Niagara Gazette

Columns

December 1, 2012

LETTERS FROM THE ISLAND: Saying goodbye to the ‘Bro’

Niagara Gazette — Dear Mainland Mourners — It was our Holly who broke the news to us, the night after Thanksgiving, in her living room mid-state. “Oh, Dad,” she said, shaken by what she had just learned in the midst of a joyful holiday romp through Facebook. “Brother Augustine died.” Black Friday, indeed.

Not really. “Bro” had been ill, really ill, although in a performance worthy of a Tony Award, he twice played host to us in his Philadelphia convalesence with cheerful and creative enthusiasm, allowing one of us — Doug, actually — to dreadfully overstay his welcome last March. Doug suspected “Bro” tolerated him only as a pathway to Polly, of whom he was enormously fond.

We last spoke to him about five weeks ago, purposely calling at the moment the head nurse passed his bedside, 10 a.m., and she handed him the phone. Timing is everything, Bro knew.

We met in 1972, both beginning new careers, Doug as entertainment editor at the Courier-Express, “Bro” slapping life into a nascent theater department at Niagara U, a cardboard box full of scripts and resumes standing in for the cradle. A co-ed (that term was OK then) with an eager but professional demeanor called asking if we’d like to review “Guys & Dolls,” which opened our eyes to the joys of collegiate theater.

Later, he would invite our Holly, then 12, to perform as a “no-neck monster” in his cast of “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.” Now, four decades later, she would reminisce on his kind indulgence but mostly, how much the experience had turned her on to theater, even if she didn’t take it up as a profession. “Look at how many people he did that for,” she said, “and how many of them then passed it along themselves. How many lives did he affect for the better? Thousands, maybe.”

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