Fraternity brothers bring yearly celebration to ailing friend
By Bob Cunningham
The brothers of Bowling Green State University’s Kappa Sigma have lived up to their family moniker.
Eight years ago, fraternity alumni from 1971-76 got together for a golf tournament and a barbecue in the Cleveland area. It was so much fun it turned into a yearly tradition, meeting on the third Saturday in July.
“For some reason, with that group, from those years, we’ve been able to maintain our relationships,” said Garry Miller ‘74, who hosts the cookout unofficially named “The Festival on the Lake” at his Lorain, Ohio, home each year. “When we get together, it’s like being back at Bowling Green again. Of course, a lot of the stories get bigger, but the stories we tell about going to class, stuff we did at the fraternity, it’s just amazing.
“I think that’s what draws everybody, you’re reliving your days back at Bowling Green and the fraternity and it’s just a time that everyone had together.”
That camaraderie was the foundation for this summer’s outing, too, when they decided to bring the event from Miller’s home to one of the fraternity brothers.
Already suffering from Parkinson’s disease for a few years, Steve Breit ‘74 was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
Parkinson’s disease is a brain disorder that occurs when the nerves that produce dopamine, a chemical that allows smooth and coordinated movement of the body’s muscles, die or become impaired. Signs of the disease include tremors, slowness of movement, rigidity and difficulty walking.
ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is an incurable neurological disease that causes muscle weakness and impacts physical function. The nerve cells eventually break down and die. Early signs of ALS include muscle twitching and weakness in an arm or a leg, or slurring of speech. Ultimately, ALS affects voluntary and involuntary motor functions such as the ability to move, speak, eat and breathe.
Breit, a retired middle school principal, informed his fraternity buddies via email of his diagnosis in the spring.
That’s when Miller and Gene Leonard ‘73 started planning to take the annual reunion to Breit, who lives north of Canton in Hartville, Ohio, with the help of Raintree Country Club.
Once it was scheduled, Miller and Leonard then reached out to the 50 or more Kappa Sigma alumni on the email chain to see what they could do together to help Breit, his wife Diane and their family.
“We had a number of brothers who could not attend, but they gave us donations so we were able to pay for Steve’s whole family to come,” Miller said. “We made signs and had people donate holes, stuff like that at the golf tournament. So most of it was paid for by donations outside of the guys that were even there.”
“They are indeed a very special group of men,” Diane Breit said. “The fact that they moved this year's entire event to Raintree Country Club so that we could attend, and even invited our children and their spouses to be part of the special day, speaks volumes.”
Miller said this summer’s reunion was emblematic of how the fraternity brothers are a supportive group just as you would imagine brothers in a family.
“We are just a very close-knit group,” he said. “We just felt this was the year to bring the reunion to Steve because we know just how much he enjoys being with us. We just thought we want him to share in this because this might be the last time he’s able to do it.”
Miller said the outing was emotional at times, but everyone had a good time. So much so that an old tradition was rekindled. In their fraternity days, the brothers would sing "You're My Kappa Sigma Dream Girl" when someone got engaged or pinned to their girlfriend.
“Steve asked us when he got there for us to sing that song to his wife because she also was a BGSU student,” Miller said. “So, we all sang it and it was quite the spectacle. Diane was very emotional. Several of us gave a little speech when we left at the end. We basically all lined up and said good-bye to him. I’m not sure we may see him next year so that was kind of an emotional time for us.
“Every year we try to make it so it’s not too costly and have an inexpensive day to get back together with our buddies from college. But this was special reunion and the largest one we’ve had, and it’s because of Steve. We tried to give him a weekend so he would always remember what we did to honor him.”
Diane Breit said during their ride home Steve said it was one of the "best days ever!”
“The Kappa Sigs created a very special memory for Steve and me and our children—all of Steve's 'brothers' exemplify the very best qualities of a fraternity, and we feel blessed and honored to have them as part of our lives through the years.”
That’s brotherly love for the BG Falcon Family.