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Saturday, December 3, 2016

Bill Pekarski Day 95, Living life on my terms

Bill Pekarski with Steven Barraclough.

Day 95, Living life on my terms.

Since I am home pretty much every day without much to do, other than working to get better and go back to work someday, I spend a great deal of time thinking about the past. In fact, this whole project started as a not only a way to acknowledge present blessings, but to honor and remember people, places, and happenings that have long gone by. Also, it just gave me something to do.

One of my favorite things to write about is actual friends I have made over the years and what they have meant to me. Of course I have to throw in a few anecdotal stories so you as the reader get an understanding of that person. Today I feel compelled to discuss someone who was a very close friend from my days at IUP.

Now I had taken a year off between high school and college so I was not quite the traditional freshmen. Well this person spent his first few years out of high school as a Marine. When he completed his hitch in the service, he cashed in his GI Bill to attend IUP as a music major as well. His name; Steven Barraclough.

I first met Steven when he was practicing in one of the second floor practice rooms at Cogswell Hall. There wasn’t much soundproofing between the rooms and I could hear his playing long tones to fine tune his sound. After knocking on the door, he reached over to open it and gave me a friendly greeting.

He was a tall man with his hair cut high and tight, like it had been while he was in the service. He had tanned skin from all of the outdoor practices from the marching band with the tell-tale raccoon face from sunglasses and sock tans on both ankles. He also had one of the warmest smiles you had ever seen. He was just so happy to be at school and studying music, as that had always been his dream to be a teacher.

I remember he asked me how he sounded. I thought he sounded good, in fact to me he was a little intimidating seeing as I had not even touched a tuba in my year off.

Over time, we realized we had a great deal in common. He was originally from the town of Brockway, which is not all that different, or far away, from Coudersport. We shared the same kind of small town values and both knew that if you wanted to reach your goals, you had to work. No one was going to provide you with a living except yourself.

Steve and I also shared an “impish” side as well and he enjoyed a good joke or prank as much as anybody. He used to drive a Ford Ranger pickup with a cap on the back. One time he was giving a few of us a ride and since there wasn’t that much seat room, I volunteered to climb in the back. My other good friend Jamie Defelice sat in the front while Steve drove. Steve took great care to make sure that he effectively crossed every bump and train track that he could. Additionally, he was quite adept at moving his feet from the brake to the accelerator as my face would smoosh up against the glass window that separated us. He and Jamie found this to be hilarious.

He also assisted Jamie and I in a prank on another mutual friend and old roommate, Steve Kinsey (Sorry Kinsey, I have to tell this story now). Steve had borrowed my car to take a girl from the chorale out to the movies. She was a very sweet and nice girl so Steve wanted to make a good impression. We did not help him in that endeavor.

Barraclough, Jamie, and I were sitting around TCBY munching on some frozen yogurt discussing Kinsey being out on a date. I don’t remember who thought of it, but someone said “wouldn’t it be fun if we went up there and moved the car?” Each of went silent for a moment, then all at once we knew we had to do it.

He had parked my car in the lot outside the Indiana Mall theater complex and had locked the door. My spare keys were actually in a jacket that was in the car, but, as everyone knew, I had a special way of breaking into my car. I got in and found my keys and we moved the car to an entirely different lot. As part of the leg work, we had notified mall security and the staff at the theater about our little ruse. The only thing left to do was to wait for Steve and his date to come out to “find” the car.

The three of us were on the hill side covered by some brush with a great view of the lot. Steve walked up to where the car was supposed to be to find an empty space. He did a quick double take and then looked up and down the adjacent rows. Now I won’t tell you what all he said, but believe me it when I say it was certainly colorful and the three of us were enjoying the show.

Barraclough walked down to the lot and over to Kinsey to see what was wrong. Kinsey said; “I think someone stole Bill’s car!” Unfortunately, Barraclough couldn’t keep a straight face after that comment and jig was up. Jamie and I came down from the hill and let Kinsey in fully on the joke. He did eventually forgive us.

Another thing about Barraclough was his dedication to physical fitness. He even got me to join him for the better part of a semester every morning at six a.m. He would pick me up at my apartment and we went to the fitness center on campus. That is where he introduced me, and my legs, to the stair master.

At first, I struggled to go 10 minutes. After a few weeks, I worked my way up to a 30 minute workout on the machine and then we would lift weights. It was then that I was probably the best in shape of my life.

Over the years we had many experiences together as friends, band mates, and fraternity brothers. Unfortunately, we lost touch after 1994 when he graduated and I came home to help with my mother. I thought about him often and wondered how he was doing. I wasn’t really worried because I knew with his dedication, he would be teaching somewhere. I also knew he had married his college sweetheart, Michelle Tiboni.

It was not until I joined Facebook seven years ago that I was able to reconnect with Steven. Since then we have managed to keep pretty good contact. I enjoy reading about his family and his work. He has earned a great life doing what he loves, teaching music and being a family man.

Today I am dedicating my progress to a great friend, Steven Barraclough. It is an honor to have you in my life.

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