A tribute to Brian Reilly
We've lost a dear friend.
That's one of the most inclusive "we"s I know of. It extends from me to all of you and on the way takes in the PowerPoint and Excel MVPs, everyone at Microsoft who worked him, every PowerPoint user he ever helped (uncountable) and all of the other friends and family his life intersected with.
Brian Reilly passed away on September 14, 2008.
To those who'd like to make a donation in Brian's memory, his family think that Brian would have chosen the Sail Connecticut Access Program.
As I write this on September 28, his friends and family all over the world have just observed a minute of silence in his memory, a virtual chain of linked hands, hearts and shared memories that circles the planet. What could be a more fitting way to honor the life of a man whose friendships, online and off, did the same?
Since a few minutes after he and I first ran into one another online, we've been friends. Later we became the two members of a business partnership that'd make any lawyer run for the hills screaming in terror. We simply trusted one another. And for more than ten years, it worked. Flawlessly. Oh god, why couldn't it be another ten. And another ...?
Oh, damn. I'm starting to drown the keyboard and he's up there somewhere laughing madly at me. OK, Brian, you win. I'm turning it over to your other friends now:
Some photos from his friends:
My words for Brian -
A very helpful and spirited person and a great client. If I had a problem always there to help in any way possible. I wish you peace and happiness in your next journey.
Brian started out as just a contractor we had hired to develop a product and quickly became a friend. He was always ready to help and to push me to do more because he had more confidence in what I was capable of doing than I did. Our talks always made me laugh and smile. He brightened my life. I miss him.
The team at Gartner
Bill Fisher, Jackie Ryan, Joel Wecksell, John Lovelock and Suzanne Fletcher.
Brian was a wonderful and cherished business partner.
He was enthusiastic and creative.
He was honest and easy to work with.
He stood by his work until it was what we wanted, even when the scope of effort was beyond what he had envisioned and charged for.
He worked hard (too hard!) and was always prepared.
He took genuine concern in the people he worked with at Gartner, and became a friend to many.
He made us look good.
He will be missed.
With deepest regrets,
His friends at Gartner -- Bill Fisher, Jackie Ryan, Joel Wecksell, John Lovelock and Suzanne Fletcher
I just heard of Brian's passing and wanted to extend my sympathies to you and your family. Brian and I worked together for many many years both on projects for RTi as well as partnering on an almost successful venture we named Customer Solutions. Brian was one of those people who always had a can-do attitude. He was one who would dedicate himself to a solution no matter how long it took. At the same time, Brian became a loyal friend and we came to enjoy many a conversation together. Brian was kind enough to attend several family funerals for my own brother and parents.
Many of us here at RTi worked closely with Brian over the years and all had the greatest admiration for him.
I can tell you that we stumped him only once. Some years ago we had discussed with Brian a way of making PowerPoint slides directly from raw data from our tabulation software. Of course Brian took on the challenge and after a few weeks of thinking about it, he came back to us with great confidence he would get it done. One of our employees is a very creative thinker and posed a particular complex chart scheme to Brian. He said he could do it. I thought not. We bet a dollar on it. Guess who won!
Again, for all of us at RTi our very sincere condolences on your loss.
I've been privileged to work for the last few years as the coordinator of the PowerPoint Most Valuable Professional group, of which Brian was a key member. During that time Brian was a valued business partner, and a personal friend. When my family visited New York for the first time a few years ago, Brian was our tour guide showing us how the city's transportation systems worked, and advising us on how to make the most of our visit. My son quotes Brian regularly, mostly about how in New York City it's dinner time when you're ready for dinner. I will miss Brian, he was a dear friend.
We'll be with you in spirit on Sunday.
Senior Program Manager
John and Nancy Lacher
John and I came to know Brian professionally when Brian and John crossed paths over the internet, pioneering projects with Excel. John appreciated Brian's expertise and creativity, and they worked together developing several projects over the years.
My comrnunications with Brian quickly evolved from "attached to this email please find invoice #t0597" to a series of funny emails about his cat's adventures in The Big city - the Captain always sent me his regards, even in the
memo box on checks.
When business brought us to New York, Brian wanted to show us his city, and we shared some wonderful meals where the conversation was always as bright and delightful as our surroundings. He put so much time and effort into choosing just the right spot, one that would accommodate the interests of everyone in our family, from a teenager going through a particularly picky eater phase to a slightly overwhelmed college student poised to launch herself into the city after graduation.
