A tribute to a friend

March 2024

Brian was a writer, a scientist, a thinker, a friend. He was creative by nature.

He enjoyed writing, sharing stories and admiring architecture. He helped people overcome obstacles through the sharing of what he had faced in his lifetime. He was a coach for TED Talks and with Toastmasters. He truly lived his life looking at the glass half-full.

I met him over 25 years ago when he ran Tara Scientific Laboratories in the same building I worked in. I was lucky enough to keep up our friendship over these last few years.
This lovely man taught all of us about acceptance, kindness and friendship.

I wrote a story about Brian and our friendship for Bayview magazine in 2012. I’m especially drawn to his list of favourite books that was a sidebar for that article. The list included works by Sarah Susanka, Farley Mowat, Charlie Wilkins, Stephen Leacock, Conn Iggulden, Margaret George, Clive Cussler, Mitch Albom, and C.S. Lewis. About the Harry Potter series by JK Rowling he said, “With Harry’s upbringing he could have been bitter, but he was able to take it all in stride. People can learn from him.

I read all seven books and over the years the characters became friends. I was sorry to see them go.” Another of his faves was by Helen Keller. About her life he wrote, “Helen Keller was able to keep optimistic about her life. Too many of us become embittered and say, “Why me?” She didn’t. I realized that she liked words and so do I. It’s hard to imagine what it would be like in her world – total dark and total silence.”

Brian lived his life with more challenges than most people face after brain tumour surgery at age 13. The new radiation treatment at the time left him with speech, hearing and mobility challenges. When he wasn’t able to attend school, Olga Gernat was sent by the Thunder Bay Catholic District School Board to his home to tutor him. Olga has been a life-long friend and continued to work with Brian on editing his memoir. In recent years, Bluetooth technology improved Brian’s hearing because he could read messages on his phone. After living with his sister, cat and his nieces and nephews Sarah, Tessa and Matthew for many years, Brian moved into his own apartment. He made friends wherever he lived by going to yard sales and just by saying “Hello, I’m Brian,” to people.

He was so thrilled when he was able to host annual Christmas open houses for his friends and family in his apartment.

Brian was driven – he was a published author, he held a HBSc and MSc in Biology/Chemistry and a PhD in Health and Human Resources. He loved sharing stories about people and history with his numerous articles in Bayview magazine.

He was an accomplished Toastmaster and traveled with his friend Dave Goldsworthy to events in the district. These accomplishments attested to the fact that he had a life worth writing and speaking about. At the time of his passing, Brian continued to work on his memoir, The Boy Who Couldn’t Smile.

What a remarkable read that would be!

I was there when he made his first digital story and was with him when people laughed at the jokes he made in it and teared up at other parts. In 2012, Brian was quoted as saying, “Maybe I’ll narrate a talking book someday. You never know until you try.” I like to believe that his digital stories are his talking books. His stories, read, recorded and narrated with his own voice, are wonderful legacies of this man who was an inspiration to so many.

Read more of Brian’s work and view his digital video stories at: https://briangspare.com/

Nancy Angus is a freelance writer and regular contributor to Bayview. Contact her at nangus@shaw.ca

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