Brian signed up in the vendor program in October 2007, but is only now debuting regularly as a vendor on the 16th Street Mall and Court St. He was born to an Irish Catholic family in Lockport, NY, thirty miles from the Canadian border. He was the eighth of nine children. Brian was born with a heart defect, and was kept indoors to stay “healthy” until the age of ten. “I had a lot of catching up to do! I rode a bike to get healthy!” His father, a career fifth grade school teacher, supported the family until the children got older, when his mom began to work at the local hospital, Lockport Memorial, in house keeping. At age thirteen, Brian became an avid track and field runner specializing in the, “Hop, Skip, Jump.”
In high school, Brian found a little trouble, like so many kids of that age, and left high school early. He began working installing carpeting and flooring, and at eighteen, he left New York for St. Petersburg, Florida, craving warmer weather. Of course there was a girl involved, but again, with kids that age, it’s nearly always fleeting. Brian stayed a year, working the whole time, and at 19, he returned to New York. He got a job in the same hospital with his mom. His brother Dave also worked in that department and Brian took his position when Dave became the manager.
At age 20, Brian joined the Air Force. He was a specialist in air crew life support systems, building and maintaining all the pilot safety mechanisms on a plane: parachutes, helmets, oxygen masks, etc. When asked if his work ever helped save a pilot, he smiled and said, “thank goodness, none of them ever had to try them! Those were some really good people I worked with!” He was stationed in Upstate New York, and then signed on for an extended service to be served in Okinawa, Japan. He was able to see all of the Orient, claiming Korea was his favorite because of local food.
When he returned, he moved to Denver to be close to his sister, Karen. For the first few years, he worked in construction, delivering materials. He then worked as a painter for three years, and followed that with a job at an upholstery company. They trained him from the bottom up in every aspect. Becoming a master, he worked there for fourteen years until 2006 when he had a seizure and possible heart attack. He could no longer deliver or work some of the machinery safely, and he was forced to change work.
He went back to day labor, just trying to keep above water. It was scary. “Some days, I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it or not,” he said. Working with two temp agencies, Brian plowed through until 2007 when he went into full heart failure. He was hospitalized for over a month and he began the process of applying for disability. In 2008 he received aid and a pace maker, but most importantly, he got back together after a short break with his love, Manuela Shaw.
You might know Manuela from 16th Street and Tremont; she’s Vendor #12. They began dating in 2000—a storyline we can’t leave out! Introduced by Bruce Wright, Vendor #1 and VOICE Board Member, Brian has found his love. Through working at the VOICE together and saving their money, they’re working on getting married. Brian’s goals include getting into the 300 Club and furthering his life with Manuela. “The VOICE gives some people who can’t go out and do other jobs a way to make money. It gives them, and me, a sense of purpose,” he said. And Brian’s purpose is Manuela. •