Brian's love for New York put a face on the city for my kids, and they have organized many subsequent adventures there based on the footholds he gave them.
I always enjoyed his sense of humor, as well as his candor when asked for advice (...and sometimes when not asked for advice). When I was launching a beta version of a website for my business, I received a quick and urgent email from Brian taking me to task over fonts I'd labored long and hard to incorporate into the site.
"Illegible! Get rid of those serifs! Clean it up!"
I was artistically stricken (it WAS very striking in appearance) but took his advice (because it WAS illegible). We joked about serifs from that point on (talk about niche humor...) and I continue to think of him any time I encounter an over-embellished bit of type.
The world is less bright without him, and we will miss him, both personally and professionally.
I don't know what to say to this. In truth I am setting here in shock with a million things going through my mind. I guess that means you and I are the only two left from the "original gang" from the 1995 beginning of the MVP award. I have bunch of emails stored that start out with "Hey Farm Boy" now I think I am going to burn them to CD. Brian is the only person on this earth that could call me that and get away with it.
This is very sad -- never knew that when I met him in Seattle, it was for the last time.
I pray God takes care of him, and gives happiness to his soul.
Long-time friend at Microsoft
This is VERY sad news. I will really miss his humor, insights and the way he continually challenged me to understand PowerPoint and our customers better. I'm glad that he was able to spend his last days surrounded by his loving family.
I'm still in shock. It's still too early for me to imagine Steve w/o Brian, the Mutt and Jeff of PowerPoint MVP's.
Dear friends and family of Brian
My wife Katherine and I are very sad to learn that Brian is no longer with us.
I first "met" him in the mid 90's on the Compuserve forum where we both helped people with aspects of Microsoft's software that we knew about, and helped each other also. It was a joy some years later to meet him at a Microsoft MVP summit and to discover his genial personality and genuine interest in people. We shared a love of cats and were always interested to hear news of Captain.
We usually managed to spend time with him at the summit party, and in April this year we had the pleasure of his company for a good hour.
Although he was clearly not in as good health as previously, we had no idea that he was so seriously ill.
The world will be a sadder place without his sense of humour and his good nature.
A few years ago, I was invited by Microsoft to a "Global summit" in Seattle. The journey was very long from France; I was tired and a bit lost in this huge city.
Going to the first meeting (welcoming cocktail) I remember a man, quiet, listening, welcoming, warm. He was Brian.
Since then I have this image in my mind as a man with a "quiet strength".
Though We didn't know well each other, I'm very sad to lose a far-away-over-the-ocean friend.
God bless him and God bless us.
My great condolences for your loss. My dad and Brian worked together and I wanted to send you a few words in his memory.
The first time I came to New York City was about seven years ago, when I was 22 and had just graduated from college. I had no idea what I was doing and, of course, hadn't lined up any work for myself here. My dad had kept Brian posted on my various adventures and, when he heard I was in town and broke, he took me to a sushi restaurant in Manhattan and bought me lunch. I had been living on ramen noodles and pizza and the extravagance of all that good food dazzled me. I ate until I was stuffed while Brian told me about living in New York, a city he clearly loved. When we were finished eating he offered me freelance technical writing work, a great gift and one for which I was probably totally unqualified. Still, I did my best, and every few weeks I would get to leave my Brooklyn hovel and meet with Brian in his beautiful apartment and show him my writing and pet the cat and look out over the park. On those afternoons it was possible to imagine that sort of New York life for myself-- a life that was lovely and comfortable and exciting. Over the next few years, he remained a supporter of my various writing endeavors and was always a face I looked forward to seeing. I am sorry I didn't get to see more of him. I think of him still, as I get used to moving through this city, a place where he seemed so at ease.
Dear Mary and all of Brian's Family,
Please accept my deepest condolences on the death of Brian. It is hard to believe that we won't see his eyes sparkling with mischief or hear him make silly jokes and wry observations.
I knew (that's really hard to write) Brian through my husband, Steve. Brian, on Steve's instigation, emailed me a funny message for my 50th birthday. Over the years, Brian always remembered my birthday, but he would never tell me HIS birthday. So it became a favorite prank to find crazy birthday cards and send them to him all through the year. So if you find a stash of birthday cards from us, that's why there are so many.
