Wednesday, July 29, 2015

PIKS: People I Know Series 003: Brian

Our friend Brian agreed to write for my PIKS series.  I met Brian over 10 years ago when Mike introduced him as one of the band members.  One of my earliest memories of Brian was when I asked him to play one of my favorite Neil Young songs, and he picked up the guitar and played it flawlessly.  He is certainly one of the most talented guitar players I know.

Since I moved to Indy I've spent more time with Brian and his wife Stacy, and I've learned more about his caring, generous, thoughtful and spiritual nature.  He is a person of strong values and convictions, and these are apparent in how he lives life. 

And then there is a crazy side as well.  Brian is quick to crack a joke and find humor in the mundane.  And you never know what to expect when he shows up at our Halloween parties.  One of the most memorable times was when Stacy and Brian showed up as Sonny and Cher.  Our friends still talk about those costumes...

Cher and Sonny

1.     When and where were you born?

I was born in November 1956 in Marion, IN.

2.     What is your first, most vivid memory?

I remember watching my brother Robin (3 years my elder) walk home from kindergarten. We lived across the street from an elementary school and I was standing on the couch looking out through the picture window. He was wearing a red and black winter coat and hat and there was snow on the ground. I think he was carrying his books or a folder.

Brian and Robin
Relaxing at grandma's house

3.     What were you like as a child?  What did you do for fun? 

Very young I was quite mild, afraid of many things, and a momma’s boy. As I grew I loved to listen to music (all kinds) and play records, collect Hot Wheels cars, read comic books (ghost-story type, sci-fi, and Archie and his friends), use telescopes, microscopes and chemistry sets. I learned and became quite proficient on trombone and later guitar. I was quite a baseball pitcher in Little League and I learned to throw curve balls, sliders, (including an incredible drop ball due to my double-jointed wrist) and knucklers at an early age with the help of Robin. I loved shooting hoops, playing pool and spending a great deal of time with my neighbor, Steve .   Steve and I played lots of board games and made up our own games (and language - Terititilian) as well. We rode bikes, watched WAY TOO MUCH daytime game shows on TV (Dating Game, Newlywed Game, etc.) and loved listening to The Beatles, especially on Chuck’s (Steve’s oldest brother) Zenith Circle-of-Sound stereo.

             4.   Who is/was the oldest relative you remember (and what do you remember about them?)

My paternal grandfather, Raymond was born in 1892. He fought in the infantry in WWI and was awarded the Purple Heart for injuries sustained from mustard gas poisoning. He was a gentle man that worked very hard after the war at a foundry until he retired. He was a White Sox fan and had a great garden full of vegetables and flowers. He played cards, made homemade plum wine (very sweet), and loved English tea. He taught Robin and me how to play cribbage, which I still play to this day.
Grandma and Grandpa 

5.     Describe your parents.  What were they like? Where did they meet?
Mom came from a family of ten. Her father was a carpenter/mason, and her mother looked after the home. Mom's family didn't have running water in the house and their bathroom was an outhouse. Mom learned to cook, clean and wash, and care for infants when she was quite young. As the oldest daughter, she literally took care of her younger siblings. Even by the time she was a senior in high school, mom had very few clothes. Mom's family may have been monetarily poor, but they were quite rich with love. Mom passed her capacity for love to my Robin and me.

Conversely, dad was an only child. As stated above, his father was a handyman/laborer and a veteran of WWI. His mom was also a laborer (worked in a casting factory), so they both always worked. Dad was an outgoing (some would say wild) kid who enlisted in the Army Air Corps before Pearl Harbor. After the war, he took advantage of the GI bill and earned a B.S. degree in teaching. Later he would receive a M.S. degree in counseling from Notre Dame. My dad was a coach, a teacher, and a counselor and friend to thousands of kids during his long working career. My brother and I were both active in athletics due to our dad’s influence. Dad gave me the ability to see that everyone had a story worth hearing, and a need worth helping. He was constantly being stopped to chat by neighbors and friend at the store.

Mom and dad were both from Marion and dad was a friend with my mom’s older brothers, so they knew each other growing up. Both of my parents (like their parents before them) worked very hard but enjoyed living. They all taught me that there is absolutely no substitute for hard work, as long as it was good work. Finding the best work was considered a goal.
Mom and dad loved music, cookouts, sports, cards, board games, and an occasional cocktail with friends after one of dad’s basketball games. I remember being in a home filled with good food, friends, high school students, basketball players, and laughter.
Mom and Dad
6.     What was the best gift you remember as a child?

