Friends and family remember Christian Actor Brad Renfro
Tears flowed and comfort was shared as friends and family came together Monday night to remember Brad Renfro.
The 25-year-old actor died Jan. 15 in Los Angeles, but his body came home to rest. His immediate family received condolences from hundreds during Monday’s visitation at Stevens Mortuary in North Knoxville.
A bright, simple arrangement with red, white and yellow flowers framed against greenery adorned the closed casket, while a photograph of a young, happy Renfro stood nearby.
For nearly three hours, Renfro’s father and stepmother, Mark and Kim Renfro, and his mother, Angel Olsen, clasped hands and exchanged hugs with the approximately 600 well-wishers who came through the receiving line. Also on hand were the actor’s maternal grandmother, Judy Hurt, half-sister Haley Olsen, and stepbrother Dane Hoffmeister. His paternal grandmother, Joanne Renfro, who reared Renfro from the age of 5, was too ill to attend.
The mourners who wound through the hallways of the mortuary were solemn and silent. Only in the reception room did a buzz arise as the sad occasion served as a reunion with mixed emotions for friends and family. About half of those present seemed to be peers of the parents, with most of the rest closer in age to Renfro.
Although Renfro had made his home in Los Angeles for several years, he spent his childhood in Knoxville and kept his base here for the early part of his career. He was found dead in his home Jan. 15. A cause of death has yet to be determined.
Renfro was discovered at age 10 and cast in the film “The Client,” starring alongside Susan Sarandon and Tommy Lee Jones. He also starred in “Apt Pupil” with Sir Ian McKellen and “Telling Lies in America” with Kevin Bacon and Calista Flockhart.
Renfro’s great-uncle, Michael Earl, officiated the funeral service held immediately after the visitation. Renfro’s problems with drug addiction were hinted at but placed in the context of a young man making mistakes.
“Brad had a personal faith in Jesus Christ,” Earl said during his sermon. “Brad had problems just like I have problems, just like you have problems, just like all of us have trials and tribulations that we go through.
“Was Brad perfect? Well, I can tell you, I’m not. Are you? But I have had that righteousness extended unto me that comes only by the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And I’m gonna see him again. Oh, what a reunion. … And if you have the same kind of personal faith, you can take solace and comfort and great joy in knowing that you’ll get to see him again. It’s not goodbye, but it’s see you later.”
Earl used his knowledge of Renfro as a minister and as a relative to describe Renfro’s Christian journey.
“I prayed with Brad the morning he got saved. … I was preaching, and he (came) down during the altar call, and he looked me in the eye, and he said, ‘Uncle Mike, I need to be saved.’ “
Aware that press coverage of Renfro’s death has been focusing on the actor’s addictions, Earl exuded love and refrained from judgment in remembering the young man.
“He lived life, and he enjoyed it,” said Earl. “Whatever he did, he did it hard as he could. … If he messed up, he’d go after it 100 percent. Yeah, I know him. And yes, I loved him.”