So after the 1999 birthday greeting, Brian and I exchanged a few emails. Then we met Brian later that year at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. What a marvelous day! We wandered from gallery to gallery, discussing our favorite artists and learning we had similar tastes. At a Sargent portrait we got into trouble with the guard because we were a little too animated with our comments. I don't think we stopped talking until we parted after a lovely sushi dinner.
I began to call Brian "My Favorite Leprechaun." There was always somehow an air about him of the good but naughty little boy with that twinkle in his eyes. When I talked with Brian, he always made me feel that he was absolutely delighted to have the conversation. He loved to have his jokes and it seemed his funny stories were just for me.
Brian visited us in Cincinnati a couple of times and I would see him when I accompanied Steve to Seattle for Microsoft conferences. Steve and Brian often had late afternoon phone conferences about software development issues. Sometimes I'd get on the line and chat, catching up on the news of his sailing adventures or the newest cat
story. Lately he loved to talk about the beach, storms and the seagulls around his house with their campaign against careless sailors.
We were hoping to see Brian when we visit New York in October. We'll have to find a good beach and some seagulls to feed in his honor.
Our prayers are with you. Take care.
Phyllis and John Coughlin
We feel blessed to have shared a little of Brian's life with him. He was a free spirit, with a generous and loving disposition. Brian possessed a quick, dry wit. Listen closely and you will be amused. We remember Brian at the beach, and his passion for sailing. Brian was fortunate to have sailed nearly the world over and happily shared his experiences when he returned.
Regrettably, his life here in this world, was far too short. His love and spirit will live on in the memories of those who knew and loved him.
My sincere condolences to the entire family. Thank you very much for the information on Brian's memorial. I will certainly honor the Minute of Silence as you've outlined.
I hope Brian was at peace in the end. He will always be a close friend. Some of my fondest memories were with him sailing somewhere in the Atlantic. His love of life was a bright spot on the horizon. I spoke with the day before he left for the west coast when he was in Milford, and even at that stage he was positive
He will be with me for ever, and I will celebrate his life on Sunday
Please extend my sincere condolences on your loss to your family and Brian's nieces and nephews. I worked with Brian for many years here at RTi and always found him cheerful, helpful and a smart guy. I still cannot believe I will not see him anymore. I hope you can take comfort in many happy memories of him. I will be observing a moment of silence for him with you on Sunday. Peace.
When I think of my Uncle Brian I think of several trips to New York, a dinner out with my best friend Claire at a restaurant called Caliban, and his unusual sense of humour that managed to amuse and bewilder me, often in equal measure.
One summer my parents and I travelled to Connecticut to visit various relatives including my grandmother Veronica and great aunt Peg. Brian said we could stay on his boat, and although he stayed elsewhere to afford us more space onboard I was excited none the less. We arrived late in the evening, in pitch black darkness, and struggled onto the boat with our bags, exhausted from the long journey and ready to settle in for a while before going to sleep. Being terribly eager, I was the first to board and open the door into the living space. I searched blindly for a light switch and finding one turned it on. As the light filled the cabin in front of me to my horror hung a raggedy stuffed monkey, swinging gently from a string protruding from his head as the boat rocked. I was terrified for a split second and yelped, and took some consoling afterwards, and it was decided Brian had left the animal in that place as a welcome 'surprise' on our arrival.
When we went back into New York to stay with Brian and Connie they took us out for dinner where, after some time, I shamefully surrendered my attempt at getting through a giant plate of angel hair carbonara. Mum took me home while my dad, uncle and aunt finished their evening. When my mum and I got back to the apartment I decided to take revenge for the monkey planting on the boat. Fashioning a noose out of some available object I took a Curious George stuffed animal and 'hanged' him from their bedpost. The party came home and Brian went into his room. "Erica! You're sick!" he called. Sweet revenge. Although of course it turned out to be Connie's Curious George and not Brian's.
The next morning Brian had been out to get breakfast and picked up some blueberry and fruit-bran muffins. I politely declined explaining I didn't like food that had fruit in it. Brian snuck out to get me a chocolate muffin instead, but on giving it to me told me I'd get fat eating that sort of thing for breakfast and never eating fruit, as I picked embarrassed at the chocolate replacement.
Later the elders were discussing what we could do during our short stay in New York. It was decided I was not allowed to go and see 'Cats' just because I liked cats, because it had such terrible reviews and had become a laughing stock. The Empire State Building and Times Square were mentioned. Then Brian suggested 'you could go see the Statue of Fruit', smirking at me out of the corner of his eye. Not being terribly old and being slightly intimidated by my cool New York relatives I blushed and smiled as the elders chuckled. I had to have it explained to me later that Brian was making a joke, calling the Statue of Liberty the 'Statue of Fruit'. Still confused as to the working of the joke I asked if it was a reference to a TV show or movie or something that would validate it a bit more for me.
