Brian was born in Scotia and spent his entire life in Humboldt County. He graduated from Fortuna High School and earned the Eagle Scout rank in the Boy Scouts of America, which gave him his first taste of traveling abroad when he went to Greece for the 1963 Boy Scout World Jamboree. Brian attended Humboldt State College, graduating in 1970 with a degree in English Literature and minors in philosophy, theater and journalism. An avid reader and lover of words, Brian wrote poetry until the end, using whatever bits of paper he had nearby to express himself.
After college, Brian traveled to Europe and then around North America in his VW bus, which he’d outfitted with a bed and basic living essentials. He spent the next few years living in Salmon Creek, where he built and lived in a rustic cabin with no electricity. There Brian met his first wife, Mary, and became a step-father to her three daughters, Malorie, Holly and Sarah. After moving to McKinleyville, they had another daughter, Jolene.
Brian first started working for the U.S. Forest Service in 1965, and he ultimately spent 25 years working at the Humboldt Nursery in McKinleyville. While there, Brian was a jack-of-all-trades, from painting buildings to driving forklifts to dressing up as Smokey Bear to teach kids about fire safety, he could do just about any job. When the nursery was closing in 2004, he told a friend in an interview: “It was 25 years of one job after another and it never got boring.”
Brian’s first taste of firefighting came when he was just 16 years old and he worked on a fire engine tanker in Crescent City for the California Department of Forestry. Once he was with the Forest Service, Brian continued to battle blazes around the United States with his teams. Eventually, he worked on a Type 1 Incident Command Team, which handled complex firefighting and other disaster relief efforts, such as the Challenger Shuttle disaster. While working on these incidents, Brian met celebrities (his favorite: Bo Derek) and U.S. Presidents (his favorite: Bill Clinton) and saw incredible wildlife and natural beauty in many of our National Parks. After his retirement, Brian continued to work for FEMA, providing disaster relief in places such as post-Katrina New Orleans and on the islands of Chuuk and Yap, in Micronesia.
In 1987, Brian married his second wife, Michele, who was his loving companion until her passing in 2009. They traveled around the world together, visiting Nepal, France, Italy, Scotland, Panama, the Netherlands, Ireland, Australia, Fiji, Greece, the Caribbean, China and more, always having a great time exploring local art, food and culture and meeting people from around the world. Some of Brian’s favorite trips were to Australia, Fiji and of course, Hawaii, which he visited more times than he could remember, earning him the nickname “Hawaiian Brian.”
Brian loved baseball, possibly more than anything else. He often said “baseball is my life” and he spent countless hours in ballparks across America. He would arrive to games as soon as the gates opened because he loved to watch the players warm up and see the field being prepared for the game. For years, Brian would spend a month in Arizona for spring training so that he could watch baseball games every day. Some of his happiest days were spent watching the Humboldt Crabs and the San Francisco Giants play baseball. The weekend before his passing, Brian was blessed to be home and to watch a Crabs game with friends.
Brian passed away on June 10, 2019 at his home. He is survived by his daughter, Jolene, his sister and brother-in-law, Carol and John Turner, and too many wonderful friends to mention by name.
The obituary above was submitted on behalf of Brian Konnersman’s family. The Lost Coast Outpost runs obituaries of Humboldt County residents at no charge. See guidelines here.