My buddy Brad

Bradley J. Bush

March 11, 1975 – December 24, 2017

My buddy Brad Bush passed away on Christmas Eve 2017. This is his story. This is my story. This is our story, about the greatest friend a guy could ever want.

Brad Bush and me in Champaign (2)
Brad Bush and Reid Wiersema (“The College Years” – circa 1996)

On New Year’s Eve 1996 Brad and I decided to take a little trip south. I was on Christmas break from school while he was on leave from the Army for the holidays. He drove us from our hometown of Lake Zurich, Illinois all the way down to Orlando, Florida. As you’d imagine for a couple of 21-year-olds, mayhem ensued. Brad drove through the night after a pit stop in Champaign, Illinois where the madness started. Brad used to visit me when I was in college quite often, so let’s start there.

Since I was attending the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana at the time, we made our first stop there to stay a night in my apartment. We decided to have some fun while we stayed one more night in the cold winter of the Midwest before heading south for the warm rays of the Florida sun. I recall moving a dumpster in front of a girls’ apartment door and then Brad climbed upon the dumpster where he posed on my bike……but not only that, Brad had to “class it up” by wearing a sports coat for the photo which turned into quite a “Mona Lisa”.

Brad Bush on dumpster (2)
This photo doesn’t do justice to how ridiculous we were that night……or does it?!?

We also destroyed my roommate Raj’s “Washington Redskins” mug. Why, you may ask? More like, why not!? We’re Bears fans, Raj included. So why did he have a Redskins mug anyway? Raj must be racist. Brad decided he wanted to put an end to Raj’s racist ways by destroying said Redskins mug. It was freezing cold and so naturally we went outside, in our t-shirts, to the apartment’s courtyard to partake in some quick skeet shooting. Only we didn’t have a gun, so…..the ‘Skins mug went up and gravity pulled it, all the way down into the concrete. I guess we owe Raj a mug. Don’t worry Brad, I’ll cover it. I owe you one buddy.

Brad Bush destroying mugs
Bye-bye Raj’s Redskins mug!

The next day we proceeded to beautiful Orlando. The problem was we hit some bad weather down around Murfreesboro, Tennessee and luckily Brad was a good driver. Years of practice you could say. (More on that later.) So somehow we arrived in Orlando and of course Brad knew an Army buddy that lived there named Elvis (true story). So we contacted Elvis hoping for a place to stay the night, but after an amazing evening of NYE excitement where Brad introduced us to a few hundred people at an Outback Steakhouse, we arrived late. It was well past 1996 by this point so we slept outside in Brad’s car overnight since we didn’t want to wake up Elvis and his family. I recall waking up in a stupor, sweating profusely from 80 plus degree temps. On New Year’s morning we were invited inside and Elvis and the Santiago family were so nice to us it was unreal. I recall Elvis’s mother serving us orange juice on a tray. Brad loved that part of the story. We both said, “Thank you for your hospitality” and we were on our way. Good people.

Brad Bush NYE 1996
Brad and I with two random people he befriended on NYE ’96. That was his way. If Brad were here he could probably tell you their names, 21 years later.

On New Year’s Day we attended the Citrus Bowl college football game between Northwestern and Tennessee. Peyton Manning and the Vols won 48-28. ‘Twas a beautiful day in Orlando. Bush and I went to so many sporting events over the years it bordered on the extreme. I went to White Sox, Cubs, Bears, Bulls, Illinois, Northern Illinois, Nebraska, and Northwestern games with Brad, on top of that Citrus Bowl and many others that I’ve probably long since forgotten. Did anyone go to more sports events that Brad? He enjoyed the tailgating and meeting people from all over the globe. He ALWAYS found a way to approach random people and become pals with them within minutes.

Brad Bush and Reid at Nebraska at Northwestern2
Nebraska at Northwestern – October 20, 2012

Next up was Epcot Center. Brad loved that place! We created memories and laughter all around the world. In Germany, Brad wanted me to join in on the fun as the German dudes wearing lederhosen went all Oktoberfest and played their song and dance. I hopped in their performance while Brad photographed me making a fool of myself in front of hundreds of vacationers. Think Chevy Chase in “European Vacation”.

Reid in Germany Oktoberfest at Epcot
Brad encouraged me to join in the celebration. I decided to try it. Why not? Brad loved when you would do nutty things that he suggested.

