A lonely man’s heartbreaking obituary has sparked a wave of sadness online after his brother candidly summed up his blighted life with the ‘brutally honest’ truth.
Brian Eldridge passed away last month aged 76 after a lifetime of bullying, exploitation and loneliness, his brother Steve wrote, lying dead for at least four days before he was found due to his desolate existence.
‘He had no friends or family who kept up with him,’ Steve said. ‘He was quiet, smart, generous and lonely… I’ll miss him.’
Brian was a very shy boy at school who suffered severe bullying as a result. The experience shattered his confidence and he also found himself shunned as an adult, living a solitary existence while working as a newspaper deliveryman and later a janitor.
The latter job saw him forced to work 364 days a year for $10-an-hour, with Brian plunged into even deeper poverty after being fired on Christmas Eve.
His gut wrenching story of labor exploitation, mental illness and isolation has touched many, who say they feel guilty at never getting the chance to help a forlorn man they didn’t even know.
In an interview with Pioneer Press, Steve said he decided to be ‘brutally honest’ when he wrote his brother’s obituary because ‘his story is sad and true.’
Brian Eldridge was described as having ‘no friends and no family who kept up with him’ when he died last month. His brother said he persistently wore a tattered jacket despite his relatives pleading with him to improve his condition
The janitor and paper delivery man was said to be painfully shy since he was a boy. He is pictured in his high school picture in 1965
Steve Eldridge said that his brother’s evident mental illness manifested itself in a number of ways, including persistently wearing a tattered tan jacket and refusing to cut his hair until it grew down to his calves.
‘Was he trying to have people turn off from him, so he didn’t have to talk to them or face them? I don’t know,’ he questioned.
Steve described his brother as being painfully awkward since he was a young boy, leading him to be ‘bullied as a child and teenager because of his shyness and vulnerability.’
‘As an adult he didn’t fit in,’ the obituary continued, saying that Brian was restricted from even applying for most jobs because he never learned to use a computer or cell phone. On attending a computer course to try and learn the basics, Brian was so embarrassed at how little he knew compared to the other students that he quickly dropped out.
He was forced to support himself through aluminum can recycling, janitorial jobs and a paper route. One comment from Scott H Frantzen, who worked for Pioneer Press when Eldridge delivered the paper, paid tribute to the reliable paperboy.
‘Brian was loved by all of us at Pioneer Press and by the several hundred customers he delivered the newspaper to every day for many, many years,’ the comment read. ‘Rest in Peace my friend.’
While the newspaper seemingly parted ways on good terms, Steve said his brother’s last job ended in disaster – and typified his tragic life.
‘His last job was cleaning a bingo hall at midnight for $10 per hour seven nights a week, 364 days a year with just less than the minimum weekly hours to have any rights or benefits,’ he wrote.
‘His employer fired him on Christmas Eve with no notice. He had worked there for over 15 years.’
The mournful obituary concluded with the sad facts of Brian’s life – he had ‘no friends or family who kept up with him’, and he was ‘quiet, smart, generous and lonely.’
Steve Eldridge said he wrote his brother’s obituary with ‘brutal honesty’ because nobody knew him, and he wanted to tell the truth about Brian’s desolate life
Brian Eldridge (right) pictured with his brothers Steve (left), who wrote his obituary, and David (center), who was schizophrenic and died in October. Steve said David’s death contributed to his callous honesty in the obituary
Brian Eldridge: May 1947 – July 2023
Brian was a quiet shy boy and man.
He was bullied as a child and teenager because of his shyness and vulnerability. As an adult he didn’t fit in.
He never learned to use a computer or a cell phone, which kept him from applying for most jobs.
He worked and supported himself through paper routes, aluminum can recycling and janitorial work.
He was exploited by employers. His last job, was cleaning a bingo hall at midnight for $10 per hour 7 nights a week 364 days a year with just less than the minimum weekly hours to have any rights or benefits.
His employer fired him on Christmas Eve with no notice. He had worked there for over 15 years.
He had no friends or family who kept up with him. He was quiet, smart, generous and lonely.
When found in his apartment, he had been dead at least four days.
I’ll miss him.
Steve said he last spoke to his brother on Brian’s birthday, May 4, and last saw him in person in October 2022.
That same month, their brother David, who suffered from schizophrenia, also passed away – and Steve said he had to write another sad obituary then which led to his ‘brutal honesty’ about Brian.
‘When our other brother, David, died in October, I basically explained how his life was shot because of schizophrenia,’ he said.
‘I wanted to be just as honest with Brian’s obituary because his story is sad and true. I personally struggle with the question, ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ I have to live with the guilt, regret and shame that I didn’t try harder to stay closer, to see him more, to call him more, to be there for him.’
In his obituary about his brother David, he described him as an ‘energetic, charming, talented, happy child, teenager and young adult’ who later became ‘overwhelmed with schizophrenia in his mid twenties.’
Speaking about how Brian’s life spiraled out of control, he said he refused to cut his hair or wear clean clothes, and when he died his hair ‘was down to the middle of his calves.’
‘He’d let it grow for probably 45 years. He wouldn’t cut it. My mom once offered him $10,000 to cut his hair, and he wouldn’t do it. At that point, it was just, ‘It’s mine.’ Of course it made him look even more different than he already did,’ he said.
Steve added that he insisted on wearing a grubby tan jacket that ‘had holes everywhere and ragged edges’ – which Brian is seen wearing in the image from his obituary.
‘It was awful, and it smelled, but he would not put on another one. My dad had three or four jackets almost like it, and they were in the closet there, and he would not use them.
‘I kept telling him, ‘You look like somebody who’s living under the Lake Street Bridge. You don’t have to do that.’ But he was adamant. That’s what he wore, and that was it. Was he trying to have people turn off from him, so he didn’t have to talk to them or face them? I don’t know.’
After the obituary was published online, the tragic details led to a wave of tributes from both strangers who wished they had known him, and those who encountered Brian but were never a part of his life.
‘I didn’t know Brian, but the thought of Brian will stay with me,’ said one comment.
‘May we all keep the thought of this man with us and use his memory to inspire each one of us to be kind to others, giving to others,’ it added. ‘Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed. May you rest in peace Brian. I wish I would’ve known you.’
Another person who claimed to know Brian told Steve: ‘Your brother was one of my customers at the McDonald’s in Mounds View. He told me once that everything in my life was going to get better. It might take a long time but that it would get better.
‘He always smiled at me in his way and I always smiled back. I hadn’t seen him in awhile and wondered what had happened to him. I am very sorry for you loss.’
‘A humble life for a man who worked hard for very little,’ said another comment. ‘For his greatest impact on so many strangers, is his death. Rest well, Brian.’
In a remark as sad as Brian’s obituary, an anonymous poster only going by ‘M’ said: ‘I think my son Christian will find him in heaven and be his friend.’
One person wrote their tribute directly to Brian, saying: ‘I’m sorry to have not had the privilege and pleasure to meet you. You sound like a kind soul who deserved a better life.
‘Please know, you left a positive impact upon all the people you helped.’
https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-12399047/A-little-life-Heartbreaking-obituary-tells-story-man-bullied-school-shy-shunned-adult-exploited-working-364-days-year-cleaning-bingo-hall-10-hour-fired-Christmas-Eve-dying-lonely-death-aged-76.html?ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490&ito=1490 A little life: Heartbreaking obituary tells story of man bullied at school for being shy, shunned as an adult and exploited into working 364 days a year cleaning bingo hall for $10 a hour before being fired on Christmas Eve and dying lonely death aged 76