Stephen “Steve” Paul Brill, 66, of Billings, a local legend, peacefully passed away on the evening of Saturday, April 18, 2020 after a brave and difficult journey with prostate cancer. His three daughters gathered by his side to cradle him in love: sang him his favorite songs, thanked him, forgave him, asked for his forgiveness and told them how much they love him as he took his last breath. It was a beautiful send-off like you see in the movies.
You may recognize Steve’s name from the many ways he touched his community of Billings. Since the late Eighties, Steve was involved in Billings media as the KTVQ-2 morning weatherman, a radio DJ on Y93, K-BEAR, KCTR Cat Country, Z97, MOJO 92.5, and most recently 94.1 KSKY and MY105.9. He sold cars for 20 years at Bob Smith Lincoln Mercury and Archie Cochrane Ford, ran the Sam’s Club receiving department, managed freight at Edwards Jet Center, and sold ATVs and boats at Montana Honda and Marine. He also ran a DJ business for several years, called DJ to Go, where he brought the music to many parties in Billings. His girls enjoyed accompanying him to various dances and block parties he was hired for. He had a natural way of energizing a crowd and getting people to dance and enjoy themselves. Along the way, Steve made friends of all ages and walks of life who became like family members. He had a very tender and loving side, and extended his heart to many. He was a caring man, always willing to lend a helping hand, a shoulder to cry on, or a funny story to bring out a smile. Steve took great pride and found purpose in his work – so much so that he was granted several awards throughout his professional career for outstanding work and attendance.
Steve was a big deal in his community of WI also. He was well known in central Wisconsin by his pseudonym of “Tom Hudson, “The Incredible Hud,” during his days on top 40’s station WIFC 95.5 in Wausau. There was even a Wausau watering hole with “The Incredible Hud Burger,” named after Steve. Many people rocked out to “The Hud” in the 70’s and Steve enjoyed mentoring several young aspiring DJ’s in the studio.
The oldest son of nine children, Steve was born in Marshfield, Wisconsin in 1954 and was raised on the Brill family dairy farm in Colby. Hard work ran in his bones. Steve worked hard his entire life and was an early riser at a young age, milking the cows before school and again after evening football practice. Even while enduring cancer, he rose at four a.m. to begin his day of work. It was not uncommon for Steve to manage two to three jobs at any given time. Work was his greatest hobby.
In 1979, Steve’s radio career brought him to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where he met his former wife, Lori Dopp, who lived in the same apartment building just three doors down. Their relationship grew fast and furious. Lori said, “I was lucky to have a local celebrity as my boyfriend.” They married in June, 1980 and moved to Billings, Montana, where they were blessed with three daughters: Lindsey, Alexis, and McKenzie. Although the marriage to Lori ended in 1992, they remained friends. Lori had a way of looking out for Steve, especially during his illness and final years.
Steve was a patriot with a deep respect for America and its history. He perfected his salute and memorized details of military planes. Steve enjoyed going shooting out in the country with his daughters and grandson and sharing his friends’ stories of their service. He looked up to his father for his father’s service in the United States National Guard and he wished he had been a soldier himself. Lindsey has fond memories of watching We Were Soldiers with her Dad, along with various episodes of Band of Brothers and Taking Chance, a military HBO movie that Lindsey has a small role in. Steve was really proud of that and spoke of it often, to family, friends and strangers alike.
Steve’s service to others included volunteering himself to help friends and family with projects big and small, indoors or out, and he donated to various charities that were near and dear to his heart. Steve loved helping his neighbors with yard work, mowing many lawns on his street of Clark Avenue. His neighbors joked that Steve’s lawn was the “trophy lawn,” always well-maintained and manicured. He enjoyed a cold beer and shooting the breeze with friends and family after a hard day’s work. He was an observant, animated storyteller with a knack for details. He could talk about sports for hours, especially his beloved Green Bay Packers football team. He entertained many with his celebrity impersonations and frequently provided a thorough and enthusiastic weather update. He had a deep love for the movie Wizard of Oz and could often be heard reciting “Follow the yellow brick road” in his best munchkin voice. He was also a talented Darth Vader impersonator.
When Steve wasn’t working or helping others, he was cooking healthy meals, drinking Pendleton on the rocks, watching TV (Million Dollar Listing, Wahlburgers, The Voice, The Bachelor, the History Channel, Downton Abbey and Blue Bloods were his favorites), and then calling his girls to tell them in great detail about that evening’s dinner and TV episode. Steve and his late mother, Janet, shared a love of the cult classic Downton Abbey and enjoyed reviewing the latest episodes during their weekly phone calls. After she passed in November 2018, he often expressed how greatly he missed those calls. He also loved going “Live” on Facebook with music, weather, and sports updates. He was always a DJ, weatherman and entertainer at heart.
