My Heroic Little Brother Dan

Love has no pride, when I call out your name

Love has no pride, when there's only myself to blame

But I'd give anything, to see you again.

-- (As sung by Bonnie Raitt, David Crosby and Graham Nash)

Lord knows it has been a hard, sad week for me. I'm sure others have had it rough as well, so my hell isn't special by any means. Life as a transit worker is constantly full of challenges both personal and professional. It is most difficult when both scenarios combine to bring us to our already-scabbed knees.

Quite often more than the public might believe, our team works wonders in spite of all the negatives which surround us. Last Saturday, June 18, brought me to tears not only because my baby brother died, but also because my transit family heard the news first and surrounded me with heartfelt love.

Let's work backwards on this. I pulled my Saturday Line 35 into the end of the line at Oregon City Transit Center on time just after 9 p.m. At first when I saw the Supervisor's vehicle, I thought "BUSTED!" because I usually re-route myself around a series of precise, hairpin turns which are totally unnecessary when entering this routinely-filthy place. Shrugging at the inevitability, I simply guided The Beast neatly into its resting place. After wishing my few passengers a safe and happy evening, I secured and shut down my rolling office. 

With the omnipresent sigh, I slipped out of my seat and pulled my soda cooler from behind my seat to replace the old and warm bottle with a new chilly caffeinated drink. My back to the door, as usual ignoring anyone who take that precious moment from a weary bus operator savoring a sigh of relief at the end of the line. 

I fully expected Brother Supe's knock on my door. Before turning to acknowledge him, I sighed because I felt sure what it was about. He was going to lecture me on following the route description and chastise me or write me up for exercising my silent protest to inscribed-in-stone instructions.

Instead, Brother Supe looked at me with the saddest eyes I had seen in ages.

"This is the part of the job I dislike the most," he told me before saying what he had to. As soon as he said that, I knew what had happened. I could only sigh. A sudden relief, then three parts deep and empty sadness.

Although my older brother had earlier that day told me the hospice nurse said it could be two hours or two weeks, we were steadily losing Baby Bro. As anyone who has lost a dearly beloved, you're never ready to hear the news. Dan had died, his spirit had left the body. He was with Mom, Dad, Katie and everyone we had all lost before. 

Prior to this news, my brother called my wife with the news. I had adamantly insisted any bad news be filtered through Beloved. She knew that I could not faithfully execute my duties if I was told something devastatingly-horrid in the field without some support system at hand. Beloved comforted my brother with her soothing voice, offering her sad condolences, for she loved Dan too. Everyone who knew Lil' Bro felt the same adoration we brothers always have. It was her hand upon his forehead when we visited on his birthday that calmed, soothed him... just as our sweet sisters-in-law and brothers had the past several weeks. 

After hanging up with Bill, Stacey began the protocol which took less than 30 minutes to reach me. She called my Station Agent, who, with businesslike agility and problem-solving finesse, found an operator to finish my run. She then notified Dispatch, the recipient of this call a very close friend of mine. Everyone in Dispatch who knew me sighed a deep one, for their love for their brother is profound and returned a thousandfold. This Dispatcher then instructed the nearest Road Supe to perform the task of telling me my dearest brother was no longer with us. After the sad news, I excused myself and sought refuge in our break room at Oregon City Transit Center. I called Beloved, seeking the one voice which soothes me most. Brother Supe drove me back to the garage, gracefully silent, giving me room to grieve in the back seat while texting my dearest.

October 4, 1980
Our close friends and neighbors Mark and Celest drove Stacey to the garage. I was okay to drive home, but only because Beloved was there with me.

It all worked to plan, and my gratitude is profound. My brothers and sisters have been so sympathetic and supportive, from those who first heard to he who informed me, and the great outpouring of love and condolences in person and online.

Because of this aged blog, many reached out to me on the road and via social media... many I had never formally met before. It was humbling, and hugely comforting this week as I resumed my duties after a three-day weekend of mourning. Thank you all for lifting me out of the haze of grief which has consumed me during my breaks. It has helped me immensely as I summoned every ounce of strength to carry on.

Thank you TriMet, from every level save for the very top, your support has been immeasurably consoling and comforting in this time of extreme grief.

* * * * *

Dan's journey was more challenging than ours. While one brother nearly died from asthma and another struggled with a brain injury at birth, Dan was born with Down Syndrome. Our parents refused the common medical doctrine of the time that nothing could be done with someone so afflicted. Mom resolutely studied whatever information was available in the early-to-mid 1960s. She learned of a new theory called "Early Stimulation" and practiced whatever helpful tidbits she could find. Whenever Dan allowed his tongue to protrude from his mouth, Mom would flick it and insist he keep it in his mouth. Every mispronounced word, she would gently insist he pronounce it correctly. Both parents insisted he be treated "normal" because he was truly special.

Our move to Florence was a tipping point. Just a few years older than Dan, I was appointed his guardian after school. I would collect him from Mrs. Nowlin his babysitter, after my school day was finished. We would walk home together, he excitedly describing his day and begging me to make him a sandwich when we got home. His food choice was peanut butter and mayonnaise (thanks Roger, you cruel man), which made me gag when the two ingredients mixed together. 