Brad loved getting me to do things out of the ordinary. I would often oblige which is probably why Brad and I got along so well. He pushed me. He was always pushing me to new heights. If we were climbing trees, it was “try going one branch higher”. If it was drinking beers, it was “have one more drink”. If it was sports, it was always “let’s just play one more game”. Brad was challenging. He could be exhausting. He’d push you to the edge, but then he’d always save you before you fell off the cliff. One of the keys to being Brad’s friend was knowing when to say no. You had to be firm…..”No Brad, you’re nuts!” He trusted you and respected you more if you stood up to him. He would finally acquiesce, and then move on to a new interest.

Brad Bush and me at Disney's Fort Wilderness Lodge
Shenanigans at Fort Wilderness Lodge at Disney World – Orlando, FL (New Year’s 1997)

The thing Brad cared about the most on this trip was we had to document our adventures by taking audio recordings with one of those mini-cassette recorders. He thought it would be insanely fun. It would stimulate conversation and create better jokes. Plus, it would simply be hilarious. Most of all, it would be a great keepsake. He was right. I highly recommend it. However, the bad news is I can’t find the tapes! They’re probably lost somewhere in Brad’s garage. Who knows? Maybe I have them and I’ll find them someday. If anyone should find “The Lost Tapes” I’d desperately pay a king’s ransom to recover them and listen to our conversations all over again.

The Lost Epcot
“The Lost Tapes”. Don’t worry, we picked up the recorder, only after it recorded the random PA announcements over the Epcot Center speakers.

We laughed during the entire trip……..and laughed over and over again reminiscing about the memories for the entire 21 years since. After a few days in Orlando, it was time for Brad to drive back alone to the Army base and time for me to fly back home to Illinois. It was one of those truly once-in-a-lifetime trips that I shall never forget. I wish it was endless, but that’s life.

Brad Bush at Epcot

Let me back up and explain our friendship from the beginning. I met Bradley Joseph Bush when we were 5 years old. We lived across the street from each other on Red Haw Lane in Lake Zurich, Illinois. Brad was easily the most unique person I have ever known, by far. He was a fantastic guy. A great friend. A man’s man. He was a character…..and he HAD character. He lived his life to the fullest extent, but he lived by a set of principles. He was disciplined, in many ways. In other ways……not so much. 🙂 He was almost always into mischief, but he had no ill will or mal intent. Brad had a clean heart. A heart of gold you might say. He taught me so much. I learned how to talk to others, how to meet random people, how to make light of things in a sticky situation.

He was easily the most generous person I have ever known. I recall going over to his home at an early age and he would offer me things. I didn’t even understand it. A free candy bar? Why would a kid give somebody else his candy? I couldn’t comprehend it at that young age. I quickly learned that’s just the way Brad was. He simply wanted to be nice. He wanted to be friends. It was in his DNA. That’s how he was from the day I met him 37 years ago. If you said you liked his hat, he’d say, “Hey, you want it?” He wasn’t joking. It got to the point I didn’t want to compliment him on his house or his possessions because he’d always offer them up.

Brad and I were great friends for each other. I was a month and two days older than him. My birthday is February 9, 1975 and Brad’s was March 11, ’75. Brad was adopted and grew up in a single parent home after his parents divorced. His mother Barb Bush loved when Brad and I hung out. So we did spend plenty of time together, along with other neighborhood friends like Dan and Jon Baker. I think it’s fair to say Dan Baker and I knew Brad the best, at least in those early years. In more recent years, I think Todd McKinley was Brad’s best friend, dating back to their days in the Army together. We were all in the brotherhood, as Brad valued those friendships and loyalties to the extreme. He wanted us all to meet each other, become friends with one another, and enjoy each other’s company as much as he did. Brad’s philosophy was, “The more the merrier.”

Growing up we played sports of all sorts, in his yard and in mine. We destroyed so many windows. We broke stuff. We’d hit golf balls down the street, using the road as our fairway. We climbed trees, even though we were both scared of heights, at least that’s what he claimed. Brad used to make me climb the ladder to get the whiffle ball out of the gutter. Then one day years later he calls me and says, “I joined the Airborne division in the Army. I’m a paratrooper. I’m gonna jump out of planes!” He told me he was going to conquer his fear of heights by attacking it head on.

As kids, Brad would climb light towers and satellite towers. I was way too scared and wimpy to climb those towers. Plus, it was illegal. Of course, Brad would defy our better wisdom, and the Lake Zurich police, by climbing them. To him, it was just tomfoolery. Eventually as an adult he climbed those same types of towers, for work, only now they were cellular phone towers. Typical Brad.

