"If something comes to life in others because of you, then you have made an approach to immortality." -- Norman Cousins
I lost a friend today. Not just a friend, but a very special friend. His name was Bill Brumley. If you've lived in Concord for any length of time, you likely ran across Bill or heard of him.
He earned his living as a real estate broker, but it was his involvement in the community that he is best known for. And he loved his city.
My wife and I have known Bill for more than 20 years, but disagree on where we first met him. I say it was at church and she maintains it was at some community function. She's probably right.
Bill never ran for public office nor was he interested in the limelight. But he was appointed to countless civic and church boards and committees. I never knew him to turn down a request for help.
So what singles him out as a "special" friend? Bill had a fatherly face and disposition to match, an engaging smile, and was downright honest -- qualities I look for in choosing friends.
A native of Arkansas, Bill retained his southern accent along with vivid memories of growing up in the South. He loved telling about the time an elderly gentleman in coveralls called to him as he was exiting a merchandise store in his hometown and asked how he was treated inside. Turned out that man was Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart.
Bill grew up in the South at a time when whites had wanton disdain for blacks. Bill's father strongly opposed such acts and admonished his children that treating blacks in such a manner would not be tolerated in his house.
I sensed that Bill was much like his dad. I never knew him to have a mean bone in his body. Bill didn't shy away when asked to support controversial causes.
He took an active role in his church to support gay rights.
Bill spent more than 16 years as member and chair of various municipal bodies, among them the Design and Review Board and Planning Commission, and was recognized by the City Council for his contributions and tireless work.
In addition, he volunteered as a driver for Caring Hands and at the county homeless shelter serving dinner to the residents.
Bill worked weekends as a custodian at Pixie Playland. He confided to me that he intended to speak to his boss about a raise.
It so happens his boss, Cindy, is his daughter and also proprietor of Pixie Playland, and that he really didn't expect a raise as he'd been working free the entire time.
Besides, it's a wonder she made any money as Bill handed out complimentary ride tickets to every child, including my grandson, telling them he'd found the tickets while sweeping up the grounds.
Six years ago, Bill asked if I would arrange a breakfast meeting with Dick Allen, then a board member of Mt. Diablo School District, regarding a school issue. I don't recall what we talked about, but we enjoyed each other's company so much so that we decided to meet on a regular basis.
Bill seemed the hardiest of Dick and me. After all, he walked two miles every morning. But he slowed down after suffering a stroke in 2010 and quit altogether when his walking partner died a year later.
For the past three years we were meeting regularly at Min's Cafe until this past March when Bill was hospitalized for a condition that left him unable to speak audibly or move about without assistance.
Despite his handicap, Bill looked forward to our breakfasts and rejoined us a couple weeks later.
He took his usual seat, ordered his usual breakfast, and cleaned his plate before hugging Min and Racheal, his favorite waitress, goodbye. No one suspected that would be his final farewell.
A devout churchgoer, Bill was one of the longtime leaders and a regular at the 9 a.m. service. I remember as a child getting a star each time I attended Sunday school.
Bill made it to church those last few weeks despite his poor condition. I'm sure he left behind cartons of attendance sheets filled with stars in his bedroom closet.
I've met a lot of folks in my lifetime whom I consider dear friends, and I expect to meet a lot more before my time is up. But my friendship with Bill, now that was special!
As someone once wrote: "A true friend is the best possession."
Conact Eizo Kobayashi firstname.lastname@example.org.