The Measure of a Man

The measure of a man. 

While I am familiar with the phrase, I hadn’t given it much thought until my favourite uncle, Bud Branson, passed away this week of cancer. Although he lived with verve and joy until the very end, it still seems his life was cut far too short and many are left to mourn his loss.

While thinking about my Uncle Bud, it occurred to me, that the measure of a man is ultimately determined by those who are left to mourn. 

So, while it may be that Bud Branson was neither famous or infamous, his wife, three daughters, seven grandchildren, brother, sister, nieces and nephews, cousins and many friends and colleagues, won’t find it difficult at all to speak to the measure of this man. After all, at the end of the day, what matters most is how one touches the lives of the people around you. 

And touch our lives he did.

Even as a young child, I remember that it was Uncle Bud who brightened our lives with his energy and enthusiasm.

He was always the uncle who sat down on the floor to play and make us laugh at family gatherings. In an era when many adults ignored the kids, he always talked and connected to us on an individual level and made us feel important.

He was also terrific in terms of modeling respect and thoughtfulness for others. While it was typical in those days for clean up at family gatherings to be left to the females, he would make his mother and the other women sit, while he immersed himself in the dishpan washing up and putting away. He made it seem like such fun, we all wanted to help.

Before he had children of his own, he was our very own “fun factor”.  I remember him bringing my older brother and me a giant stuffed giraffe on wheels. For years, we took turns pulling one another around the neighbourhood on the back of that darn giraffe. Sometimes we were part of a circus, a Tarzan episode, or a bizarre game derived from the depths of our imagination. Who but an Uncle Bud would have known the play value of a goofy giraffe?

Valuing family as he did, Uncle Bud, was also the keeper of the memories. While definitely not always an ace photographer, some of our best family photos and movies exist because he understood their importance. I’m grateful that he did.

He also had the makings of a clown. Although I’m still not sure how it came about, he and my brother once rode in the Grape and Wine Festival parade to show the history of bicycles. While my brother rode his own bike to show modern day cycling, my uncle’s bicycle came from the museum and was one of the first ones built. It was a challenge to ride and I can still recall him perched up over what was probably a five foot high front wheel, struggling to hang on, and making everyone laugh.

Throughout the years, he stayed close to our family, eventually even serving as the master of ceremonies at my wedding. And, while it likely wouldn’t win any literary awards, he wrote a poem that touched my heart.

Throughout his entire life, Uncle Bud maintained a physically active lifestyle. He skied and played tennis in his younger years, and then switched to golf and bowling. Playing in a number of bridge leagues assured his mental agility.

Although Uncle Bud always brought a sense of fun, there was a serious side as well. He graduated from the University of Toronto and had a distinguished career as an engineer at Abitibi, Monsanto and Canadian General Tower. Although he took his job seriously, he once gave me some advice during a time when I was struggling with my own career choices. Although he was in his fifties at the time, he told me to relax because it would all work out. After all, he said, he still didn’t know what he wanted to be when he grew up.

Ironically, I think it was after he retired that Uncle Bud may have found his true calling. As a volunteer, he served as the chair of the Halton Region Senior games. There, his love of sports, organizational skills and ability to work with people were all put to good use.

Like many others, I am so very sad to have lost Bud Branson. He was a kind and caring man who loved life, his friends, and more than anything, his family. By any yardstick used to measure, he was a fine man who will be missed by all who had the honour of knowing him. What could be more important than that?

Love you Uncle Bud.

Posted on 07-31-07

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