As boys in the 80s, we did the usual stuff……collected cards, raced remote control cars, rode our bikes all over town, created games and adventures. I think they call it an idyllic childhood. Looking back, it was all amazing. I’ll cherish the memories. When we would ride our bikes into town we would always stop by B&L Liquors. We would buy sports cards and browse the store. Brad always made it a point to talk to the workers at stores and he ALWAYS bought something. He felt like he was letting them down if he entered their store and did NOT purchase something. Again, his generosity and manners were underrated. It could be a gas station convenience store and Brad would walk in, make sure to say hello to the cashier, and at the very least buy a pack of gum. All of this I observed and held in the back of my brain, and it helped me become the person I am today. Brad was a teacher and a leader, even as boys, whether he knew it or not.

We did plenty of stupid stuff together. Shenanigans galore! Brad was a good driver, as mentioned earlier. Once when we were probably about 12, he convinced me to sit on the passenger seat floor while he boosted himself up with the Yellow Pages to see over the steering wheel. He floored it around the block. Unfortunately he spun out into somebody’s front yard. I’ll never forget him saying, “Is everybody alright?….. Yep? Ok, let’s get outta here!” Then he cruised back into his garage. Nobody knew except us, as far as I know. Our youth was filled with these kinds of adventures, the likes of which Mark Twain wrote about in his fiction. Only these were real.

There were stories of trampolines, mopeds, football, basketball on the driveway (Brad was funny about possession of the ball. When I blocked his shot out-of-bounds, while I was the one that should be celebrating, he’d celebrate and yell, “Yeah! My ball!” He was playing a psychological game where he wanted to turn it into his favor, while making us laugh all the way there), video games in his basement, lightsaber fights with discarded fluorescent light bulbs found in the bank dumpsters (What’s up with those dumpsters kids!?! Don’t play in them!), and dirt bikes. Man those dirt bikes were trouble. We’re lucky we didn’t bite it as kids!

Dan Baker with Brad at Brad’s 40th Birthday Party – 2015

One time Brad and I were hitting golf balls in my backyard out into a field. We destroyed my Dad’s lawn by making big divots, so Brad had an idea. He’d say it just like that too, “I have an idea”. So he pulled out his pocket knife (he always had some sort of knife, one was a brass-knuckles/knife combo his mom didn’t care for too much) and proceeded to our neighbors’ lawn. Brad knew my Dad didn’t get along with these crazy neighbors so he figured, “Let’s kill two birds with one stone. We’ll cut out a big square of their nice grass and re-sod your Dad’s lawn using theirs.” I have to say, it worked perfectly! Problem solved. Brad always had that Army ingenuity.

Brad enjoyed roller coasters such as the “Zipper”. Bush used to take me on the Zipper all the time at LZ’s Alpine Fest. Brad would talk about Alpine Fest year-round. He’d plan around it. The last Alpine Fest I attended with Brad was in 2012. He got me on the Zipper one last time. He knew I hated it but I did it out of loyalty to my buddy. I’m not sure he ever stopped laughing that night. That too was a fantastic evening that many of us shall treasure.

Our last “Zipper” ride together at Alpine Fest 2012.

One of Brad’s favorite stories was the time we made a tackle together on a kickoff for Lake Zurich High School’s football team. I think we were freshmen and we covered this kick and made the tackle on some hoser from Round Lake (I just made up the “hoser from Round Lake” part). The P.A. announcer at Mel Eide Field announced, “Tackle made by the Bears #71 Brad Bush and #11 Reid Wiersema”. (True story!) Brad loved that. He would get misty-eyed when recalling those kind of brotherhood events from our youth. It was indeed kinda surreal when you think about it. Two best friends that lived across the street from each other combine on a tackle and the P.A. announcer tells everybody in the stadium.

Lake Zurich Bears 1989 Freshman football
Brad #71 and Reid #11

Brad had an interest in EVERYTHING. I think it was his nature, but also nurtured by his mother Barb who let him be free. She worked at the library and would bring home books and movies for Brad to enjoy. She wanted him to learn things on his own, to discover the world using his intelligence and curiosity. She promoted his (and our) freedom. Plus, it was probably nice for her to have Brad out of her hair for awhile too. We would spend hours at the library roaming the aisles, investigating every crevice of that library for new stuff we could try out for ourselves. He had at least a phase where he loved snorkeling and scuba diving. He bragged about his watch that could go “20 atmospheres (ATM’s) deep before breaking from the pressure”. Brad loved media, devices, technology, and hardware stores. We would often ride our bikes to True Value Hardware in LZ and spend a long time browsing the store. That was fun for Brad because that’s the way his mind worked. He would get ideas in his head and think about how to jerry-rig his latest invention by using some cheap products you could only buy in hardware stores. I was usually just along for the ride, observing.

