Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Cully and the Facts of Life

I got the news about it over the weekend and it was very sad, indeed. My old friend Brad Culligan, the first new friend I made at St. Mary's School when I arrived as a 7th grader in the fall of 1975, had died in a house fire in Ashland, Wisconsin.

The details sound pretty grim, but the discussion of Cully was something else:

Barbara Storm is secretary of the board of directors for Genesis 1990 Inc. — a support center for those suffering from mental illness. Culligan ran the center's soup kitchen.

"Brad was the most beautiful person," Storm said. She had worked closely with Culligan the last four years. "He was a man who could not stand to see other people suffering."

She said Culligan would go to shut-ins in the neighborhood, bringing them donations.

"He was always going above and beyond the call of duty because he loved
people so much," Storm said.

I have an indelible memory of Cully, which dates back to that fall of 1975. St. Mary's was a new school for me and, at first, it wasn't an easy place for a new kid to navigate. Cully went out of his way to make me comfortable and we would often walk home together after school, as his house was on the way to mine. But what I remember is a conversation I had with him as walked along in Lutz Park, which runs along the Fox River and was in between his house and mine.

At that point I was 11 years old and my dad hadn't quite gotten around to telling me "the facts of life," so to speak. Cully and I started talking about a few things and it came out that I had no idea about why boys and girls might like each other. So I remember him saying, "Mark, I don't know why you don't know this stuff, but I'm going to tell you." And he did, but without any sniggering or locker room patter. Cully was about a year older than me, but that didn't make him an especially worldly fellow at the time. But he knew exactly what to say and how to say it. But I do remember that I was somewhat amazed that people would actually want to do the things he described.

They always warn parents that if you don't tell your children about the "facts of life," that the inevitable result is that they will learn it from someone else, probably out on the street somewhere. Turns out that they were right -- that's how it happened to me. But I don't feel like I necessarily missed anything by finding out at least some of these great mysteries from Brad Culligan. If you're going to learn the facts of life, and it's inevitable that you will, someone like Cully is the person you want. And it's hardly a stretch to say that the example of Brad Culligan's life in Ashland is one that provides an even more important lesson than a 12-year old kid's discussion of comparative anatomy.

Rest in peace, my friend.


Chuckwagon Boy said...

Sorry about your loss, Mark. Cully sounds like he was a wonderful guy with a caring heart.

Gino said...

my condolences as well.

sounds like a cool guy, and its a good thing you met him before you met Mrs D.

CousinDan 54915 said...

God bless him and his family.