In memory of Brian Leaf...undeniably connected to the Tree of Life!

During one of those sweltering summers in the late '90's as we were finishing up an exterior paint job on Camp Avenue

in Rockford IL, a man appeared from the front porch of the house next door and sauntered in my direction.

" That sure looks pretty. What color is that? Reminds me of something you might find on the Riviera."

And, thus, began a conversation with Brian Leaf that ran intermittently for the next twenty years; up until his death in February, 2017. By "intermittently", I mean ranging from days to years. I might pull over to chat with him as he loaded his dogs into the car for his daily excursion to the dog park, and then, over 5 months later. run into him at the City Market on a Friday evening where he would buy me a beer and continue a conversation as if we had had lunch together earlier that day. But as I sit here now and compare the last talk I ever had with him on his front porch in late summer of 2016 with that first encounter on his neighbor's front lawn, I am, once again, grateful for that enduring steadfastness of his which was leavened with a tasteful humor and a non-judgmental attitude toward things that had a way of helping me, also, to clean off my own spiritual lenses.

Now one of the true perks, for me, that comes along with working on the properties of conscientious homeowners are the connections that are naturally developed. Sharing a common goal, and working diligently to achieve it, nurtures a sort of esprit de corps; and you are given a somewhat uncommon opportunity to learn more about those people and their families. Still, Brian took that intimacy even further. As I worked for him and his wife, Mary. I grew to appreciate his quietly supportive and his pervasively encouraging attitude.

Although Brian was a career journalist, he never condescended to me with words. In fact, he admitted struggling to find the "right" way to express what he wanted to say; whether it was relating to a craft beer that he had grown especially fond of, the lyrics to an obscure song, or the latest twists and turns of his children. He gently drew you into his world, and, conversely, drew you out of your own, guarded existence.

Still, most importantly to me, as I think back on our time together, I can't help but consider how his friendship subtly enveloped me. He, almost immediately upon starting to work on his house. changed from a customer into a friend by opening up about his interests, along with his shortcomings, and listening to mine. He'd beckon me to come onto the porch where we'd drink coffee and I'd tease him about his adoration of the Packers while he would sarcastically worry about me "being too old for this kind of stuff." He knew how to make you laugh.

Remembering Brian Leaf is remembering a uniquely humorous, witty and compassionate spirit. And the loss of him, as painful as it may be, only adds to his life-affirming legacy. Thank you, friend.

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