Brad was super creative. He liked to create things. He pretended he was a bartender. I recall he always invented his own drinks, making sure to top it off with “a dash of bitters”. He enjoyed seeing what would happen if we were to do this or that. “What would happen if I hooked up this fish to a car battery?” (True story! Ask Dan Baker about that one). He was a curious kid who was like a mad scientist. He had a chemistry set and acted like Dr. Jekyll at times.

Brad loved magic. Big surprise, right? He would learn magic tricks of all types. He would perform card tricks at home and at school. Typically, I was his guinea pig. He’d try out a card trick in his basement and see how I reacted. Did I understand it? Did I get it? Did I laugh? Did it work? Then he’d bring it to school and mesmerize our classmates. His most famous one was a card trick where he had you pick out your card from a deck. Then he’d “magically” throw a card at the ceiling, where it would stick, and then he’d ask, “Was that your card?” Everybody was confused and wondering how the hell did he just do that? How did he know that was my card, and how did he get it to stick anyway? Nuts! He also had this bizarre “chain through the nose and mouth” trick thing. It was more grotesque than the other stuff. You guys know the trick. I believe I own the only evidence of this trick, which I saw him perform a dozen times or more.

Brad Bush chain trick July 1996 - Copy
He snorted the chain through his nose and then pulled it out his mouth. Who does that?……Brad did it.

Brad loved movies. When we were kids his favorites were “Blazing Saddles”, “Trading Places”, “Blues Brothers”, “Running Scared”, “Risky Business”, “Throw Momma From the Train”, and “Coming to America”. He enjoyed Mel Brooks films and John Hughes movies such as “Sixteen Candles”, “Planes, Trains, & Automobiles”, and “The Breakfast Club”. About mid-December Brad just texted me a video of a scene from “Trading Places” that had made us laugh since the 80s. That’s the stuff I’ll miss very much. Just recently Brad was trying to sell me on something called “Movie Pass”. Brad was always interested in the next big thing, the next type of technology, the next thing that would change our lives.

Brad loved music. When we were young it was rap. He loved N.W.A., Ice-T, Ice Cube, Eric B. & Rakim, Kool Moe Dee, and Public Enemy. Then he moved on to reggae. He definitely had a Bob Marley phase. He loved big band music. The Rat Pack! What you thought was dorky, Brad thought was cool. He sold me on most of it. It left me thinking, I could get into that. If he liked it, it must be worth a try. I’ll give it a whirl. Bush loved Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis Jr. He loved alternative, heavy metal, and really all types of music. The Doors. Iron Maiden. Ozzy Osbourne. ZZ Top… he loved those long-haired freaks! He loved Led Zeppelin, George Thorogood, and Lynyrd Skynyrd. He had at least a phase of “Ass Kickin’ Southern Rock”. He obsessed over a band called “The Reverend Horton Heat”…..I never understood that one. He loved the local bands like Cheap Trick and Styx. Many might not know that Brad loved the Gin Blossoms and Jimmy Buffett. He and I would often start singing our own made up songs. The lyrics might take us anywhere, but always to laughter. We had a swell time together. You can see why we got along so well.

Again, he had an interest in everything. If I mentioned a band to him, he’d always say, “I’ll look into it”. Sure enough, months later he’d say, “I bought a CD of that band you mentioned and then I saw them in concert……Dude, AWESOME!” Brad knew how to make you feel good. It was one of his greatest qualities as a friend. He listened. He cared.

I’d like to share the words from a song that I know Brad loved. Brad’s buddies Nick Salado, Todd McKinley, and I listened to Frank Sinatra as we drove around on the day of the funeral. We listened to “The Very Best of Frank Sinatra”. One of our favorites and one that does justice to our friend Brad is “Old Devil Moon”.

“Old Devil Moon” by Frank Sinatra

“I wanna cry, wanna croon, wanna laugh like a loon.

It’s that Old Devil Moon in your eyes.

Just when I think I’m free as a dove.

Old Devil Moon, deep in your eyes, Blinds me with love.”

(Written by Burton Lane and E.Y. Harburg)

Brad loved camping. As we got older, he used to organize these wild camping adventures up in Wisconsin. He’d take his crew up to Devil’s Lake in Baraboo near the Wisconsin Dells. Typically, we’d leave on a Friday night after working at UPS. We’d get there at 11pm or midnight and put up the tents. I remember one time I drove up with another close friend of Brad’s named Brent Barnes. We enjoyed talking together about Brad to see if we shared the same experiences…….because Brad left you wondering, right? “Is he like this with everybody? Do they see the same things that I see?….or am I crazy? Is this guy for real?”

