Perhaps it is because I’m getting to the age where the generation ahead of me (and all too often, my own generation) is leaving this world at a pace more frequent than I would like, but it certainly seems like we’ve lost a lot of memorable people in the past year. In mainstream society, the list of high-profile deaths that hit me particularly hard is too long: Muhammad Ali, David Bowie, Prince, Gordie Howe, Morley Safer, Guy Clark, Garry Shandling and Maurice White.
Closer to home, 2016 has been rough on the billiard industry as well.
This year began with the death of longtime promoter and billiard idealist, Barry Dubow. A New Yorker through and through, Dubow was one of the first people I met in the industry. He was pitching the Professional Pool Players Association to Madison Avenue when I met him in Manhattan in 1981. I have met few people in this industry who believed in pool as a marketing vehicle more than Dubow. He was never without his leather binder, which contained program guides and press clippings from the various events he’d promoted for the WPBA, PPPA, BCA, Brunswick Billiards and more. He died of a rare neurological disorder at the age of 76.
The months that have passed saw the deaths of former National Billiard News publisher and noted tournament referee Conrad Burkman, International Challenge of Champions and Trick Shot Magic promoter (and prolific Western novelist) Matt Braun and, of course, U.S. Open 9-Ball Championships founder and longtime Virginia poolroom owner Barry Behrman.
More recently, the billiard world lost two icons from the manufacturing side of the industry: table maker Don Brostoski and cuemaker Paul Huebler. (See “Wing Shots,” page 13.)
Brostoski, founder of Golden West Billiard Mfg., was 71 when he passed away in Portland, Ore. Golden West was launched in Southern California in the 1960s, but Brostoski relocated the business to Oregon in the late ’90s. I remember visiting his factory in Canoga Park, Calif., on my many advertising sales junkets during the ’80s and ’90s. BCA Hall of Famer Lou Butera worked in the showroom. Brostoski was known as an innovative table designer and a fine craftsman.
Huebler was an industry gem. He looked like Edmund Gwenn’s Kris Kringle character in the classic movie, “Miracle on 34th Street,” and he was just loved. Though residing in the tiny town of Linn, in central Missouri, Huebler was well-traveled. He spent five years in New Guinea doing missionary work. He loved expensive wines and five-star restaurants. As a big advertiser in Billiards Digest, Huebler got the royal treatment when he visited Chicago. On one visit, I was charged with taking Paul to Le Francais, a five-star French restaurant outside Chicago. It was my first, and last, time at a five-star French restaurant. Mr. Huebler was 89.
What all this has taught me is that the longer you are part of a big family — and after 36 years, it’s safe to say the billiard world is part of my family — the more likely you are to experience the loss of longtime friends, people who have had a significant impact on you over the years.
I have fond memories of the billiard icons we’ve lost in 2016. And, as difficult as it is to say goodbye, I am thankful to be in an industry in which friendships and relationships tend to last a good, long time.