Barry Pretzel crossed the Rainbow Bridge, with his beloved dogs that predeceased him, on April 28 — a beautiful spring afternoon — at Gosnell Hospital Memorial Hospice in Scarborough, Maine, after a long struggle with heart disease, brought on by a lifelong battle with diabetes. His departure from this world was peaceful, and he was surrounded by his loving family.
Barry was born July 18, 1953, in Bronx, N.Y., to Adele and Albert Pretzel. He was predeceased by his father; and his mother's brother, Melvin Hoffman; as well as his maternal and paternal grandparents. He is survived by his wife, Carol Ann (Hoffmann); and fur-kids, Daisy and Bugs, in Maine; his mother, Adele Pretzel; his brother, Gary; and his sister, Eileen, all of whom still live in the Bronx; as well as his many childhood friends, those from Camp NYDA, and the ones he made during his days in broadcasting and as an attorney.
Barry and I have been on quite a ride since we met in Laconia, N.H., in 1976, and getting married there on March 12, 1977. Although he was a "city boy" from the Bronx, he had followed his college buddy, George Wright (also from New York City) up to New Hampshire to pursue a career in broadcasting. His first full-time job was as nighttime DJ at WEMJ in Laconia, where I first heard him and fell in love with his voice. Not quite knowing how to get his attention, I adopted the baby gerbils he was giving away, and that began our love affair. His love affair with dogs began then, too, with my dog, Flux, who frequently conversed with us, asking Barry, "Include me?" which we did. Over the past 40 years members of our canine pack have also included Flux, Molly, Toody, Wolfie, Schnauzer, Muldoon, Riley and Max, all who have recently met up with him and accompanied him across the Rainbow Bridge.
Barry's radio career included positions not only as a DJ but interviewer, reporter and news director, at stations in New York (WDLC, Port Jervis), WGAN (Portland, Maine), WFTN (Franklin, N.H.), (WKPA, New Kensington, Pa.), WCAP (Lowell, Mass.),and WKBR (Manchester, N.H.), not necessarily in that order...and a lot of packing and unpacking. Most recently, after moving to Thomaston, Maine, he was an organizer of the newly formed WRFR, a low power station (but also heard worldwide at WRFR.org), an all-volunteer, community radio station in Rocklans, and started his show, Pretzel and Beer, when the radio station went on the air in 2002. The show gave him the opportunity to indulge in two of his favorite topics: talking about beer (especially local beers and micro brews) and playing his favorite tunes of all kinds (most of them uptempo music) from novelty songs (especially Weird Al Yankovic), 60s songs, soul and Motown to disco, Blondie and Lady Gaga. He would spend a considerable amount of time every week preparing for his show, which he was very proud of. Often his beer reviews would include the ratings by Max, our miniature schnauzer, who, being of German origin, was fond of beers....some of them, anyway; Max only got a lick or two out the glass because Barry didn't want to contribute to the delinquency and intoxication of the pooch.
Barry quit commercial broadcasting in the early 90s and instead decided to attend law school at Massachusetts School of Law in Andover, and one of the dogs, Molly, would always be with him, encouraging him in his studies for the bar. After passing the bar, he worked as an appeals attorney for a firm in Worcester, Mass., (calling himself "the Indigent Attorney"). In 1999 he passed the bar in Maine and relocated to Thomaston, to live in the house my parents had left me when they passed in 1989. In Maine, he worked independently as a court-appointed attorney. He took great pride in being a criminal defense attorney, helping many people get a just outcome to their cases.
Barry was a Type 1 diabetic, diagnosed when he was 8 years old. He attended summer camp in upstate New York, Camp NYDA, sponsored by the New York Diabetes Association of New York; the goal was to help kids with diabetes learn how to deal with the disease and realize they were not alone in this. Barry started as a camper and eventually became a CIT. Although the camp closed in 1990, in June of 2013 he was instrumental in organizing a reunion for any campers who had gone there. He managed to get 150 people from all over the country to gather at Burligham, N.Y., and considers it one of his greatest accomplishments. Unfortunately, many of the campers were unable to attend, due to their untimely deaths from this terrible disease.