Those camping trips were great times. Once on a Saturday after one night of camping, he drove us to Fort McCoy which was about 70 miles away. It took an hour or two to get there (after getting lost because back in those days you had to read a map, and what’s up with those Wisconsin roads…..”County Road O”?). Why did we go there to Fort McCoy? Nobody knew, but Brad loved Army stuff like that. I think he was trying to recreate a scene from the movie “Stripes” or something. Even when I got frustrated at Brad for some of these (in my mind) ridiculous adventures, he’d always find a way to make it up to me. I recall a particularly memorable night of drinking around the campfire in which we danced like idiots and spat food and beer into the fire while everybody else slept. Think…….the campfire scene in “Dances With Wolves”. I’m not sure I’ve ever laughed harder. Often my head would hurt from all the laughter with Brad.

Brad Bush and Reid7 at Durty Nellie's
Durty Nellie’s – April 9, 2010

Brad loved everything. He had a voracious appetite. He ate big, drank big, loved to smoke a good cigar. He loved women in sundresses in the summertime. He enjoyed golf, fishing, and listening to the radio (he worshipped “Steve and Garry” back in the 80s). Brad loved sports. His favorite baseball players were Andre Dawson, Jim Rice, Nolan Ryan, and Pete Rose. In football, he was a Walter Payton guy. In Chicagoland, we were ALL Payton guys. He loved all the Bears, Coach Ditka, Jim McMahon, and Bo Jackson. In basketball he loved Scottie Pippen and David Robinson. In hockey, he liked Blackhawks goalie Eddie Belfour. In fact, one time we went to get Eddie “The Eagle’s” autograph together at a trading card shop.

Brad Bush, Derek, and me at CharMor
Hijinks on another crazy party weekend in college. My roommate Derek is refereeing while Brian Frank, Brian’s brother, and Lindy Chisamore enthusiastically cheer us on!

Brad enjoyed fine fashion. He was a GQ guy who swore by Brooks Brothers. Brad was the ultimate partygoer. As his buddy Todd told me, he was “gregarious”. That is a great word to describe Bradley. He got the most out of life. If we were giving away awards, Brad might qualify for Best Partier, Most Loyal, Most Mischievous, Most Unique, and Most Generous. Overall, he was simply a GREAT guy.

Brad Bush, the original Baker Mayfield
The “Original” Baker Mayfield – PS I have no idea who that woman is

It was rare when he didn’t show interest in something. If you liked it, he liked it. Maybe he was just being nice, but I think he was honestly intrigued. The thing about Brad was, he wanted you to share in his madness. He experienced so much joy out of the world and wanted you to see it in that beautiful way that he did. He was a one of a kind.

Dan Baker and Brad Bush
Brad with Dan and Jon Baker in our apartment in Champaign, circa 1996.

Another one of Brad’s favorite stories was from a time he visited me at U of I. Are you ready for this one? Are you sure? Maybe I shouldn’t write this one…….

OK, you pulled my leg. One time Brad came down to campus and we went out to party. On this particular night, we decided to try some house parties and fraternity parties. There was this frat party at Sigma Alpha Epsilon. They call themselves SAE’s. So we somehow got in the SAE frat house despite not being officially invited. Brad must have pulled a “President Bush” type ploy and we entered the house. (Ask Todd for more on that one). So I recall being in this SAE library and they had the history of their fraternity in books and photos. So something happened…..I have no idea what made Brad upset but the SAE’s were being jerks and trying to kick us out of their party. So somehow Brad grabs a picture of a famous Illinois SAE alum named Avery Brundage and we ran out of there. As it turned out, Avery Brundage was one of their most famous alums. He was the 5th president of the International Olympic Committee (the IOC) and the only American that ever served in that role. So that photo now hangs in my basement for all to see. It even has a broken glass frame for all to envision the crazy night we spent running away from the SAE’s into Frat Park. (Plus, it provided a great nickname for my niece Avery!……….”Brundage”.) Needless to say, the SAE’s were angry but luckily we escaped. Brad found us a bush (irony!) to hide in to avoid the evil frat boys. PS We also stole the SAE’s “The 1914 Record” which was a yearbook or almanac of their frat. However, I think that book is long gone, burned to ashes, probably at a campfire in Wisconsin. (I wonder if an SAE is reading this right now and plotting revenge……let’s hope not.)

