On the loss of our friend Brian

(Brian back row, first on left…  from the Rockford Labor Day parade)

My heart hurts tremendously tonight over the loss of Brian.

I went for coffee with my friend Brian Leaf once. He worked nearby at the Rockford Register Star. I met him through Rockford United Labor, where he would go and update all of the local labor unions on his work fighting for an initial collective bargaining agreement for his fellow union members. At Wired, near City Hall and the Register Star office, he was a celebrity. Every time we started a conversation fragment or thought, someone would chime in and interrupt. Someone would have to say hello. Someone would have to talk about this event or that story. Everyone knew him, and everyone wanted to talk with him.

I walked with him down a stretch of state street once, near the Register Star office. People actually honked at him and yelled out of the cars as we walked. He garnered that much attention but still he made you feel special when he talked with you, and he made you feel like you mattered, probably because to him you did. Everyone did.

I’m a little lost tonight.

How odd I think, to have just seen someone and spoken with him and then suddenly know that he is no longer on the earth with you. How odd to feel a sudden sense of loss and injustice so quickly and swiftly, so finite and cruel.

I believe things have to matter.

I believe things have to matter. Life has to have meaning. A series of events left and right all culminating to the very breath and blood in veins running deep. Life has to have meaning and when it does not have meaning we have a responsibility to assign meaning to the things that life has become.

I last saw Brian at the Rockford Womens March. We hugged. I told him we missed him. I told him we would have to take him for a drink. We talked about how good it was to see each other. We talked about how much we liked our friend Max. We talked about how impressive the march turnout was. We talked.

So my heart aches tonight. I ended the evening with union leaders I love and we talked about the loss of our friend; his witty sarcastic droll, his kind-hearted sense of humanity, his talented reporting skills, his love of Rockford.

We’ll move forward eventually, I know. This hurt will subside, and left behind will be the mark of this man who gave his beautiful heart and soul to our community.

Anyhow, like many tonight I’ll have a glass of bourbon in his honor and I’ll hold my life a little closer, knowing that every moment is fleeting and every thing will have to matter.

Thanks Brian. We’ll miss you.

Published by


Sara Dorner is a labor representative and community activist living and working in her hometown of Rockford, Illinois. Her two young children keep her busy and make life fun!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *