Dec. 17, 1955 - July 22, 2012
Brian James Bigelow passed away July 22, 2012, at his home with his wife by his side after a short illness. Brian was born Dec. 17, 1955, to Edward and Marjorie (McCloskey) Bigelow. He was raised on a horse ranch in Sonora, Calif. At the age of 3, he lost sight in his right eye due to an accident, however, he never let that keep him down throughout his entire life. He won his first horse show at age 7. He also raised champion sheep, garnering two Grand Champions two years in a row. One brought the highest ever payout in Tuolumne County at that time. At the age of 14, he achieved Eagle Scout, and went on to start the Tuolumne County, Calif., Search and Rescue Team. In addition, he was one of the first two Sheriff Cadets with Tuolumne County. Upon receiving his draft notice, he immediately went to sign up with the Air Force to fly planes. He was rejected because of only having one eye. Not wanting to take no for an answer, he obtained a letter from then Gov. Ronald Reagan granting his acceptance in the military.
This time, the Navy. Again, he was turned away. Not one to be told he couldn't do something, Brian went and obtained his private pilot's license. In August 1979, he married Darlene Brink, and they moved to Walla Walla in 1981. They later divorced. Brian worked for the Washington State Penitentiary and Burbee before becoming CEO of Vend Music in Hermiston. During this time, he was a volunteer firefighter with the Hermiston Fire Department and served as deputy county coroner under his very good friend Ted Berry. After closing Vend Music, Brian owned and operated BJ's Amusement for several years. He sold his interest to Bumper's Inc. and ran the arcade in the Blue Mountain Mall. After closing the arcade, Brian decided to learn the refrigeration business and went to work for Johnny's Refrigeration. After leaving Johnny's, Brian went back to college and earned his CNA degree and worked for Park Manor. A stroke in 2008 forced him to retire. Never wanting to sit still for long, Brian immersed himself in volunteering at the VFW Post 992. Brian was a very talented gourmet chef and always loved coming up with new ideas. He cooked in the bingo kitchen for a few years, and was the Post chef for the monthly dinner's at the Post every third Friday until his illness would not allow him to continue. He proudly cooked and served dinner for the Marine Corps birthday the last two years. Brian's talented cooking led him to be asked to participate in the cooking show MasterChef, however, his health would not allow him to travel. In addition to cooking, Brian was privileged to be a part of VFW Post 992's Military Honor Guard and even as his illness progressed, he very much wanted to be part of that detail. Brian was also a member of the VFW Men's Auxiliary Post 1435, Spokane Valley, Wash. In 2007, Brian married the love of his life, Lisa Gradwohl. A lifelong animal lover, Brian had a pet duck, Peepers, for 16 years, a pigeon, Wigeon, and even adopted a seagull whom he named Seymour. Along with various dogs and sheep.
Brian is survived by his wife and faithful companion dog, Sadie Jo, at the home; father, Ed Bigelow, Walla Walla; mother, Marjorie Bigelow, Santa Cruz, Calif.; sister, Mary (Shaun) Santillan, Sutter, Calif.; Uncle Charlie Bigelow, San Lorenzo, Calif.; Aunt Pat Meader, San Ramone, Calif.; mother and father-in-law, Joanie and Bob Gradwohl, Walla Walla; sister-in-law, Janene Gradwohl; nephew, Anthony Gradwohl, Walla Walla. He was preceded in death by his grandparents; one aunt; several uncles.
A small celebration of life will be held Saturday, July 28, at 2 p.m., at the VFW Post 992, with a light luncheon served afterward. In lieu of flowers, the family is asking that donations be made to Walla Walla Community Hospice through Herring Groseclose Funeral Home, 315 W. Alder, Walla Walla, WA. 99362. The angels of Hospice allowed Brian the dignity and peace of being able to stay home and his family will be forever grateful. Family and friends are invited to sign the online guest book at www.herringgroseclose.com.