By Stephen Brown (5K Coordinator)
Brad Schoener was a music director in the Upper Darby Pennsylvania school district for 25 years. He lost a five-year battle with cancer, but not before having an amazingly positive impact on countless lives of people of all ages. Brad was loved everywhere he went and helped shape the future paths of so many children through his passion for music and his ability to bring out that passion in his students. I was fortunate to have known Brad on a couple of levels and have reflected a few of my thoughts.
To say that Brad Schoener was loved is an understatement. Brad radiated passion, commitment, dedication, and joy for his kids and music with every fiber of his existence. There was a piece of Brad left behind in everything that he did, and he left an imprint on every person that he touched; he touched thousands upon thousands. He had an aura. You could feel it when he walked into a room with his head held high or took his position in front of his bands. You could see it in his smile. You could see it in his ponytail, and you could see it in the funky socks he wore for performances.
When Brad was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, we saw a man who looked straight down the barrel of the gun of his cancer. We saw a warrior who ferociously battled an illness tooth and nail with everything that he had. Brad may have taken some hard hits, but he delivered even greater ones. He kicked cancer square in the face and did damage to his opponent … repeatedly. We saw a man unleash the strength, conviction, and fortitude of a gladiator. When I was diagnosed with leukemia in 2006, we shared our appreciation for our lives and the people in them. We discussed everything from diets and support systems to doctors and drugs and I got a closer look at just how powerful this man was. And through it all, his passion and commitment for the things that he loved – his kids, and his music, never wavered. With each knockdown, Brad bounced back up higher, stronger, and with even greater belief in the possibilities.
Two years ago, Brad approached me with the goal of wanting to do a triathlon. He knew this was my love and came to me for tips, suggestions, and training advice. I set him up with everything that I thought he needed, including entry into the Avalon Islandman sprint distance triathlon. I was overjoyed at the opportunity of being able to give something back to the guy who, as a band director, had given so much to my own daughters and who had enriched our family’s lives with his gifts. My wife and I were at the 2007 Avalon Islandman both as volunteers and as supporters of Brad. We saw him multiple times throughout the race and each time we did, we saw a smile on him from ear to ear. It was yet another example of Brad taking on a challenge and devouring it with the same lust and drive in which he lived his life. The experience was so positive for him that he came back again to race in 2008, significantly bettering his overall time and placement in the race.
Although a loss like this is painful, we can’t lose focus of the brilliant way that Brad Schoener lived every minute of his life. We need to celebrate the legacy that Brad has left behind. Brad touched souls and made people better as a result of knowing him. For that matter, he just flat-out made the world a better and brighter place. He accomplished the kind of greatness that most people can only dream of and I feel blessed for having been able to connect with him on multiple levels.
Post script – I received the below note from Brad’s wife.
Brad loved the triathlon so much — he had a “dream page” that he made that he would focus on at night to empower him to conquer the cancer. SO MANY of the photos on that page are of the triathlon… it gave him so much strength mentally and spiritually as well as physically. I am so grateful to you for all the support and encouragement you’ve given Brad over the years — he always spoke very fondly of you and was ALWAYS ready for the next race… I remember he was crushed when the doctor in Mexico told him not to expect to race this year because he would be too tired… Brad never planned to stop… he was looking for a way to work around it!
Peace Brad Schoener, and thank you.