A few days ago my brother called. He said he had seen a news story that reported a 61-year- old man had been hit and killed by a car, while crossing a street in Roswell Georgia. The man's name was Brian Farnsworth.
My brother Michael and I had grown up in the Buckhead section of Atlanta and pretty much every day we walked across Roswell road and went to the Northside YMCA, where we played basketball, ping pong, swam and spent countless hours chatting with the people who worked there.
I remember one day in 1977, while I was standing around at the front desk, flipping my basketball around in my hand, talking to Stan or Robert or possibly one of the three Sullivan brothers who worked at the Y, (Scott, Duke and Mark) and someone came in and said that Elvis Presley had died.
The YMCA employee I got to know the best was a big, hulking, quite giant of a guy named Brian.
Brian had a deep booming voice and he stood about six three or four and he looked like he had probably played football at some point, judging from his size.
Brian was so shy and quite that you could overlook him completely. But pretty soon my brother kept telling me how funny he was and I kept going back to talk to him, like a moth to flame. And Brian was funny, very funny. And extremely smart.
He said he was working on a novel. From what I recall, the story line was sort of a futuristic fantasy, in which professional wrestling was called "Rehearsed grappling." There was also a super hero character in the novel named "Kayo Macho."
Sounded like a hell of a tale.
Brian also would affix the name "Joe" in front of someone's most obvious feature, as in "Joe Nobody," or Joe Out Of Shape," or "Joe Money Bags." I still use the "Joe" thing to this day, thanks to Brian.
Pretty soon Brian started taking me, along with other friends, to Atlanta Hawks games, at the Omni arena. We must have gone to twenty games together, over the course of two or three seasons. Sometimes Brian's brother Richard would go to the games. Once I went to a game with Brian, Richard and their father.
God, did we have fun! The Hawks of the late 1970s weren't great, but they were good and getting better. I can remember it like it was yesterday, seeing the Hawks, with players like John Drew and Tree Rollins and "Fast" Eddie Johnson, going up against teams like the Philadelphia 76ers, and guys like Dr. J and Darryl Dawkins.
When the Lakers were in town, I even snuck onto the floor, and when the players were coming out for warm ups I approached Kareem Abdul Jabbar and got a fist bump from him as I looked straight up. Kareem seemed quite and shy, kind of like Brian.
After a while, Brian stopped working at the Y and we fell out of touch. But I never forgot about Brian and how much fun we had together.
So when my brother told me about the news story, I hoped that it was a different Brian Farnsworth who had been hit by the car. But the age sounded about right.
I Googled "Brian Farnsthworth," and checked Facebook. There were several Brian Farnsworths on Facebook, none was the Brian.
Then yesterday my brother called. He said he had called Brian's brother Richard and yes, it was Brian who was hit by the car. Richard told Michael about the memorial service to be held in Brian's honor. Richard said that from what he had been told, Brian most likely never knew what hit him and did not suffer.
Brian Farnsworth was a kind, gentle, funny, smart, wonderful guy, and I'm glad I was lucky enough to know him.