I received a lot of gifts that were wonderful, but the best had to be my first real guitar (my first was really bad!). I can’t remember what brand it was but it was an acoustic that was very hard to fret and wouldn’t stay in tune. I played it all the time until I traded up for one that I bought with money earned while teaching guitar in high school (a Yamaha 12-string). My folks bought me a Martin D-35 after my first year of college at Purdue. That was the best!
Brian playing his Martin D-35
7.     What did you want to be when you grew up?

An astronaut! But when I learned about the physical requirements (especially the rotating G-force machine that made you extremely dizzy; I suffered from motion sickness as a kid), I asked some questions. I was told that people who design and build the rockets were engineers. So I started to think about engineering. My neighbor Chuck was an engineering student at Purdue and that also influenced me, especially due to the work-study (Co-Op) program he participated in with Rockwell International in L.A. in the late 60s. I also knew engineers made good money!

8.     Describe your first job.  What did you do with your first paycheck?

My first jobs were mowing lawns. Then I moved on to mowing a large cemetery. When the mower broke down my boss would find me at the truck stop playing pinball! In high school I taught guitar and worked at a farm market. Not sure what I did with my pay (probably bought records or musical gear). My last two summers I convinced my parents that I needed to practice basketball, which I did with kids from all around LaPorte and Michigan City.

9.     What have you liked best about your life so far?  What is your happiest or proudest moment?

Not sure there is any single moment. I am very blessed to have come from such a loving family and I have navigated my way through some fairly ambivalent times, where I wasn’t really sure what I wanted, or what I wanted to do. I liked so many things, but didn’t have a strong passion for any of them. Music? Engineering? Nothing? Getting married to my first wife Martha and starting a family with three great kids was exhilarating and challenging.  And I have had some professional moments that were very rewarding. Creating, playing, and recording music has also been very fulfilling, too. Finding love again in Stacy Jo has been a Godsend, as well as taking my next steps in my walk with Christ.
Jordan, Anna and Kathleen
10. What has been the most frustrating thing or biggest challenge in your life

      I saw my divorce as a personal failure and it hurt terribly. Fortunately, Martha and I strived to put our children’s needs first after the separation. They prospered even though the marriage failed. We make it work regardless of the challenge.

1         11. What job did you do most of your life?  What did you like most about it?? Least?

I worked for Eli Lilly and Company for nearly 33 years and retired last year. I held several different positions in engineering, HR, manufacturing, and Elanco (their animal health division). What I most liked about Lilly were the people who helped mold me into who I am now and the variety of jobs one could perform. The company pays well, has great benefits, and invests in training and learning. If I had to say what I liked least it was that there was really no connection to music.

12. If we asked a relative or good friend about your best and worst qualities, what would they say?

Best qualities would be listening, understanding, helping, and problem solving. Worst qualities might be passivity, conflict avoidance, and ambivalence. Those closest to me might also say that I don’t routinely express my thoughts or opinions routinely.

13. What do you do for fun now?  Hobbies? Special Interests?

I love cooking, entertaining, playing golf, listening to music, playing instruments, traveling, spending time with family, and relaxing. I also like playing video poker and chess, and reading for pleasure. I am fascinated by history.
 Brian relaxing?

14. What one item in your life would you never give up?  Why?
Probably my Martin guitar, or my collection of Beatles LPs.

1           15.  What frightens you? Why?

Not too much, really, give that many things frightened me when I was young (the dark, bad storms, bugs). Today, I guess I am most frightened by sin and its devastating effect on all of us. My mind is very creative and I can think of horrific scenarios involving my family and friends that are too gruesome to describe.

16. What is the best advice your parents gave you?

Work and save. It’s not what you make but what you keep. Pretty simple advice but it can be quite uncommon with my peers.

17. What’s your best advice for living a good life?

Life is difficult so get used to it and carry on. Have faith in something greater than yourself. Focus on the needs of others and you will be fulfilled. Love is all you really need. Have fun and laugh.

You can read other PIKS articles here:  PIKS 001: Diane and PIKS 002: Mike.

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