My Brother, Russ

My brother and best friend died on July 8, 2016. He was 57.

Russ died on a Friday night while I was at work and feeling that something wasn’t right. I knew he was sick—he’d been battling cancer for several years and was growing weaker by the day. His cancer had reached stage 4. I received the phone call the next day and wept. I was glad to know he no longer suffered, but I wept because I felt alone. We’d done so much together. Now he was gone.

Russ was born in a small town called Union City in Pennsylvania, on November 29, 1958. He was 21 months younger than his big brother Steve who, according to their mother, gave Russ all his toys the day Mom brought him home from the hospital. It didn’t take long for the two of them to become best friends. The rest is family legend.

Russ married when he was 17 and remained married to his wife for 40 years. During that time, he served in the United States Navy alongside his big brother for a while, raised an awesome daughter and awesome son, was an avid hunter, collected coins and knives, and loved the Pittsburgh Steelers, which began in 1971 after he and I watched the Pittsburgh Pirates win the World Series and wondered “Now what?”

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1969. My mother and I shared birthdays in February. Here, Russ stands behind me with a cousin, getting into the picture.
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1976. I had begun a career in radio when Russ convinced me to join the Navy with him. Here we are in Chicago the day we graduated boot camp.
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1980. Russ was Best Man at my wedding. Here we are posing for one of those humorous shots where I show up late for my wedding. Ha! Funny is how we look like waiters in our hip tuxedos.
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2001. Russ and I gave each other birthday gifts right up to his death. He had just brought me a gift in 2001 when he read an article about me and my artwork in the local paper. He was my biggest fan.
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2005. Here Russ poses on the day he had a local pilot fly our 66-year-old mom on her first plane ride. This was a week before her death from complications after stomach surgery. Russ was always glad he did this for her. So was I.

This has been a small glimpse of my brother’s life. Of course, telling it all would fill volumes of books. Perhaps I will, someday, tell more about him, one chapter at a time.

Rest in peace, dear brother. November 29, 1958—July 8, 2016.

Fixing This Old House

Shivering in white in 2007.
Shivering in white in 2007.

The old homestead has needed a sprucing for many years. Fresh paint or siding? That was the question while the roof was finally shingled last year during October. The powers that be decided to go with siding this spring. But May was too cold and wet with snow and rain for such a big project. June’s weather has been kinder, so work began straight away.

Notice how scraggly the spruce tree became.
Notice how scraggly the spruce tree became.

Complications arose, of course, which extended the project. But today, at last, the place is dressed in her new clothes.

Looking sharp. Finally!
Looking sharp. Finally!

The supervisor overseeing the job.
The supervisor overseeing the job.