Sherrill Ann “Brett” Cullen
November 29, 1946 – January 22, 2020
An unabashed free spirit, paragon of generosity and selflessness, and prodigiously loving mother, Sherrill Ann “Brett” Cullen passed away in her sleep during the early morning hours of Wednesday, January 22nd, 2020, at the age of seventy-three. Equally courageous and forever undaunted in the face of adversity, she battled through metastatic breast cancer for nearly seven years, during which she rarely, if ever, complained. Over the course of her rich, vibrant life, she spent time in a variety of professions, but was most proud of her years working as a librarian. To those closest to her, she was a “Mom” of the highest order and a loyal, devoted wife.
Brett was born Sherrill Ann Davis on November 29, 1946, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and grew up in Jackson, Michigan. A natural all-around performer, she moved to California immediately after high school to pursue a career as a dancer. (It was around this time that she adopted the nickname “Brett,” which was inspired in part by her fascination with the Swedish actress Britt Eckland, best known for being a Bond girl and the wife of comedian Peter Sellers.) Living in and around Hollywood at the height of the 1960s hippie revolution, Brett was a house dancer at such iconic venues as the London Fog, Troubadour, and Whiskey a Go Go. She appeared in the cult classic film Psych-Out (1968) and rubbed elbows with the likes of Jim Morrison, Brian Jones, Jack Nicholson, Bruce Dern, Dean Stockwell, Dick Clark, Micky Dolenz, Alan Wilson, Rod Serling, and Henry Mancini, among numerous others. Often mistaken for the singer Joan Baez (once even, terrifyingly, by members of the Manson family – yes, true story), Brett amassed a lifetime’s worth of experiences and memories during this excitingly chaotic time. She gave birth to her first child, daughter Linda (“Rachel”), in 1966.
During the 1970s, Brett’s dancing career took her to Boston, Massachusetts, and later, to the Caribbean island of Martinique, where she also sang in a Club Med house band. By the latter part of that decade, she had settled in New York City. There, she took classes at New York University for several years while working at that university’s medical center. She served as a secretary for Dr. E. Mark Beckman, a nationally recognized gynecologist who specialized in ovarian cancer. It was in New York where Brett eventually met her husband, Michael. The two first encountered each other on a double blind date (both were intended for other people) and soon fell in love. On their first official date, they went to see Stanley Kubrick’s landmark psychological horror film The Shining (1980), setting in motion what would become a wild and tempestuous, yet deeply loving, marriage, one that produced twin sons, Sean (“Manny”) and Chris (“Odin/Wonder of Life”), in 1983.
As her sons attended St. Joseph Grammar School in Bogota, New Jersey, Brett was intimately involved in their academic and extracurricular activities. Most notably, she enthusiastically stepped into the role of school librarian; she singlehandedly overhauled the library’s book collection with her own money and became known for her lively in-class readings. All the while, Brett became a de facto, on-call chauffeur, not only for her own sons but also for all their friends, shuttling them around to various engagements – at the drop of a hat – at all hours of the day. Brett’s epic magnanimity became further known as her sons attended St. Peter’s Preparatory School and St. Peter’s College, both located in Jersey City, New Jersey. Even in the years after they graduated from college, it was not uncommon for Brett to willingly drive her sons – and their friends - to and from concerts or clubs all over the east coast. She was an Uber before Uber. (Linda has since followed in her mother’s footsteps in this area and others, namely with her generosity.)
Truly larger than life and one of a kind, Brett touched the lives of countless people, none more so than her own family. She was a woman of many lives, talents, and interests: a voracious reader who, in her later years, developed a particular penchant for Louis L’Amour novels; a talented singer and dancer who eagerly embraced her sons’ favorite musical artists and bands, and later, her granddaughters’, as her own; a film aficionado who had a proclivity for delivering impromptu renditions of famous scenes, monologues, and speeches; a fervent animal lover who not only owned and cared for dozens of pets but also rescued an untold number of other living creatures, from birds to baby possums lying injured on the side of the road; an ingeniously creative gift-giver and master Christmas present wrapper; and a sweet tooth extraordinaire and passionate connoisseur of local diners. Most importantly, she was a mother, one who epitomized what mothering is and always should be – pure, unadulterated unconditional love, kindness, and compassion.
Brett is survived by her beloved husband of almost forty years, Michael; her sons Sean and Chris; her daughter-in-law Roberta; and her daughter Linda, son-in-law Greg, and two granddaughters Sierra and Shay. She is also survived by her two sisters, Judy and Shelly, brother-in-law Dave, Shelly’s partner Lisa, and numerous other family members and friends.
A star whose light shined brighter than most, Brett was a perpetually warm, accepting, and positive woman who unfailingly looked for the good in all who crossed her path. Her death has left an unfillable void in the world of her family and friends. All, however, will take comfort in the memories and experiences she shared and created with them, ones that will undoubtedly provide everlasting joy and happiness.
Mom, we hope you’re already enjoying some extra buttery popcorn from above with your cherished pets – Moon, Monte, Gypsy, Rufus Reed, Gray Babie, Peetey, Freckles, Kit Kat, Pirate, and Mitters, just to name a few.
You’re home and finally at peace now.
We love you dearly and forever.
In lieu of flowers donations may be made to the Bergen County Animal Shelter and Adoption Center
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Bergen County Animal Shelter and Adoption Center
100 United Ln., Teterboro NJ 07608