Friday, August 2, 2013

Chris Premo

Two Wednesdays ago, my sister called to tell me that my childhood friend, Chris Premo, had been involved in a bad accident on a paving site. He was at Albany Med, might not make it. Life changes on a dime. So began a week of late nights at the ICU, donuts for dinner, doctors putting friends and family on a rollercoaster of hope then failure then hope again. But there would be no miracle, no divine intervention. It ended on Monday July 29th. After a tearful apology by Chris’s surgeon--for some injuries cannot be fixed by human hands alone--those who knew Chris best were invited to gather by his bedside. He left life at 34 years, six weeks, and several hours old. Chris Premo was gone. Even as I type it now, a week later, I can’t believe it.

One of Chris's favorite songs: "I believe in a thing called love" by The Darkness. He'd dance like a damn fool to that one.

Life never happens how we think it will. Someone must go first, that’s simple physics, and for us, it was Chris. Growing up, my next-door neighbor and close friend was a giant, even though he was the shortest of the bunch. He made short so cool I wanted to be short. He made being Chris Premo cool. We all wanted to be Chris. Everything about CP was epic, the one whose light shined a little brighter than the rest. He was Ponyboy Curtis, Jim Morrison, James Dean. When he was sixteen, he drove a Geo Metro wagon with teardrop tint on the windows. It was the coolest car ever. Why? Because it was Chris’s car. And as long as I was with Chris, in that car while he worked the wheel, I too would be cool.

Chris owned every type of vehicle, land & water. He could drive anything.

As I returned home this week for the burial, I quickly learned about the other Chris Premo, the man that my childhood friend had become. While the bulk of my "Chris memories" involve drinking parties and crazy vacations in our early twenties, I had since drifted down the road, while Chris married his high-school sweetheart, started a beautiful family that boasted two gorgeous children, in a brand-new house he literally built with his bare hands. The house stands right behind his father’s house, and I was ashamed to face the fact that I had never been inside it before this week. Chris was happy living where we were raised, I wasn’t, and because of that our connection lessened. That’s life. But I was given a crash course on the 5’4” giant who grew to be a great father and hardworking perfectionist. The other Chris. The new Chris. The Chris I’ll never know in the flesh.

Chris was a great wrestler in high school.

I’m 33. There’s nothing unordinary about a man my age having to bury one of his childhood buds. That’s how it goes. But I’m not sure most such experiences are like mine. A few days after Chris’s death, his shocking downfall made the newspapers, was featured in YNN’s Top Stories. A fund was started for his wife and two children. It has grossed thirty-five thousand in two days, and counting. I knew people were passionate about Chris, crushed by this cruel turn of events. But I had no clue how huge it was until his wake at the Bryce Home on Pawling Ave this past Thursday. I had the honor to sit fifteen feet from my old pal’s open casket, as five thousand people paid final respects. But they weren't looking at Chris. Chris was gone. Chris was amazing blue eyes, a boundless smile, dimples to die for. Chris was beautiful. But all night the line bulged around two street corners, and carried a three-hour wait in the pouring rain. Nobody cared. Nobody was leaving. This was Chris Premo. His wife stood in three-inch heels for eight hours, greeted every last mourner without break or complaint. That’s love.

Chris always wore t-shirts and blue jeans with the bottoms cut off.

Friday morning: My black suit and a funeral. Even as I followed the procession up the winding roads of St. Agnes, I couldn’t believe we were a matter of minutes from lowering Chris Premo into the ground. In 2000, when my uncle Dave died, I was with Chris, and he made me pray for Dave’s soul. I loved Chris for that. When my father died, Chris was by my side, attending his funeral which meant going late to his first day on a new job. We all told Chris to miss the funeral, it was all right, but he'd hear none of it. Some things are bigger than first days and new jobs. When my wife was diagnosed in April, Chris phoned immediately. When I didn’t answer, he called back. Nobody else I grew up with called. Just Chris. And now he’s gone, and all I can do is write some dumb words. I’m no Chris Premo. He kicked my ass in life. I have no doubt in death too.

Chris was a great pool player.