Avery Brundage
The infamous “Avery Brundage” autographed photo as it hangs in my basement in 2018. The plaque reads, “Avery Brundage, Alumni Red Ribbon Society, March 9, 1985.”
SAE at U of I
SAE frat house now (12/30/2017). The library in 1996 had some incredible mementos that Brad felt like borrowing.

Brad was always there if you needed him. He was intensely loyal. I have too many stories to share, for they repeat endlessly in my thoughts and dreams. I still look forward to remembering more stories as they arise in my brain as I wake from my dreams. It’s been over a month since Brad passed away and I still discover new things around the house that he bought for me and my family. He was the most generous person I’ve ever known.

Brad made it a point to never visit empty-handed. He would bring something every single time. It wasn’t always an expensive gift. Rather, it was anything that said, “I was thinking about you and brought you this”. It was a shot glass, a bottle-opener, a hat, a Brian Urlacher Bears jersey for your son, an Illinois Fighting Illini gorilla. We have officially scared every little kid with this Illinois gorilla that moves and plays a short fight song when you touch his hand. Brad LOVED this! My kids and nephews and nieces must all have nightmares over this small, flag-waving gorilla that we would introduce to them as toddlers. They all freaked! Brad laughed so hard, tears in eyes.

Brad Bush, Dan Baker, and Reid at the LZHS 20th Reunion
Dan, myself, and Brad at the LZHS 20th Reunion – 2013

I might add that Bush was underrated with children. He was like your crazy uncle or your jolly grandpa. He was gentle and enjoyed spending time with kids. I think it was because he treated them like people, rather than just somebody else’s kids. It was a special quality of Brad’s, the way he communicated and related to people.

The Illini gorilla: Press his left hand and he’d start waving that flag while playing Gary Glitter’s “Rock & Roll (Part 2)’s Hey” song.

Another story I’d like to share reveals Brad’s intense loyalty. Brad was probably the most loyal person I’ve ever known. One time In 1999 I was on a business trip in Atlanta, Georgia. Brad was at Fort Bragg, NC (if I remember correctly). Anyway, I was lonely and called him and half-jokingly said I needed a wingman that night. It was probably 5pm. Around midnight, I’m roaming a bar in Buckhead and Brad taps me on the shoulder. Unbelievable!……except that with Brad it was VERY believable. This is what he did. Brad had this internal GPS in his brain. He could find you anywhere in the world. He called it Army ingenuity but Brad was ingenious LONG before he entered the U.S. Army.

Brad loved the city of Chicago. He knew all the streets. Again, his GPS brain had all the streets mapped out. He must have spent hours memorizing the road grid because he would say them one after the next…….Grand, Ohio, Ontario, Erie, Huron, Superior, Chicago, Chestnut, Locust, etc. Then he’d always tell a really funny joke about three Chicago street names. 😉 I’m sure you’ve heard it.

Oh yeah, so back to that story. Brad was always the guy you wanted in your foxhole. I was lonely and Brad showed up to help me during a rough time in a big city. He was there for me. What a great couple of nights we enjoyed in Atlanta! That was typical of Bush. He never failed to be there for you if you needed him. I only wish I had been there more for him.

He never really let on that he was struggling. Needless to say, I will always treasure my buddy. He was the greatest of friends and the best of guys. He made me a much tougher person, both physically and mentally. He used to invite me over to his house to play video games. If I won the game, to take out his frustration he’d usually tackle me and then we’d wrestle. Brad wrestled in high school, in case you didn’t know. All that horsing around made me a tougher kid. As I wrote earlier, he was pushing me to my limits. It helped me more than I can put into words.

Brad was funny, tough, and hilarious! He was a lot smarter than he looked. LOL! In fact, Brad was more intellectual than he got credit for. I had many incredible conversations with him over the years. He was brilliant. I mean, who majors in philosophy? People like Brad do. In case you didn’t know, Brad majored in philosophy at Northern Illinois University (NIU). He was a romantic. He was very emotional. Brad was……complex.

Brad giving a “Best Man speech” at the hotel the night before our Wedding – August 4, 2000

Brad was my best man when I got married to Deborah in 2000. As you’d imagine, he made for a great best man. As the years went on, I saw my buddy less often. He knew I was a family man and meanwhile, let’s just say he was off conquering the world. But when we did get together, it was always an incredible time shared between two old friends who knew most everything about each other’s past. The inside jokes never left. They were rarely forgotten, at least by Brad. He had an impeccable memory.

