Since our inception in 2003, RSR has gone off topic at times, to share stories that originate in the Baltimore area community. Sometimes the stories have connectivity to the Ravens. Sometimes the connectivity is not clearly defined. But at the heart of all such stories there is kindness and human compassion and our rationale for telling them is that they are worthy – that they deserve to be shared because inherent in each lies goodness and in today’s world, there’s just not enough of that.
This story was written by my partner, Bill Pisano. His family was dealt a massive blow recently and despite the gaping wound that the family attempts to recover from, they are doing their best to give meaning to the tragic passing of a family member. There’s an old quote from Dr. Seuss that goes, “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”
Smiling in the face of death doesn’t come easy. Yet some of these stories that Bill shares below will undoubtedly make you smile, even laugh. They will remain part of his nephew’s legacy in perpetuity.
Bill, thank you for your sharing and your heartfelt message. And may God bless the Pisano Family. ~ Tony Lombardi
Words are difficult to come by when a tragedy strikes a family, especially when it results in the loss of a young life. We know nothing said will change anything and we realize we are unlikely to find comfort in those words. However, if we set aside the words we use for solace, and use words to tell stories, then we may find consolation in knowing how the young person affected others in sharing his talents, convictions and himself in making the world a better place. I hope these words I am about to share will help comfort our hearts and bring a smile during a time when a light of joy is difficult to see.
Braddox William Pisano was born into this world with a big personality. Though small in stature most of his life, his persona dwarfed his body and attracted all who met him. At an early age, his free-spirited nature was evident in his aversion to wearing clothes. At most family gatherings, within minutes of arriving, Braddox would be fully naked laughing, playing and daring people to try to make him put his clothes back on. If Jon or Stacey were able to wrangle him back into a t-shirt or pair of pants, the garment would be discarded as soon as he was free. However, streaking was not just for family, it was all to fully enjoy. Once, at a rec football game his cousin was playing in, his parents turned around to see a bare-assed 4-year-old exclaiming to a group of little girls, “…and ladies this is a ding ding.” By the time he was five he finally acquiesced to keeping underwear on, but never gave in to the idea that clothing was mandatory.
The sense of humor that Braddox had was exceptional. He understood situations better than most kids but his delivery, even the most polished comics would envy. During a meal, family members were discussing ailments each were dealing with. Vertigo, migraines, nausea, and other issues all came up. However, Braddox finished the conversation with a quip. He looked at his father and said, “None of that sounds good. But big man, what are you going to do about that bald spot on your head.” His quick wit and sharp humor were always something to look forward to and often shaped our time together. It was rare to be around him without laughing uncontrollably.
As an athlete, size and ability mattered little because no competitor could match his heart. Though he may have lacked stature, he was never afraid to mix it up with anyone. His effort on the field and mat made watching him compete not only enjoyable but inspiring. At a wrestling match a few years ago, Braddox was matched against kids that were clearly more experienced. He was outclassed during most of the tournament because he was new to the sport. Frustration and pain were etched on his face, with tears streaming down during each contest. His father and I were clearly uncomfortable seeing him in this situation. After his second match, I looked at him and asked, “Why are you doing this?” His response, “Because it’s fun.” The next match he pinned his opponent and the joy that radiated from him was extraordinary. It was then I understood, competition was something Braddox needed, thrived on, and cherished.
That fact was further evident when he and his cousins spent time together. Before he understood what it meant when someone said, “Hold my beer…” Braddox was looking to one up anyone that wanted to compete with him. Numerous times he would take on challenges others put in front of him. Weather eating several loaves of bread on a dare, standing up in a wagon going down a hill or shaving his head for money, Braddox was not afraid of a challenge. He rarely would weigh the risks and boldly accept. Sometimes he would up the ante. During a pushup contest, the 85-pounder told his 210lb cousin to get on his back he would do more with him on his back then Gino could do by himself. When Gino sat on his back, Braddox collapsed and couldn’t move. But that didn’t deter him from still trying to get up and he refused to allow Gino to get off his back until finally he realized he couldn’t breathe.