Chris was the rock star. But I get to live. I won’t be the first. That’s Chris. And as I rested my rose atop his chrome-colored coffin, I knew it was time for me to return to my life. There’s no place for me on my childhood street now, for my visa was a temporary one. I chose to leave, to start a new life, and now it’s time to resume that plan. I gave a final round of hugs to the players that populated my first eighteen years, then walked off with my wife, the woman who will centerpiece my remaining ones. Nothing matters now but her. Chris Premo taught me that. Before going, I turned back once more, and there sat Chris’s coffin, covered in flowers, and I knew the party was over. And driving home to Clifton Park with my wife, back to our dogs and modest house, a song came on the radio that went, “Take that look of worry, mine’s an ordinary life.” The song spoke to me. I'm not the rock star. Chris was the rock star.

Chris thought Meet the Fockers was a masterpiece.

Chris's best friend Mike texted me a video that showed a series of fires burning around the lake in my old neighborhood, the lake Chris called home all his life. The fires burned in tribute. Mike said he was with 200 people at his fire site, saying goodbye to Chris. I told him to look around at that huge group of lake-dwellers, for somewhere there was the next Chris, and the next Mike, and the next me. They were there. Where else would they be on this night? I told Mike he wasn't saying goodbye to Chris. He was passing the torch. The Chris Premo Era is over. And tomorrow's the new.

I once saw Chris Premo wrestle a 230lb ball of muscle to the ground.
I once saw Chris Premo jump into a gorge from a rock 40ft above the water.
I once saw Chris Premo hold a wheelie on his motorcycle for half a mile while riding with Northway traffic.

Everybody has a hundred Chris Premo stories. No story can fully capture him. No story can do him justice. Trying to describe Chris is like trying to describe music. You either experienced him or you didn't.

Chris Premo was invincible
Chris Premo was magic

Chris always told me I was smart. He believed in me when no one else did.

Chris’s final text message to me (July 19, 2013, ten days before his death): Everything is good. Alyssas good (Chris's wife). The kids are good. Youll c them soon. Lynda (my wife) will be good 2. Dont worry. Theres still hope in this crazy world.

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Brian Huba


  1. Beautifully written.. Chris was a friend to many and will forever be missed. Many thoughts and prayers to Alyssa, their children and Chris's family. RIP Dear Friend.. <3

  2. What a very loving tribute to a friend. I am sure the family will take great comfort in this.

  3. Great job Brian and very well put .. many hugs old friend Nicky Adamkiewicz ( martone)

  4. This is amazing Brian. Simply amazing. ~Shannon McMeel

  5. All Very true.Chris was one of the good ones and just Like ALL of the good ones,His time came to early.He will be missed dearly.And Brian,Im sorry to hear about your wife She will be in my prayers.....Rob Fowler (another LakeBoy For Life)

  6. I didn't really know Chris, but I grew up in Wynantskill and am the same age as you guys, so we had friends in common. I saw a link to this blog through some friends on facebook. After reading this, I'm sorry I didn't get to know him better. We should all strive to live a life that will inspire someone to write something like you wrote. I'm truly sorry for your loss and will keep his family in my prayers.

  7. Brian,

    I have to tell you that this is absolutely beautiful!! As I read it I have tears rolling down my face, I am still in shock that we will not see his beautiful blue eyes and indescribable personality at any of our family parties, it is truly a hard pill to swallow. Thank you for sharing some more awesome memories of Chris with the rest of us. God Bless you and your beautiful wife <3

    Talia( Chris' cousin Jay's Wife)

  8. Thank you, I didn't know Chris but I feel like I do now. I am so sorry for everyone's loss. He was one of the special ones.

  9. I didn't know Chris but my husband did... after reading this and crying I wish that I had... I say a prayer for his family and friends that they may find peace and comfort. He was so loved by so chris

  10. A heartfelt tribute. My heart goes out to all those who knew and loved Chris and to all those whose lives he touched. Your words serve as a reminder to tell those we care about the we love them and value them. We can honor him by keeping his memory alive with acts of kindness. More important to his children about what an awesome person he was. Let them know how important he was in your lives. Celebrate Chris every day. God bless you all.

  11. Thanks for this, so beautifully written. I was really heartbroken to hear of Chris's passing and although all of us did not hang out so much in high school, we were a pretty tight knit little community. Whenever I was home visiting my folks and driving past his new home, it made me so happy. It's a sad thing to see such a bright star go, but it I feel lucky to have known him, even in such a short amount of time. I hope you are doing well, and my thoughts go out to his family and friends. It's a tragic loss of someone taken too soon.

