Brians, Craig Leonard

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Craig L Brians, Assoc Professor, Political Science

Craig Leonard Brians, born 17 May 1962, passed away suddenly on Sunday, 10 November 2013. He was out working in the sunny yard, in view of our beautiful mountains, with our 9-year-old, Nick. He was clearing the Fall leaves and readying us all for the winter days ahead.  He always was a planner, our Craig.

Craig was a native Californian, born in Hollywood and raised in Hollister. He was born while his mother was studying Library Science at UCLA, which apparently marked him for academia, despite his best efforts to avoid it. He grew up on his parents’ organic farm, which is where he learned how to fix anything and everything—one of his many virtues that made me the luckiest wife around. He adored animals, especially the draft horses and the goats, who were his friends. He graduated from San Benito High School in 1979 and went to college at Fresno State (“Go bulldogs,” he might want me to inject here.  I hope I am remembering the right mascot). He dabbled in radio, and then went into law enforcement. He was a police officer for the Fresno Police Department, a calling that he was born to fulfill.  He loved it and lived it with every fiber of his being. Why?  “I knew I could help people,” he told me.  “I had the ability to go into any terrible situation and contain it and make it better, even if only for a while. I could help.” He was perfectly comfortable in the most horrific situations, in full control.  Until a warehouse fence collapsed beneath him when he was on a call, and he fell and broke his back.  He suffered paralysis and learned to walk again, but finally was forced to admit he could not continue his passion of police work. He had to take disability retirement, and he was devastated. He would spend every minute of the next twenty-five years in severe pain, which he masked with his beaming smile and outgoing chattiness. Kindness, intrinsic to his nature, was also his pain control.

brians craig leonard

Never one to lie around (even if forced to by a broken back), he got his M.A. and Ph.D. at the University of California at Irvine while raising his two amazing daughters with his former wife Susan Diane Lynch, and then became a Political Science professor at Virginia Tech. There he got to combine his fascination with Political Science and his love of radio by doing election-day commentaries for our local public radio station, WVTF. He published many articles and co-authored numerous editions of the textbook, Empirical Political Analysis: Quantitative and Qualitative Research Methods in Political Science. He was a spectacular and utterly devoted teacher who spent endless hours helping his students advance their careers. His job at Tech brought us the lucky day when I (his wife) met him in the elevator, and when he finally got around to asking me out a year later, we fell in love. Craig knew more about love than anyone I have ever known – how to love courageously, patiently, tenaciously, gently, insistently, steadfastly, and absolutely.  He healed me, loved me, and gave the world and me four beautiful, smart, kind, embracing, incredible children.

Craig was preceded in death by his adored cousin, Cherie Rudoll, his adored Grandma Edna and Grandpa Cecil Leonard, and his beloved Grandma Ruth Brians and Grandpa Enoch Brians. He is survived by his wife, Jessica Aileen Folkart, of Blacksburg, VA, and his precious children who were his reason for living, Ruth (Patrick) Ondelacy of Las Cruces, NM, Martha Brians of Townsville, Australia, and Nicholas and Lucas Brians of Blacksburg, VA.; his parents, Robert Brians and Janet Leonard Brians of Hollister, CA; his brother, Grant (Juliette) Brians of Hollister, CA.; his forever brother-in-law-and-best-friend, Daniel (Elizabeth) Lathrop of Silver Spring, MD.; his former and forever in-laws, Ron and Paula Lathrop (she of the succulent tomatoes) of Martinez, CA.; a passel of nieces and nephews that he cherished; and the officers he loved and admired at the Fresno PD. We are boundlessly grateful that we got him for the time we had, no matter how brief.

Our family sends our heartfelt gratitude to the emergency rescue squad, Blacksburg police officers, and our dearest friend and doctor, Mike Kennedy, who all tried so hard to save him and could not have done more for us.

Visitation will be at McCoy Funeral Home, 150 Country Club Drive SE, Blacksburg, Wednesday, 13 November, from 5:00 – 7:00 p.m. The funeral will be held at Luther Memorial Lutheran Church, 600 Prices Fork Rd, Blacksburg, this Thursday at 10:00 a.m. Burial will be beside a weeping cherry tree in full view of our beautiful mountains, at the Memorial Gardens of the New River Valley, 2551 N. Main Street, Blacksburg, this Thursday at 2:00 p.m. All are welcome to any or all events.

In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to WVTF public radio, in memory of the happy hours Craig spent there, or the Blacksburg Interfaith Food Pantry. One of the last things Craig and I talked about was how saddened and concerned we are that the need for food donations has nearly doubled there in the past year. As ever, Craig wanted to help.