Steve drove to visit the family farm in Colby every year, many times with his girls and grandson in the backseat. Thank God for rumble strips, because Steve would nearly doze off during these long drives, which always gave them a relief-filled laugh afterward. During these visits to Colby, he would watch the Packers play on the big screen, do yard work at Grandma’s, and stay up drinking beer, playing charades, and sharing stories with family around a bonfire or in Grandma’s living room til the cows came home.
Steve loved travel. He enjoyed vacationing to visit his daughters in all the cities they lived in, from California to New York. Steve had the trip of his life in 2017 to Tulum, Mexico for his daughter Alexis’ wedding. He talked about that trip for many months afterwards, with frequent Tulum weather updates on Facebook. He left part of his heart and soul on the warm beaches of Tulum. He held New York City fondly in his heart also, and Alexis has great memories showing him around the streets of Brooklyn and Manhattan, making friends wherever he went. He became New York City’s greatest fan and talked about it often. He especially loved the architecture, its people, and the fast pace. Steve was a farm boy at heart but big cities made him feel alive in a new way. Steve loved visiting McKenzie in San Francisco, taking her to see Dua Lipa, one of his favorite artists. They had a great time at Baker Beach and walking around the bay.
Steve’s greatest source of joy was as a father and grandfather. Nothing made him light up more than when he spoke of his girls and grandchildren, Bradon and Melanie. From many days of yard work and house chores helping out, to driving across the country on one of his daughters’ many moves, to always being one of their biggest cheerleaders, encouragers, and confidants, there were few things Steve wasn’t willing to help his girls with. Steve showed his love through acts of service, listening, and encouragement. He never missed a basketball game, choir concert, theatre performance or track meet of his girls, with his video camcorder always in hand. Hours of childhood footage is a treasured gift to the family, thanks to Steve. He kept this attendance streak going for grandson Bradon’s games, always cheering him on. He was so proud of Bradon and believed in him greatly. Steve loved being a Grandfather. He drove to Bozeman nearly every weekend during Alexis’ third trimester to help paint and set up Melanie’s nursery. He loved to hold Melanie and read her stories, sing to her, and take naps with her on the couch. Steve wanted so much to watch Melanie grow up.
Steve instilled in his daughters the importance of hard work, striving to achieve their dreams and goals, treating everyone as a neighbor and to be kind, be authentic and bold, have a willingness for adventure, a reverence for history and sentimentality, and an appreciation for the small things in life. He encouraged them to make room in their lives to be playful and light-hearted, and to be forgiving. Steve shared his deep passion of music (no one had an appreciation or vast knowledge of all kinds of genres of music like Steve), recycling and caring for the environment, coin collecting, eating nourishing food, making time to sit down at the table to talk, and to be self-expressive.
Steve is preceded in death by his parents, John and Janet Brill of Colby, Wisconsin, and his son-in-law, Andrew Matney of Bozeman (Alexis).
Steve is survived by his daughters, Lindsey Brill of Long Beach, CA, Alexis Brill of Bozeman, and McKenzie Brill of San Francisco, CA, his grandchildren, Bradon Allen (Lindsey) and Melanie Matney (Alexis) of Bozeman, his former wife and mother of his girls, Lori Kemp of Billings, and his eight siblings, Diane Orth, Pat Brill, Jim Brill, Kim Meier, and David Brill of Colby, WI, Mike Brill of Wausau, WI, Brian Brill of Panguitch, UT, and Jayme Brill of Las Vegas, NV.
The family would like to thank the selfless and caring teams at St. Vincent Healthcare, Frontier Cancer Center, and Riverstone Hospice for taking great care of their Dad. He felt the love. The family encourages everyone to get screened for cancer regularly and to be your own best advocate with your doctors.
A Celebration of Life and Internment Ceremony will be held this summer in Billings at St Pius X Church. Donations are greatly appreciated to help with end-of-life and memorial expenses. Checks can be mailed to Steve’s daughter, McKenzie Brill, 619 Avenue F Billings, MT 59102. Online donations can go to Venmo @mckenziebrill or PayPal email@example.com. Please note “for Memorial Fund.”
We will miss your big hugs, your infectious laugh, your silly slapstick sense of humor, your stories, your passion for life, your frequent texts and phone calls, sharing a meal with you, playing dominoes, listening to music together, making you a “Dad List,” having a cry, Sunday brunches at Stella’s, giving you a hard time about being late or misplacing your keys, singing songs, hearing your iconic voice on the radio, and your famous fruit bowls. We will miss your presence throughout every future milestone in our lives and in your grandchildren’s lives. You had a beautiful spirit and we will forever hold that in our hearts. To us, you are a legend and larger than life. Dad, we miss you and life will never be the same without you here.
We believe that Grandma and Grandpa Brill and Andrew are warmly embracing you now, and that you are giving many a weather update in the next realm. We have no doubt you’re DJing the music, too.
Go, Pack, Go!
Love, your girls & grandkids
Lindsey, Alexis, McKenzie, Bradon & Melanie