ARLINGTON — When a fleet of nearly 50 semi trucks cruised through downtown Arlington Sept. 17, many onlookers wondered what the occasion was.
Brian Van Laar died last summer, but his fellow truckers felt like giving him a sendoff that Saturday, after which more than 250 of them met at the Gleneagle Golf Course Country Club for a remembrance.
Aimee Aldrich and Micaela Gunderson had worked for Van Laar’s trucking company years before, and approached Brian’s widow, Jodi, about bringing together his friends and colleagues to honor his memory.
Brian’s big red truck was driven by his brother, Gary, while Brian’s nearly 8-year-old son, Blake, sat in Gary’s lap. They’d previously ridden together when Brian drove his truck during the Marysville Strawberry Festival Grand Parade, with Gary in the passenger seat and Blake again on his lap.
Brian was a longtime resident of the Arlington and Marysville. He bought his first truck at age 17, following in his father’s footsteps as a trucker.
He was buried in California, where he’d been born and maintained a second home. He was visiting California to watch drag racing when he died July 30, less than two weeks after his 49th birthday July 18.
“He got to watch the Friday night quals (qualifying races),” said Jodi, who will continue to run Van Laar Trucking in Marysville. “He was still laughing and joking around that night. But the next morning, he didn’t wake up.”
Although he suffered from a major heart attack, Jodi said all signs pointed to him dying peacefully in his sleep.
The procession of truckers dutifully obtained a parade permit prior to proceeding along Olympic Avenue, but Aldrich wished they’d spread word of the event a bit better beforehand.
“A lot of folks probably weren’t expecting that extra traffic,” Aldrich said. “But you also want people to know what sort of man he was. From his family to the people he’d worked with, Brian touched so many people’s lives. I’m just glad we all got one last chance to share our stories of how much he meant to us.”