Brad's Wedding
My family at Brad and Peggy’s Wedding – I guess you could say hanging around Brad made an impression on my son Trev. Or maybe Brad spent too much time around 4 year olds. Either way, the childhood antics never left Brad.
Brad and Peggy's Wedding
Brad acting goofy with the flower girls (my daughter Natalie is the tall one) at Brad & Peggy’s Wedding – June 26, 2011

When Brad got married to Peggy in June 2011, it was another incredible time spent together at their destination wedding in Hilton Head, South Carolina. My daughter Natalie was a flower girl. My mom and sister had the pleasure of attending too. A fantastic wedding indeed. Another fun event was Brad’s 40th Birthday Party held at Bob Chinn’s in Wheeling, IL in March 2015. These memories shall last a lifetime.

Brad Bush's 40th Birthday Party
Brad’s 40th Birthday Party – March 14, 2015

Remember how Brad would cry while he laughed? When we were together, half the time he had tears in his eyes from all the laughing. Now we are the ones left in tears.

But try to remember the good times. They fill my heart with warmth. I feel blessed to have known Brad for 37 years. I wish it had been more. I envisioned us goofing around well into our 70s, causing mischief on trips around the globe. After that…..who knows! Can you imagine living in a senior care nursing home facility with Brad?…….. I will surely miss the hijinks. Nonetheless, Brad will live with me and all of us forever.

I believe that God puts certain angels on earth as humans to teach us how to be better people. I believe Brad Bush was one of these angels. Even though Brad lived a short life, it was an extremely thorough 42 years. He got a lot done in four decades. He didn’t sleep much, right? You remember that Army saying, “We do more before 9am than most people do all day”? He took it to heart. Brad got more done in 42 years than most people do in 100 years.

When we went to the Nebraska game at Northwestern in 2012, Brad HAD to tailgate with all the Cornhuskers fans that drove out from Nebraska. It took him approximately two minutes to welcome them to Evanston, Illinois and become best friends with legions of Huskers fans.

What we can all learn from Brad and take with us for the rest of our lives is how to be a better friend. How can we be more generous? How can we be more loyal? How can we take this short time we have on Earth to help others? Brad was that person to lead the way. He was a leader. He led by example. “Following” wasn’t a concept meant for Brad Bush. He would go out of his way to embrace people. He didn’t care if you were royalty or “the help”. Brad had this amazing way of befriending anyone. He would approach bus boys at weddings, custodians at schools, and the quiet kids sitting in the back row at school. He was simply a nice person.

Brad Bush and Todd McKinley at Brad's Wedding
Todd McKinley with Brad at Brad’s Wedding – 2011

So now the show must go on, even without it’s P.T. Barnum. Next time you’re at Epcot Center, go out of your way and join the German dudes singing Oktoberfest songs in their lederhosen. Take a photo near that water fountain with the big globe in the background. Next time you’re on a college campus, get into a frat party and “see what happens”. Next time you’re in an Outback Steakhouse, go out of your way to befriend somebody. Next time you’re in a library, pick up a magic book, or a book about scuba diving. Next time you’re on a trip, take along an audio recorder and record some of your banter. (Trust me, it’s underrated!) Next time you’re having a drink, have another one and toast Brad. And if someone is acting out in the bar, tell them to “Hit the Bricks!” (Thanks Todd……..I’d forgotten that one.) Do it because Brad would’ve done it. Do it for the guy we called Bush.

Some birds aren’t meant to be caged. Brad was one of those birds. You know how you never forget it when you see something rare and beautiful like an eagle? Brad was like an eagle……… an American Eagle ……….. Patriotic ………. Loyal ………… Majestic ……… Unforgettable.

Brad Bush and Reid Wiersema
My personal favorite photo of Brad. A wonderful picture of two buddies on the trip of a lifetime. (Epcot Center – January 2, 1997)


  1. Aww Reid, this is such a good story. Brought tears to my eyes. I will forever remember racing hot wheels down the street or piling pillows at the bottom of his stairs and jumping onto them. Wish I knew him as an adult! Aside from an occasional wave across the street as I pulled into my parents’ driveway, I didn’t see him. Sounds like you guys had some crazy adventures together, but more importantly an amazing friendship!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Paula, Thanks for reading and thank you so much for the comments! Brad was so loyal he always appreciated you and your family. He loved Red Haw Lane and Lake Zurich so much. He wanted to run for mayor one day. Ha! That one makes me laugh out loud!