A few months into this routine, I began to dread it. Some classmates were not educated about people with disabilities. They would taunt me for having a "retarded" brother. It made me angry, because nobody had to that point treated Dan with anything but respect. Yet ignorance breeds contempt, and I became the target of this sad fact. I began to resent my sweet baby brother because of what I was enduring, who had no idea why I suddenly got angry with him for no apparent reason. Our bond deteriorated until Mom stepped in. She insisted I see a counselor, and gently coaxed my feelings to surface onto a playa where she could understand my angst. It was at this point where she encouraged me to become active as a Special Olympics volunteer. That way, I could see the joy my brother shared with others like him. Instead of being resentful, I once again found love and admiration for this sweet bundle of love who was our youngest and brightest.

My classmates came through, the entire town gathered Dan in its loving arms. Many became avid Special Olympics supporters and Dan was a beloved fixture in town. I'm so very glad to have grown up amongst some of the gentlest and most caring people on Earth. 

I fell deeply in love with Special Olympics. The athletes competed joyously. I became a "Hugger", who was the person at the end of a race who embraced the athletes as they crossed the finish line no matter their place. Their joy was simply in the mere fact they were competing, where love was the champion rather than the winner of any race. It was in these moments I found myself admiring Dan in a way I hadn't before. Instead of being resentful, I became proud of my brother and those with whom he participated in this incredible event. 

You see, I wasn't much of an athlete myself. I was weak, skinny and physically far behind my peers. Yet I had the desire to compete. Instead of focusing on my own physical limitations, I decided to compete. I practiced my basketball skills, attended camps and played pickup games. Although one of the last picked, I played. As a freshman in high school, I joined the cross country team and worked to improve my strength. My times improved, and I found myself competing with those above me. All the while, I became more involved in Special Olympics, encouraging Dan to keep pushing his limits. Looking back, I realize we were both physically-challenged, but that didn't keep us from challenging ourselves to do our best. Dan's devotion not only made me proud of him, but was a calling for me to improve myself as well. 

I was not alone in our family where Dan's athletic participation was concerned. Bill worked with Dan on his running too. Dan had this bad habit of looking to his side when running instead of watching where he was going. One day, Dan ran directly into a century plant next door. By the grace of God he avoided being run through by one of the plant's deadly-sharp pointed leaves. John constantly praised Dan and gave him the wonderful love and support only the oldest brother truly knows how. He did so up to and including Dan's final moments.

My friends became not only Dan's admirers, but fiercely protective. John DiMarco adored Dan, as did Roger Kelley and Hans Wang. The Craigs, McVickers, Neals, MontaƱos, Celayas, Padillas, Lizarragas, and countless others loved Dan as their family, rather than an anomaly. Dan's successes began to be  celebrated across the bonds of love we all shared.

* * * * *

As he grew older, Dan graduated to riding a bicycle. He was so excited when he finally mastered the art of two wheels. He would pedal all over town. If he strayed too far, folks would call and warn us of his whereabouts. "Look for your dogs," they would say. Sure enough, once we spotted Hobo and/or Bashful, Dan would be blissfully pedaling nearby.

We will lay Dan's ashes to rest with our parents later this summer. It takes time to gather as many family members and dear friends possible to properly pay tribute to a Legacy Arizona Special Olympian. Dan's smile, his happiness in competing, lovable personality, and his place among us is like a shovel-pruned rose never to be replaced.

A week after his passing, Dan consoles me. I feel he is happier now. So many people he loved passed long before he did. Mom and Dad, our sister Katie, his early teacher Mrs. Juanita Sheppard, his dear buddy Mikey and others have welcomed him into the spirit world. He told me he forgives me for being such an asshole when we were kids. His pain has vanished into the ether of an afterlife we all pray for.

Whenever I see Dan now, his smile is constant. His voice is no longer slow, slurred, or hard to understand. It is concise and deliberate. Even though I rarely deserved it, he loved me. And that folks, is the most comfort a big brother could ever hope for.

Rest in heavenly peace, Daniel Monroe. My tears flow simply because I already miss you. But yes I know, we will meet again someday. Until then, please feel my humble admiration for the life you led. It was a truly remarkable one. You did Mom and Dad proud, along with your brothers and everyone who knew you.

Dan was our shining star, and his bright smile will warm us forevermore. Bless you, dearest sweet Dan.

The last time I saw his earthly presence,
May 27, 2022, Dan's 59th birthday.


  1. Very well written.

  2. May his memories comfort youšŸ™❤️

  3. What a beautiful tribute to your brother. And kudos to your whole family. God knew what He was doing when He blessed your family with Dan. I worked with the developmentally disabled for years & also was a transit operator before I retired. Earned more as a driver. Learned more from my clients in the disabled sector. Your experience touched my heart. RIP Dan. ❤️

  4. That is a great tribute to Dan... may he rest in peace, and your many fond memories be a comfort to you and your family!


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