Yet, what made Braddox so special wasn’t his sense of humor, intelligence or heart, it was his ability to empathize with those who weren’t as blessed to have a loving family, a wonderful home and the support of lots of friends. He cared deeply about those who were less fortunate and often would give his lunch to a friend who didn’t have one, or clothing to those that needed it. After winning medals he would give them to someone that hadn’t been awarded one, to help them feel better. He was a deeply sensitive person who cared in a way that made him connect with people and made him unforgettable in their minds.
When he was 12, Braddox was riding his bike home from the fishing pier, where he had been all day. As he rode down the street, he heard an old man screaming for help. Since Braddox had removed the brakes from his bike, he had to use his bare feet to stop. He dropped his fishing gear and ran to the old man. The man kept screaming, “My son, my son” and pointed to his house. Without a thought, Braddox ran into the house and found the middle-aged son in the bathroom slumped over the tub. Braddox called 911 and summoned help. Although he was unable to aid the son who had passed away, he provided comfort to the older gentleman by sitting with him until medical assistance and other family members arrived. Due to Braddox’s actions, the man’s family wanted to show their gratitude and worked with local authorities to honor him with a Citizen’s Citation award. That evening Braddox told his dad “I don’t think I can go to football practice.” When asked why he said, “my feet hurt from trying to stop my bike when I heard the man screaming.” However, Braddox still went to practice and pushed through the pain.
Being an extrovert, Braddox made friends everywhere he went. Family outings typically resulted in meeting new people, as Braddox struck up conversations with anyone who interested him. At a restaurant with family and friends, a very pretty Hooters waitress was taking their order. When she came to Braddox he asked her, “Do you have WIFI?” The waitress replied, “Why yes we do.” Braddox said to her, straight-faced, “Because I feel a connection!” Then he gave her his infamous sexy eyebrows that caused the whole restaurant to go into hysterics. The 20-something waitress made sure their table was well taken care of after that. A picture was taken to commemorate their time with the waitress. If you look closely the boys looked terrified, while Braddox stands next to her with a confident grin.
The confident and friendly temperament that Braddox possessed not only allowed him to hit on women twice his age, but also gave him the opportunity to engage with people across all walks of life. He was looked up to by both younger children and peers. High Schoolers that got to know him thought he was one of the coolest people they knew. Parents loved him and his personality charmed everyone. When he walked into the room, the place lit up. Yet none of the popularity ever went to Braddox’s head. He remained a grounded person whose love of family and friends ran deep. When asked about his favorite people Mom, Dad, Brianna and friends made the top four. However, he saved the number five spot for someone special, Kayne West.
We will all miss the light that shone on our world for 13 years. Braddox provided us with humor and inspiration. He challenged us with intelligence and determination. He touched our souls with kindness and humility. He showed us how to be confident and friendly. His impact on our world was enormous in such a short period of time. Though our hearts are broken we take comfort in knowing that upon his arrival in heaven, Grandma B was waiting for him with a stack of pancakes and a game of checkers, Grandpa Pisano had a fishing pole and a set a golf clubs, Grandpa Frank set up the card game and Grandpa B prepared his pickup so they could drive through the fields and view the vastness of heaven together. As much as he was loved here on earth, he is in heaven as well. Fly high our Angel until we meet again.
The Pisano Family has asked those who were touched by Braddox’s life to consider “paying it forward.” The Braddox Pisano Memorial Fund will be managed by the athletic club where he so loved to play football, lacrosse and wrestle. The money will be used to help give less fortunate children an opportunity to play sports by paying for equipment, fees and other incidentals. Also, a scholarship will be established for a Panther player that exhibits Braddox’s heart, determination, inspiration and compassion for others.
Checks can be made payable to:
Panthers Athletic Club
c/o Heather Szymanski
8144 Riverside Dr.
Pasadena, MD 21122
Or Via PayPal at This Link >>> Braddox Pisano