"So, he just called it the Statue of Fruit because I don't like fruit? But that doesn't make any sense?"
"Yes," my parents agreed, "that's just Brian's sense of humour".
If this seems like a strange rambling story to tell, well it is. But it's how I will affectionately remember my Uncle Brian, and I will always think of him when I think of New York. And the Statue of Liberty holding a giant pineapple instead of a torch.
Lots of love to you, Uncle Brian, you were a lovely man and I wish I could have met you more.
I first met Brian in 1970 on my trip to the States to marry his sister, Mary. We immediately became good friends and Brian was altar boy(!) at the wedding. I was best man at his wedding a few years later. We had many great times in the 70's in Connecticut and New York and Brian was always a joy to be with. He was full of optimism and the nicest person you could wish to meet. He had a unique sense of humour but could also be tough and incisive when the situation demanded. He was principally an aquatic creature although he had adapted to live on land when necessary. Mostly Dolphin, as Connie has said, although more like a hungry shark when playing water polo. He was MVP with his team, as he was later with Microsoft.
Clearly many people have found Brian's departure very painful as indeed have I.
I often think fondly of sailing trips on Long Island Sound with Brian when the sun was warm, the sea blue and Led Zep sounded pretty nifty. If we wind up in a Better Place I'll look forward to hearing his great laugh as he calls me Horseface one more time.
It started with Mary. From the UK, she noticed a break in Brian's patterns: his voicemail inbox was overflowing. She called Joe in Seattle for the number of Naresh in India; and Naresh gave her the number of John Coughlin in Milford, who called 911 when he found Brian practically unconscious on the living room floor. What could have been more typical of how to locate Brian, than an around-the-world communications hookup?
Perhaps it was that Steve Rindsberg in Cincinnati also noticed a problem and got someone to Brian's house just shortly thereafter, or that Diane Satterfield from California began cold calling all the hospitals in the area and located Brian the next day at the Milford Hospital. What could have been more typical of how to locate Brian, than friends parachuting in to the rescue?
A dual tribute to the strength of Brian's friendships, and to the stage where he lived.
Mary called back Joe and then me. Immediately she flew in from the UK, Joe from Seattle and I drove down from New York. Brian said forget the past. There is only the future.
It was the first time that the four of us had been together for a specific effort since I left for college when Brian was 10 years old. Then for three weeks physically together in Milford, CT and in collaboration during the following 4 weeks in Seattle, the Siblings 4 were working together to re-cement the bonds and rebuild the future. Brian led the way.
At the end, we were all four in that hospital room in Seattle when Brian peacefully left us. But we remained the Siblings 4.
September 27, 2008
A special photograph sits on the bookcase in my family room in Augusta, Georgia. It has been with me for over thirty years - displayed in each domicile I have had in Connecticut, in Virginia and in places in the world that will remain unnamed. It is a photograph of Paris taken from the highest point (& then some) to which visitors are allowed to climb on Notre Dame Cathedral.
Regardless of perceptions-real or imagined--about the French citizenry, q young adult's first encounter with "the City of Light" is definitely a coming-of-age experience. I was with Brian (and a friend of his) when I first visited Paris. However, it was only Brian and I who climbed on ever-narrowing stairs in tighter & tighter confines to realize a view of the city that gave me a thrill that has never been equaled on any subsequent sojourn in Paris. We stood alone on that high spot, eye-to-eye with haunting gargoyles, searching out significant landmarks and simply enjoying the warm sunlight of an early spring day.
The humor of the moment did not hit either of us until it was time to descend. To get me to the top of the cathedral, Brian had to persuade, to cajole and, finally, to dare me to take the challenge of the climb. You see I am terrified of heights-and, learned that very day, I am not real crazy about tight spaces either. Once we reached the peak my fears were forgotten and I realized that Brian was right, the prize was worth the effort. In all the excitement of the moment, I had not looked directly at Brian until we decided to leave. It was at that moment I realized Brian was a very strange shade of pale green. With horror, I asked, "Brian are you afraid of heights?" His response was a very slow nod yes. "But why did you insist that we come up here?" Brian's answer was "It is a sight you had to see. You will never forget the impact." Brian was right!