  2. Well written. Beautiful tribute. Inspiring. A great message to not focus on what is lost, but rather what was gained by Brad being in your life.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so very much Vikki. I’m glad to read your comments because that is exactly what I was hoping for. Brad loved you. He used to talk about you when we were young. He was a special guy so let’s celebrate his life and how we can use it to become better people. Thanks for reading and thanks for the comments. I’m satisfied and happy.


    1. Thanks Cinder-elle. I was happy to share. I hope I didn’t offend anyone but hey…..that’s life. And death is a part of life too so don’t be sad. Celebrate the life and feel blessed and lucky to have known such a great special person. Thank you.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Beautifully said Reid!!!! I miss him dearly. I have grabbed the phone multiple times to send him a text or call him. You captured Brad’s spirit perfectly. Thank you so much for writing this!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Peggy. It means a lot. I’m glad you like it. I was worried I’d get information wrong or offend somebody, so I hope my work paid off. I mean, it was only 6000 words and all, and 6 weeks of strikes and gutters. Feel free to share it with anyone you’d like. Brad was a special guy.


  4. I’m sorry for your loss, Reid. This was a wonderful tribute. Your friendship with Brad and the memories you have reminded me of the bond I share with some of my friends. There’s nothing else like it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Paul. I appreciate you reading it and loved your comments. That was really my goal… remind people to value your friendships. Death is a part of life and rather than feel sorry for ourselves, we should cherish the memories and then use them moving forward for as long as we’re alive.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. What a phenomenal post about Brad. I felt like I had known him for years after reading it. You’ve got a heart of gold my friend. I want you to know that I look up to and respect you very much. God bless you and Brad.

    Sent from my iPhone

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Reid, this was awesome to read and I’m so proud of you for taking the time to write it. Brad truly was an awesome person. I share some of your memories of being at his house and getting into mischief but one of my very special memories is some time I spent with him as a kid one winter, hanging out in the snow fort that was always on our front lawn. For some reason you weren’t out with me, don’t know if you were sick or gone somewhere but Brad and I just talked and played for what seemed like forever one afternoon, just the two of us. I’ve never forgotten it because of how mature he seemed, even though I wouldn’t have been able to use that word or concept at the time but he made me feel so special, not at all like “ok, I’ll play with you only because Reid’s not here”. Your words have made me appreciate him even more, thanks for that!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for those comments. I never knew that story. I’m surprised because I’ve never heard it before, but not surprised at all because that’s exactly the way Brad was. He was so talented at friendships and building relationships. He was easy to bond with. Brad was simply an amazing person. He made a difference with every single person he ever met. I witnessed it firsthand many times and have heard other similar stories. Yours is one of the most unique. I can’t believe I’ve ever heard that. I didn’t remember it, that’s for sure. Wow. Thanks for reading and thanks for sharing your story.


  7. I’m in shock right now. I met Brad on a vacation in California, September 2011. We stayed in touch for almost 6 years. But then, I didn’t get more mails from him… Now I know… You lost your friend. I lost my friend… I am so sorry for your loss, and I am so sad right now.

    I wish you all the best, Reid.

    Love from Hanne, Norway.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Hanne, I’m so sorry that you had to hear about this in this weird strange way. Warm greetings from me to you. Tell me more. Brad was the most unique person I’ve ever known. What a great guy! I would love to hear your story/stories. Thanks for the kind words. I look forward to reading more. Thank you, Reid


      1. Thank you for answering me, Reid. It means a lot. I will tell you more one day. It’s late in the evening here in Norway now, and I am shaking. This is so sad. Do you have an e-mail address I can use for my next post?


        Liked by 1 person

  8. Hi Reid.
    I knew Brad a few years ago and I adored him. I met him in a bar and we had a great time! I was honored to have him call me the next day AND stay in touch for about a year. We met up a few times when he was traveling for work all over the place. I saw him in NH and NJ.. never the states that either of us lived in. I have been through a bit of a hard run myself the last few years. I think the last time he and I were in touch was 2015 or so. I lost my boyfriend to suicide in 2017 and haven’t been able to do much since then.

    I have been thinking about Brad lately with a lot of gratitude and disbelief! He gave me some “hot stock tips” all those years ago.. and glory be to God- they actually panned out! I did a quick Google search of his name this morning just trying to see what he was up to and wept as I read your tribute. He was the best guy. So great. You nailed it. I didn’t know him long or well but I cherished any time I had with him. I can’t believe it took this long for me to find out. He was special. Please take care. Alex. From DE.

    Liked by 1 person

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