Barry loved hot sauce, on just about everything. He also enjoyed ribs, bacon, most ethnic foods, and was very brave about trying new (and often strange) food, like duck tongues, or "things that crawl on the bottom of the sea"... things the waiters warned him not to order. He enjoyed Moxie...in moderation. And Beer. Although he enjoyed some brews from the large, commercial companies, it was the micro brews he enjoyed sampling the most.
The Blues Brothers was among his favorite movies, and he also liked the Marx Brothers; he was a Simpsons fan from day one, enjoyed Saturday Night Live (in the good old days) and watched many hospital, lawyer and cop shows, like Boston Legal, Hill Street Blues and ER.
Cooking. Barry loved to cook, frequently making his own creations and rarely needing a recipe. Ethnic foods were his specialty; 99 percent of the time I told him I would order it again. He was a very good cook, and could even make vegan burgers tasty.
Barry had a unique sense of humor. He knew that I was a big fan of popular French singer Francis Cabrel — First, dragging Barry to Brussels, Belgium, to see him in concert (which wasn't too difficult, considering Belgium's reputation for beers!), then going on my own, to cities like Quebec, New York, New Orleans and Los Angeles to see him perform. Barry bought me a button that said, "Some Call It Stalking, I Call it Love." That was Barry's humor.
Diabetes took its toll on Barry; he had his first heart attack in 1995. Diabetes can do major damage to one's heart and arteries. It can cause decreased circulation to extremities, and starting in 2008, Barry needed to have below the knee amputations on both legs, due to non-healing wounds on his heels; they started so small and innocent looking. He was able to walk using his prosthetic legs but not only did they put a strain on his body but his balance was compromised, and he needed to give up his love of hiking and camping. Taking a walk or going up stairs was difficult; he had a wheelchair and walker to use, but preferred to just use a cane if he could. He had a particularly serious heart attack in 2013, in the hospital emergency room. It really seemed he wasn't going to make it; in fact, the nun, sent by the hospital to comfort me, would walk out of the room where he was being treated, frowning and shaking her head. Comfort? I think not. He was diagnosed with congestive heart failure, but made it through, although it wasn't until three years later that he heeded his cardiologist's advice to follow a vegan diet.
I wrote this while Barry was still with us; I wanted to get his input on how he wanted to be remembered, and to let him know what I really thought of him: a wonderful husband and lover, great cook and auto mechanic, and super dad to the dogs. If I ever miss hearing his voice, all I have to do is listen to one of his many air-checks: on reel-to-reel tape from the 1970s, on cassettes from the 1980s, and recently on CDs. I wish I could have taken this trip with him; it's the only one he'll never return from. He'll always be alive in my heart, and whenever anyone remembers him.
Many thanks to the kind and wonderful staff at Maine Medical Center in Portland: the doctors, nurses, CNAs, social workers, and palliative care doctors and assistants, who not only gave so much of themselves in helping Barry while he was there, but helped me through some hard moments, and also thanks to the caring staff and volunteers at Gosnell Hospice in Scarborough, where I, and our dogs, Daisy and Bugs, were allowed to stay with Barry during his last days.
In lieu of flowers, donations would be appreciated to the Pope Memorial Animal Shelter of Knox County, P.O. Box 1294, Rockland, ME 04841 or the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (jdrf.org/donate.)
A small graveside service was held at Berliawsky-Small Cemetery in Rockland.
At some point in the future, there will be a memorial show for Barry on WRFR-LP (wrfr.org).
Rest In Peace, Barry; you're walking on your own legs now. Tell Schnauzer and the other dogs I said "hi" and will eventually join you.
Je t'aimais, je t'aime, je t'aimerai: I loved you, I love you, I will love you.