me lean into my weird and silly and shameless self! Thank you for that, Namara.


I remember Namara being super enthusiastic and ready to do anything silly or out-there, just willing to jump in and put himself out there. I really appreciated his silliness. One of the weird random memories I have of him is, we wanted to learn how to French-braid hair. And so Namara learned how to do it and French-braided my hair. His playful spirit is what stands out.

Stephen Snider

I knew Namara early freshman year because he lived on my floor. We had a lot of similar friends and he was known by a lot of people. Our first photo together was from a cultural show freshman year (2016 fall) and you can see us all cheesing together. He hosted that show with the guy in green. Namara did a phenomenal job. He was goofy, had funny skits, and got everyone hyped for the different dances and acts. I’m sure we continued to hang out together that night as there was a school dance after the show. There is another photo from sophomore year that I really liked. I believe that was from a secret Santa with a bunch of us from our freshman dorm.

I reconnected with him in Boston when I moved here. He and Jen showed me around a bit. That would have been 2012 but when they broke up I went and saw him 1 or two times and he came over to my house for a few BBQs. I remember keep inviting him because I knew he was lonely after Jen left. Namara was always so kind and a great listener and his huge knowledge base were so interesting. My friends love him at the BBQs cause he could talk to anyone and had lots of interesting experiences to share.

When Namara left Boston he gifted me his dehydrator. A very nice gift that he wouldn’t accept any money for. I’ve used it many times since and think of him because he gave me advice on how to dry out tomatoes. He helped me start my porch, cherry tomatoes. He gave me three large plastic tubs and told me how to grow them. I’ve done porch cherry tomatoes every year since. I’ll always remember whenever I plant tomatoes. He’s left a forever mark on me.

I am happy facebook can show me all of our photos. After we left Boston we got to see each other once again at our 5yr reunion. This photo is with Semang Han and Tao Wen. I’m not sure if they know yet but they loved Namara too. I wish I kept in touch with Namara. The last message we had was sometime in 2016 or so when I wished him a happy birthday. You’ll be missed Namara.


“Your vibe attracts your tribe.” I met Namara a long time ago, when he came to Ecuador for his high school exchange year. He, as a foreigner, was supposed to have a life-changing experience, but he also came to change my life. Never had I experienced or felt that getting to meet people who are as peculiar and noble as you are, makes life more enjoyable. This not being enough, these amazing friends have a huge, amazing, so nice influence on you forever. What else can you ask for in life? If you have already true friends like Namara. He certainly rocked my life in an amazing way that still lasts until today, 17 years later and probably forever because his charm, his vibes, his kind heart will always live there with me.

Amangul Shugatai, researcher, Regional Studies Department International Affairs Institute, MAS Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

I am a friend of Namara Brede. We are met in Mongolia in the summer of 2008. Today, I heard about him from professor Holly Barcus. Such heartbreaking news about Namara. I am very sorry for this loss and this truly likes a nightmare. I can’t believe his loss and he was so young. I send my deepest condolences to you, family members, and friends. I still remember his smiled face and he was such a kindly person and he was one of my best friends. He will live forever in our hearts. I have found some pictures of Namara in Mongolia and sending you in here. Mrs. Meg Jobe, I understand your deeply such a strange and hard time in your family now. I hope everything will good soon! May he rest in peace, sweet boy.

Celia Emmelhainz

Holly Barcus shared that Namara passed away a few weeks ago. I had so much fun with him on the research project in Mongolia–he’s so curious about the world, he has a funny sense of the absurd (helpful around pit toilets and sketchy taxis), and he connected with everyone, which made him the best to explore with!

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2 responses to Namara Brede

  1. Bryce Cahill says:

    So sad to hear of Namara’s passing. I had many good memories of him from high school. We had several clubs together and many good times.

  2. Sue Sayegh says:

    Dear Meg and Alex,

    Our hearts break for you both. Our wish is that you can lean into the strength of your friends and families during this new journey without Namara.

    It’s been wonderful to read all the letters and notes about Namara, as well as his obituary in full. We get a glimpse of his adult life through the eyes of others. What an independent, adventurous, curious, smart, and goofy soul he was. We need more like him in this world.

    We are holding you in our hearts,

    Sue and Don Sayegh

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