So each time I dust the picture or repair its frame, I think of Brian and the lesson he exemplified that day. Do not let fear stand in the way of an adventure and help the people you care about learn to experience life's opportunities-both large and small.
In Loving Memory,
Brian's Cousin -
Jeane (John) Bice
Sept. 28, 2008
Among the things I will miss is that sly look of amusement when Brian has made yet another ironic observation nobody else thought of first.
I will miss his quiet wisdom in the midst of frenzy, when, after tempers cool and ambiguities linger, he is the last to speak, always with sound guidance.
I will miss the skipper of Cygnet, who charted perfectly our long, windy approach to Lunenburg, after sailing
all night in heavy seas from Halifax, and his unshakable good cheer during the next three tumultuous days running.
I will miss the unswerving friendship, the bond of knowing I could ask anything of him, assured that if it was too crazy,
I would not get it.
I will miss his decency, his brotherly love with no contingencies, his rare and complete humanity.
I shall always carry him with me.
September 27, 2008: Remembering Brian
When I think now about Brian I see a picture in my mind. Brian, at the helm of the sailboat, eyes happily squinting into the afternoon sun, moving through the waters, the wide sea all around. On the water, or in the water, Brian was in those places where he was meant to be. Surely these are among the places where he was happiest.
Among friends, Brian was always the nicest person in the room. He never showed that "edge" that offputs, the one that most of us never quite successfully keep to ourselves. He was always good company. With friends, especially along with his beloved Confidence, another place where Brian was happiest.
And Brian was a masterful chef. When he cooked, he wanted the kitchen to himself, with none of us to screw it up, a peaceful solitary pursuit, though rarely out of earshot to whatever else was going on. That meant that from time to time, a wonderful riposte would be lobbed out of the kitchen by Brian, causing laughs all around.
And out of the kitchen, Brian would bring something wonderful! I am thinking of the last real time I had with him. A summer weekend at my house outside the city with Confidence and several other friends, some fairly eccentric! Some of us were old treasured friends, others did not know each other well or at all before. It was one of those magical times when for no particular reason except the wonderful soul and wit of the people involved, it resulted in an exceptional barrel of fun!
We had dined on a barbequed leg of lamb one night, and the next night Brian disappeared into the kitchen and took the leftover lamb and vegetables and some rice and herbs and lettuce and I don't know what else and made a dish that was so wonderful we were all in awe. The next day I asked him if he would tell me how to do it, and he sort of tried, but in truth, he just made it up on the spot! I don't think he really kept track of what he put in it. Men, when they cook great, cook like that. No rigorous recipe following. No boxed-in rules. Just pure creativity. So, a kitchen to himself not far from the crowd: Another place where Brian was happiest.
By then the demons had already taken a toll, but on that weekend, as so much more often in the past, one of Brian's other wonderful traits was in evidence: his wicked wit. The true Brian was very very funny.
Of course Brian had demons. We all do. I will always resent his for taking him away. But I will always remember Brian in the good times. Bright, affable, a generous host at that wonderful house by the sea, sweet always, a serious "hunk", a loving spouse to Confidence, witty, funny, Very Funny, and more than most all people I know, a really really really Good Person through and through. How many people can you say that about?
Without question he rests in peace. And the good memories rest gently in our hearts and minds.
As Echo, Steve and several other MVPs know...BriGuy was not only someone who played a big part in Greg and I getting together back at the 1997 summit, but he's been a long time friend of ours and someone who has caused me
wonderful laughter for many years.
I was not totally surprised hearing the news this week, as I knew he was having problems over the last year. But that doesn't mean I'm not very heart sick that he's no longer with us and that I'll never again get one of his "Love and Kisses" emails from him, nor "Love and Licks" emails from Cap'n (Brian's famous cat and the long ago MVPs unofficial mascot...complete with his own MVP wearable gear.)
From my first chats with Brian and Steve back in the CompuServe forums back in 1995 when they became a couple of my first MVP friends, along with Herb Tyson and Susan Daffron and soon after, Cindy Meister. I STILL have some
great chat posts between us that caused lots of laughter.
And then there were famous stories like how he called me at work posing as someone from Microsoft soon after I became an MVP. I was whining about not getting the Office CD yet and having trouble supporting the full program.
Our lead was working on getting me a copy. But Brian took it upon himself to handle it. So he calls me to get my home address. (He later laughed about me being adamant that my first name NOT have an E at the end...which later lead to him coining my alter ego as being E ~.)
