We met for the first time during a business trip to New York. I don't remember what I thought about him; he quickly identified me as a young man in love (I had just gotten engaged). He must have seen something in me that I didn't even see in myself, some potential for growth.
Brice treated me like a younger brother. A former Naval aviator and firefighter, I found his stories endlessly fascinating. We found that we shared some common beliefs. From these grew common bonds. Both of us were natural pranksters, but he was a lot better at it than I was.
Our friendship grew over the next four years from telephone calls and occasional exchanges of correspondence. Mostly, we talked about how tough it was to make the higher-ups focus on the things we thought were important. We took pride in being fellow sufferers.
We next got the chance to work together in 1983. A contractor at the project where I worked had an opening for a training manager; they needed a guy to come in and straighten out a thoroughly bollixed-up situation. I called him and asked if he would be interested in applying for the job. He gave me the go-ahead and I passed his resume on to the appropriate folks. In due course, they brought him on board. Within six months of him arriving at the project, the contractor's program was straightened out and his managers identified him as a go-getter. They tentatively identified him as the guy to go and start up a new business line, operating out of their Denver offices. He returned my earlier favor by asking if I'd be willing to go with him. I gave him an affirmative answer. A change in business conditions scotched that opportunity, but our friendship had bonded both on professional and personal levels.
The ironic thing is that our periods of working together directly only amounted to about three years of the thirty-five that we knew each other. But we had the kind of relationship that we could talk, end a conversation, and pick it up three months later exactly where we left off. When I started my own business, his sage counsel saved me a lot of headaches.
He'd had to slow down in recent years. Diabetes set in. He found himself no longer able to spend long periods on the road. He continued to publish guidebooks for the training business, even after a stroke. His greatest joy, though, was to spend time with his wife Kathy, his kids Ian and Kaley, and his grandchildren.
The news that he was in the hospital suffering from congestive heart failure sent me into a spin. "This can't be," I thought. "Hell, he's only 66." Since both his parents lived well into their 90s, I figured it was just another crisis that he'd pull through. Alas, under the unfair rules of life's lottery, it was not to be. When his heart stopped, a hole opened in the hearts of many of us who knew and loved him.
There's far more to say than I have room for at this point. I'll have to get by without his friendly ribbing which, in an oddball way, was something I really used to enjoy. When I think of Brice, the only words that come to mind are from Chaucer: "He was a parfit gentil knight." Adieu, my friend.