A top hat, a coat and a small bottle of captain. Maybe it was jeans rolled up at the pants leg showing his ankles, and rolled down at the waist to keep them on without a belt. In that case, usually shirtless, always shoeless.
Quirky didn’t define Bear Townsend. He defined quirky. Somehow for him, it worked. He could always convince the person he was talking to that his next idea was a good one, and if not, he left them with the notion that if anyone could pull it off, it would be him.
Sitting on the front porch on a sun-warmed leather couch he was always engulfed in the moment. Whether reading, playing guitar or listening to music obscenely loud, anyone who walked past knew a full conversation was on the way.
That was what made Bear special. He truly cared about people. He never had a conversation in which he was waiting to talk, he actually listened. His genuine interest in everyone around him made it impossible to feel like you didn’t know him on a personal level.
Even if you weren’t friends with Bear, he was friends with you.
At Bear’s candle light vigil on January 25, Sigma Phi Epsilon’s chaplain Tanner Scott recalled a moment that described Bear’s frank way of talking — one everyone could relate to.
“Everyone who loves Jesus raise your hand,” Bear said when asked to say a prayer before dinner. “Amen.”
In a conversation, Bear had a way of drawing things out of people that made it hard to not feel like his best friend. It was as if he was collecting little facts about people because he knew that one day, he would be able to talk to them again and have a meaningful conversation about what makes them happy.
He was born to make people happy.
Thirty minutes and 100 tries into learning how to tie a bow tie for a party, Bear walked into my room with his top hat and drink.
“Hold this,” he said while shoving his drink into my hand. He grabbed both sides of the bow tie and whipped out a tight knot.
“Now drink! We did it!” Then proceeded to play through songs on my guitar until he found one we could sing together.
Sure, there was a party going on downstairs, but that moment wasn’t wasted because he knew that wherever he was, was where he was happiest.
Living in the moment didn’t mean putting on a show. It didn’t mean making the best of where he was at. It meant honestly enjoying and gaining the most from every situation. Where he was always seemed to be where he wanted to be.
Shortly after my mid-college crisis and early into my college writing career, I found a piece of paper shoved under my door.
It was a cut-out of a list that I had written for The Odyssey. It wasn’t anything to be proud of, but he had written across the top, “You’ll always be on my front page.”
That was who Bear was. He enjoyed everything about people, and wanted people to have the confidence to do what they enjoyed. He wanted to make someone’s day, and for me, it did much more than that.
If there is one thing that people can get from Bear’s life, it is to live every moment with joy. Everything has a silver lining.
He fit more into his shortened life than most will get in 40. He didn’t live the longest, but he lived the fullest, not a second wasted.
Bear would not stand to see someone hurting. The amount of lives that he changed will never be forgotten, and he will always be remembered for his selfless love.
As he often said, “The battle is already won.”
Written for The Odyssey