Anyway, I later get a FedX pkg that did contain the Office CD, but it showed it had been sent by Bill Gates at Microsoft. My boss was impressed...as was I...that Bill himself would send me the CD. Then, of course, my amazement turned to laughter as I realized I'd been had...when I opened the package and found it not only contained the CD, but also some dry cat kibble and a note from Cap'n telling me that "You can stop bitching about the damn CD now!" LOL!
And, of course, that one also rides along in my memory with the famous Brian Reilly introduction at the 1997 summit. Cindy and Suz and others had met down at the "Quiet Bar" (which was never that way when it was loaded with
MVPs all night) for our second summit (Cindy's first). We were excited to FINALLY get a chance to meet Brian after a couple years of chatting with him online. I was telling them how I arrived to pussy willows on my hotel bed...from Cap'n...saying he was sorry he wouldn't be able to make the summit.
I was sad cos' it looked like Brian might have had to bail on the summit and this was HIS WAY of letting us know. So there I was at the bar telling Suz & Cindy and others how I'd spent the last night up late making Cap'n a special
MVP outfit (a baby outfit with a hole cut for his tail and an MVP logo on it
A few moments later the waitress arrived at our table and handed me a note saying "The asshole at the bar would like to buy you a drink."
Yes, Brian had been sitting a few feet from our table for about 30 mins listening to us talk about him and waiting for just the right moment to say hello. An entrance that has lived on in laughter for over 12 years now!
Damn...I loved you Brian and I'll miss you dearly!
On a sobering note...the disease that Brian died from, Haemochromatosis, is what not only killed Echo's brother, but what killed my dad when I was a teen and has been killing my 58 yr old brother for the last 2 years! It is a hereditary blood disease, more common in men, but woman CAN get it...which causes your blood to be unable to properly regulate iron levels. Eventually, the high iron levels will damage other major organs...and you'll die from those complications. It's a hard disease to treat and most folks don't know they have it until they start sweating yellow or turning yellow from the high iron levels and suffer from other painful complications...back pain, trouble walking, diabetes, cancer and others. My brother was given a year to live, but has been hanging on to his doctor's amazement...although the cancers are spreading, so he may not make his 59th birthday this December.
This is a serious and deadly disease. So, as Echo once posted in a thread about it, if you are of European descent, you should be tested for the gene. It's a simple test, but you need to ask for this blood test to find the gene. If you catch it early, you can live longer/better with it. If not...it can be a sad and painful way to go...as I've been watching in my brother. It took Echo's brother, it took my dad, it is taking my brother...and now it has taken one of the other great joys of my life...Brian!
Love and Kisses to you BriGuy!
D ~ & E ~
My mind is having trouble grasping this...
His passing leaves a hole inside, but I will never forget him and the great times we had together. A part of him lives on in all of us who knew and treasured him.
Love and blessings, Cindy
Brian was a bloke I deeply admired and I learnt so much from, particularly in how to treat other people in a deeply genuine, human way. I so looked forward to seeing him again and feel totally gutted.
Glen and family
I am so terribly saddened to hear our dear friend has passed away. As the tear drops fall on my keyboard it makes me think of all the wonderful, sweet ways that Brian was such an amazing man. This picture was taken last fall in new York ... wine ... chocolate martini and various chocolate treats that Brian had collected for my family while we were visiting the city. His passion, creativity, friendship and love for others will truly be missed. I am at a loss of words other than to say I am a better person having met this man ... his memory will be fondly remembered.
Confidence Stimpson, 24 September 2008
The Life of Brian, by the Wife of Brian
During the last few years of his life, Brian was ravaged by a disease he could not conquer and that I could not conquer for him, as long and as hard as I tried. Illness replaced the Brian I married with someone I didn't recognize.
But like a reverse version of The Picture of Dorian Grey, the minute I heard he had died, the Brian I had known and loved reappeared. And I grieved, and grieve, for him.
Brian really understood love. He took a great deal of joy in making somebody else happy, and the thought never occurred to him that he might expect something in return. He loved all living creatures-- people, animals, plants.
There was a quality of innocence and happiness about him in those days that I've seen only in small children and puppies. I wrote to a friend, "Whenever Brian walks into a room all the babies crawl into his lap and all the plants grow three new leaves."