  12. Wow very well put! I also grew up on that lake for 19 years of my life and grew up 2 doors down from the premo's. I was blown away when I heard what had happened! I didnt have the pleasure of hanging out with chris in our older years but I do remember hanging out somtimes at his parents when I was a kid with danny and when chris came around he was always wondering what we were up to, What girls were we hanging with, What girls did we like ect... Lol He was always about the girls lol!!! FLY HIGH DUDE!!! Wish I could have had a beer with ya since I was to young back then.... I will have some in memory of you tho dude!!! Kenny swart

  13. What a wonderful Tribute...It brought me to tears. I didn't know Chris but he must have been a wonderful person to have touched so many people. The world will surely miss him.

  14. Brian ... as the Mayor Of Snyder's Lake I'm proud to have known the Chris Premo you described and proud of what a great writer you turned out to be. A lot of people have said your words brought tears to their eyes. Not me. Chris' death brought tears to my eyes. Your words put a smile back on my face and a laugh back in my heart. Both you and Chris helped make Snyder's Lake a cool place to live.

  15. Brian,
    I didn't know Chris but I grew up with his Dad Mark, and the Wait boys around John Wait's Garage. I was away for the services and have been trying to write the empty words of a condolence card. Thank you for your words that have given Chris blood, bones and spirit. I feel like I know the man he grew up to be. I am sorry for the loss of your friend and send prayers to all touched by the loss of this powerful young man.
    Joanne (Wait) Ziter

  16. What a beautiful tribute to your friend Brian, You were so lucky to have each other as friends, How sad he was taken away from everyone that loved him so early in his young life. I firmly believe he is all around you and his family helping you all to accept what happened, he will let you know he is around.

  17. What a beautiful heartfelt tribute. Your words made me know him even though I didn't. We had friends in common. We should all have a Chris Premo in our lives. We are missing something very special if we don't.

    1. That was beautiful thank you for sharing your memories with us

  18. Beautiful words for your wonderful friend. I never had the pleasure of meeting Chris but after reading your tribute and hearing stories I feel like I knew him. I met his mom through a mutual friend and send my prayers to all his loved ones. Bless you Brian and your beautiful wife. Kathy Tremont

  19. Wow, Brian. This was simply amazing. Everything you said about Chris was exactly how I remember him. It may have been 15 years since the last time I saw him but your words made it feel like yesterday - especially the part about the Geo Metro with the raindrop tint. :) My thoughts and prayers are with all of you, his closest friends, his family and especially Alyssa and their kids. Rest easy, Chris....

    ~ Christina Valenti

  20. Brian - I am proud to say that you and Chris were 2 of my best friends in high school. I am proud to say I got to spend many years of my life with Chris and you and the SLC - so many memoirs! And they are all so good and happy. This made us all realize that you cannot let your friends drift out of your life. Alyssa and the kids and Chris' family are in my thoughts daily. My heart is broken for them. In my distinct memory, as you adored Chris , he too adored you ...

  21. Jamie (Morrissey) LangAugust 6, 2013 at 7:01 PM

    What an amazing tribute to Chris, just beautiful.
    May he "be rocking 'til the sun goes down..."- (The Darkness) in heaven always.

  22. Chris was right, Brian. You are smart and Chris was so lucky to have a friend like you. I will never forget all of our childhood memories on the good ol Snyders Lake xo

  23. Brian,

    Keep writing! This is an amazing tribute to Chris.

  24. Brian,

    This was a great piece on one of the best people we knew, hope you are doing well old friend. Life does take over sometimes it takes down certain paths, I hope ours crosses soon.

    Miss ya,

  25. This was very nice to read in the wake of such tragedy, its amazing how many people cared....

  26. This is absolutely a beautiful tribute to Chris.. I am sooo very sorry for your loss and to everyone who knew Chris.. I did not know him, but I did know his Dad whom I went to school with.. God Bless Chris's Family and Friends.

  27. Brian - This is one of the most beautiful tributes I have ever read. Chris was so lucky to have you as a friend. I didn't know Chris, however through your writing have a glimpse into how tragic his loss must be to his family and all who knew him. God Bless Chris's Family and his Friends. My thoughts and prayers are with you all.
    Ken Holmes