My brother Dale died Saturday morning, June 3rd. He was 10 years older than I am. When I was younger, I remember him seeming larger than life. He was a great athlete. His skills on the Coolspring Softball field behind the Old Roberts Tavern are legendary. Back in the 80’s, he had this long hair and it would just flow out of his ball hat and dance in the wind as he ran the bases or caught a fly ball. Picture the Saturday Night Fever John Travolta in camo and a ball hat. That was my brother Dale. In my young eyes, he just looked cool and that look worked for him so much that he decided to keep it even when it went out of style 30 years ago. But, it was him. The long hair kind of became a trademark. The bandana around his head, or "do-rag" as they're called in Uniontown … a trademark. The camo, the boots ... a trademark. It's just was who he was.
Dale was a very simple guy. There are some lyrics in the Leonard Skynard song Simple Man that say “Take your time, son. Don’t live too fast.” That was Dale. He was a simple guy. He loved Kim, his wife of 32 years. He loved his kids. He loved his grandson and nephews and nieces. He was a proud American and about as red, white, and blue as they come. But, even though he was red, white, and blue …he bled black and gold. He was passionate about the Steelers, the Penguins, and the Pirates and could talk or complain about Pittsburgh sports as long as you’d let him. And, for the record, he is probably still ticked that the Pirates traded Andrew McCutchen.
He found pleasure in the simplest of things. He loved to be outdoors. He loved to collect things. He loved to hunt and was a great shot. He also loved to take care of animals. It would not be uncommon to go to his house and see turkeys, chickens, and cats following him around the yard. He was the "animal whisperer" or as someone else described him: the "critter caller." My brother had a real rough exterior, but on the inside he was as soft and tender as they come.
When I was younger, Dale was very much larger than life, but that was because of what he could do physically. For the past few years, though, he had been suffering from Rheumatoid Arthritis and that caused him to deal with severe chronic pain. But, it was then that he truly became larger than life because I began to see his character as a man shine. Even with the pain, he still worked hard. He was just a hard-working, blue-collar type of guy who did what he needed to do to get the job done.
He was a painter, and a darn good one. Give me the same brush and paint as my brother and put us side by side on a wall and his side would always look better ... always. He was just good at what he did. I'd love to know how many square feet of Uniontown, PA, he painted ... homes, businesses, parks ... nothing was safe from his brush. His handiwork is all over our hometown.
That would be a good way to live life, as well ... to touch the lives of people in such a way that the marks of your life are left all over the place ... to live in such a way that no one would be safe from your kindness.
Dale was a good man. He was rough on the outside, but very tender on the inside and I'm glad he was my brother. He will be missed.