He anthropomorphized everything. He could instantly take the fearsome qualities out of any spider or mouse by making it talk, in what he figured was its voice. All of a sudden, a huge spider on the windowsill or a mouse than ran across the floor in front of the fireplace became a Disney character. (But when he named the live lobsters he had brought home and made them talk just before they were plunged into steam, I had to leave the kitchen!)
Sometimes he made other things talk. And they didn't always say what one might expect. If a woman picked up a stuffed animal and cuddled it to her chest, Brian would make it say, "Wow! Nice tits!"
He loved creatures of all kinds (although I think he loved lobsters more dead and edible than alive). Once at our house in Connecticut, Brian trapped a bee in a glass jar with a piece of cardboard over it. As he walked out of the house to free the bee, I heard him saying, "Now, bee, my name is Androcles!"
For awhile we had a freshwater aquarium with various goldfish, angelfish, etc., in it. Brian taught the fish to eat out of his hand by putting fish food between his fingers and then holding them very still in the water until the fish would come and eat the food. After awhile they would come up to his fingers even when there wasn't any food in them, and he would pat them. Thanks to Brian, we had the only cuddly fish in the history of ichthyology.
People who met him marveled specifically at his niceness. "He's not what I expected," they would say. "But he's really NICE!" I heard these exact words more than once.
What was it in his background that made him that way, one friend asked. Brian's sister Mary told me about something called the Benjamin syndrome. It's sometimes seen in a youngest child whose older siblings have always loved him and treated him well, so he's not aware that there could be anything in the universe to be afraid of. If there is such a thing, he was a prime example.
I met him right after he returned from a trip to France, and at some point we had a casual conversation about bringing things through customs. I said I had been told the best thing to do with cigars was break them. That way the customs officials couldn't claim them for themselves.
Brian said, naah, hey, why not let the customs guys have them? They're good cigars. Somebody should get to smoke them. It occurred to me that I had never met anyone with that attitude before.
Brian had empathy. Early in our relationship, we were supposed to meet another couple at his apartment at six o'clock and then proceed to dinner somewhere. I had been working long hours at Young & Rubicam for fourteen days without a break, and I was exhausted. It was pouring rain, I couldn't get a cab, and had to stand and wait for a bus. By the time I got to Brian's I was more than half an hour late, soaking wet and miserable.
When Brian answered the door to let me in, the male half of the other couple said, "Great. Now let's go!" Brian said, "No." He took my coat off, led me by the hand to a wing chair, took off my shoes and socks, rubbed my feet with a towel and put them up on a footstool, went away and came back with dry socks and a drink. That's when I first thought, hmmmm. Maybe I should hold on to this one.
At every party we went to, he would always pick out the least attractive, loneliest looking woman-the one who was wearing the wrong dress, or didn't know another soul-and make sure she had a good time.
He was a wonderful cook. When he cooked for others, they always marveled at how good everything was, and told me how lucky I was. "I married well," I always said. But when he started cooking for pot luck suppers at the Church of the Holy Apostles, he ran up against a challenge. Holy Apostles is an inclusive church, and about a quarter to a third of the parishioners are gay.
The first time Brian brought his cooking there, all was fine. But before the second time, I saw Brian arranging vegetables in circles, cutting rosettes out of carrots, etc., and generally giving much more attention to how things looked. When I asked him what he was doing, he said, "Well, I'm up against all those gay guys, and their stuff is BEAUTIFUL!"
He had an incredible sense of adventure. He loved sailing, and was thrilled to have a chance to cross the Atlantic on a 53-yawl with four other men. Mid-ocean, he decided to go swimming. There was something about being by himself in the water in the middle of the ocean that he found appealing. So he jumped off the boat and swam for awhile, until he noticed the boat pulling away. "HEY! I'M THE COOK!" he yelled. The boat promptly turned around and picked him up.
Once when we were on our boat, we got totally fogged in at a harbor in Maine. We couldn't see any other boats except a power boat that we could dimly make out and that we had seen before. It seemed to have run aground or picked up a lobster pot. The captain was an older man, possibly in his 70s, and he was alone on the boat.
It was COLD as you can imagine, but Brian put on his bathing suit, swam to the other boat, went under it, and disengaged the propeller from whatever it was hung up on. When he came up for air, treading water, I saw him and the other man conversing for what seemed like forever. Brian came back to our boat blue and shivering, hypothermic. I asked him why he stayed so long and he said, "Well, he was all by himself, and he wanted to talk."
