Friday, December 14, 2007

Brian Mangardi, RIP

This is a tough post to write. Today I got two emails from old friends in college informing me of some terrible news: Brian Mangardi passed away on Wednesday. Friends say he experienced some chest pains playing basketball on Tuesday, and his parents found him the next day ... how awful must that be. Too soon for this one.

Update: Tymer's thread on Buckyville. If you knew Brian, a must-read.

Can't say that I've been in touch with Gardi much since college, although the one time we did connect was terrific. Last April, after finishing Crazylegs at Camp Randall, I was taking the timing chip out of my shoe and heard a "Hey Tappa!" Turned around and it was Gardi. We talked a little about how life was going, and I was taken aback by how similar he looked to
the day we moved into Sullivan Hall in 1994 - check out the picture I found of him. It was easily the highlight of my weekend, told everyone how I'd seen Gardi.

Here's what else I know about Gardi:

-He was very smart, good at math. At Crazylegs he told me he was into financial planning; I was envious, cool line of work.
-He was a fantastic athlete. He gave me better racquetball games than anyone (apologies to Jon Thomas and Butch), was a great basketball player, and played a key role on the Bryan Ice intramural football team. (What a horrible name!)
-He had a laugh that you never forget. My description won't do it justice, but it was like a machine gun clogged with molasses filmed in super slow motion.
-He was a great Brewers fan. One time we were sitting around our dorm talking '87 Brewers with my friends from West Bend, and we got to talking about Juan Nieves' no-hitter. Everyone remembers Robin Yount's dramatic catch at the end, but Gardi's favorite moment was a big catch by Jim Paciorek - or, as he pronounced it, Jim PAH-Chore-Wreck! And the catch, as Gardi said, as "relatively in-sig-ni-fi-cant at the time."
-He had a great group of friends from Middleton that made a West Bender feel welcome in their town, including his freshman and my sophomore roommate, Denis Krull.
-He was a great critic of What's on Tapp. When it was good, we would discuss what was going on in Badger sports. When it was bad - during my general column days of autumn '97, I once wrote a forgettable column about going to the dentist, ugh - he let me know about it.

Thinking about Gardi has brought back some great memories, many listed above. I can see the Sullivan Hall room he and Denis shared, across from mine and Butch's. They didn't have a carpet or lofts; you could see the basketball courts and IM football fields out their window. In general it takes me back to Madison in 1994-95, and what a special place it is for those of us who were privileged enough to attend school there.

Olson and I were talking once about what it would be like to live in Madison after graduation, and he thought it might be a downer; yeah, you're in a great place, but you're an adult with responsibilities, and you're not surrounded by a group of like-minded homeboys with whom you play out your youth in spectacular style. Let's say Gardi and I both lived in Middleton and worked for the same company - it's not like we could call it a day, play ball, and zone out drinking Busch Light and playing Madden '94 until 12:30 a.m. That's part of growing up, and this stage of life is very cool for its own reasons ... but what a four-year ride.

This sucks. People like Gardi shouldn't be dying. I believe he is the first college or high school friend of mine to pass ... are we really to that stage in our lives? When did that happen?


Corby said...

That is terrible news. The very first thing I thought of when I started to read your post Scott was his laugh and for whatever reason he ALWAYS put a smile on my face. I did not know him well, but that I remember clearly. A real loss at such a young age.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for writing this. His obit didn't do him justice in the least.

I know exactly what you are talking about when it comes to being enthusiastic about sports. When we went out for drinks we would have to sit somewhere where he was facing a TV to watch the Brewers. I know nothing about baseball so I always asked a lot of questions during the game which he never had a problem answering. In fact he seemed delighted to answer all of my silly questions.

BAM got me back into running last summer. We ran a couple Madison area fun runs together. He always ran beside me in the races even though he could have blown by me and left me to huff and puff alone.

He also loved the Simpson’s and owned many season box sets of which I would borrow and watch straight through - then we would stay up late talking about them and laughing like dorks. Sometimes we would even talk on the phone and watch an episode that was showing on TV so that we could laugh at everything together. Talk about a couple of dorks. ;)

Jason Speich said...

Thanks for getting this rolling. I worked with Brian at his first Financial Advising job and got to be good friends with him.

Words cannot do BAM justice, but I will pick a few that come to mind:


Good luck to all who knew him in getting over this terrible loss. I know it will take me quite some time.

denis krull said...

Scott, thanks for the nice summary. You really nailed the laugh... We will all miss him.

bbrye said...

Very nice post about Gardi. I haven't seen much of him since high school, except for once a year at the annual Middleton alumni basketball tournament, and I had almost forgotten his laugh. That is, until you described it perfectly and brought it all back. He was a great guy and will be missed by all. This year's tourney definitely won't be the same.

Joel Peterson said...

Hello to Scott and all the other Sullivan Hall guys. I just heard about this today from Vik Naik, and it is incredibly sad to have lost a great person like Gardi. He was a terrific athlete, and always could bring a smile to your face with that famous laugh.
It's sad that we lose contact with each other, and are only reminded of good people like Brian when something tragic happens.
I wish that we could all hear his laugh again...

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