It took him a long time to understand my feelings about sailing, which were basically that it was either too hot or too cold, I couldn't read on the boat without getting seasick and sometimes I got seasick anyway, and the minute the shore began to recede, or the seas got higher than a foot or two, I was terrified.
But one day in New York, we decided to go for a very long walk, from our apartment across the Brooklyn Bridge to the River Cafe for brunch. It was a beautiful day, and I really enjoyed the walk. The view from the bridge was spectacular; you could see Lady Liberty and the whole harbor, with all the boats and the sun shining brilliantly on the water.
It took only about fifteen or twenty minutes to get across the bridge, and on the other side I said, "Wow! That was incredible! I could almost walk back the other way and do the whole thing again."
Brian didn't share my feelings. It seemed it had taken all his willpower to keep from lying down on the pavement face down with his eyes closed until I could stop a police car or a taxi to get us off that bridge, which was clearly going to collapse at any second.
After that he understood my sailing phobia.
Brian was a born hero-worshipper. He idolized those who did what he did better than he could do it, from fellow water polo players to fellow software wranglers. Neither jealousy nor envy ever entered his thoughts. He just wanted to be best friends with them..
He could always make me laugh. Once I was standing in the bedroom of our house in Connecticut, stark naked, ready to put on a bathing suit. Brian walked into the room, took one look at me and said, "H'lo, little girl, whatCHER name?"
Another time, it was early in the morning and I had wrapped a black scarf around my head to look somewhat presentable when I went down to the lobby to get the paper. Brian was still in bed. He opened one eye and looked at me, said "Oh, my god, it's the PLO!" and hid his head under the pillow.
We were standing on a subway platform and I was quietly singing to myself "Who Knows?" from West Side Story, which had been on tv the night before. Brian chimed in. "Who knows? Who knows? Yer nose!"
Once at home I was singing and playing the guitar, a Linda Ronstadt song that had the line, "You don't know what a chance is/ Until you have to seize one/ You don't know what a man is/ Until you have to please one ..." I heard Brian singing to himself in the kitchen where he was cooking dinner, "You don't know what a woman is/ Until you have to feed one ... ."
I always wanted him to watch his weight. One morning I told him to go into the bathroom and weigh himself. From the bathroom I heard, "Both feet?" "Yes, Brian, both feet." He came bouncing out. "It says 172 pounds, skinny and cute. Let's go back to bed!"
Brian loved practical jokes. He told me that when he was a little kid, he went down to the living room on Christmas Eve and rearranged the tags on all the presents, so that Aunt Peg got, say, boxer shorts, and his brother Joe got a charm bracelet.
This was the same little kid who, at the age of eight, stood up to a priest who had told him he couldn't go to the wedding of a neighbor because it was going to be in a church that wasn't Catholic. Brian made it very clear to the priest that the neighbor was his friend, made peanut butter sandwiches for him when he came home from school if his mother wasn't around, and if somebody in that family was getting married, he was going to the wedding, priest or no priest.
He had some surprising accomplishments. We probably had four or five close friends who had tried and failed to write and publish books. All of them had far better writing credentials than he had. In fact, if anything, Brian had negative writing credentials.
But he brought it off, with one of those thick orange computer paperbacks. His was called "How to Create Power Point Presentations in a Weekend." I was so thrilled when I saw it in the public library! I had to rush over to the librarian and show it to her, and show her the dedication, which was to me.
In the early 80s there was a movie on television called "The Day After." It was about a post-apocalyptic world where the bombs had fallen, civilization had come apart, and everybody was dying of radiation sickness. It was terrifying to me, and what was most terrifying was that Brian and I might be separated and not be able to find each other.
Brian's office was at Park and 57th; mine was at Lex and 45th. I made him agree that in case of falling bombs, we would meet on the east side of Park Avenue, me walking uptown and Brian walking downtown. I knew if we were together it didn't matter how many bombs fell; we would be all right.
During a time when I was taking voice lessons, my teacher wanted me to sing a Rodgers and Hart song called "He Was Too Good to Me." I could never get through it without crying, because it was so true. These were Lorenz Hart's lyrics:
He was too good to me
How can I get along now?
So close he stood to me
Everything seems all wrong now.
He would have brought me the sun
Making me smile
That was his fun.
When I was mean to him
He'd never say, go way now
I was a queen to him
Who's gonna make me gay now?
It's only natural I'm blue
He was too good to be true.
He was a beautiful soul. May he rest in peace.