It was 12 years ago when Shawna Hicks-Cranston was prodding her husband, Brad Cranston, to attend a Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance mixer at Truman's Tap & Grill.
Shawna said Brad, an alliance member, was the kind of guy who knew everyone and who was willing to help anyone. But he was quiet, and on the shy side in groups of people. One on one, he was right at home.
"You need to start going to these (Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance) events," she told him.
Eventually, Shawna got him out the door and he went to Truman's.
"He comes back and says, 'I talked to a bunch of people,'" Shawna recalled. "So that's called networking?"
He went to the next Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance mixer, and the next, and the next.
"I laughed when he would say, 'Let's go networking,'" she said.
Brad, a former Eagle Scout who was born and raised in Iowa, began to enjoy his involvement almost as much as Shawna, who had taken over as the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance's chair of the board this month.
Then on Jan. 12, Brad died unexpectedly at the age of 70.
"He loved his family and his community," Shawna said of her husband. "He absolutely loved going to work and being part of the community. He wanted to know everyone's kids. He knew all of our customers."
Brad, an Iowa State graduate, and Shawna started PostNet together in Lakewood Ranch in 2010. Their endeavor offered business services such as design, printing, shredding, posters and copies. Shawna said Brad greeted every customer with "open arms."
They had met several years earlier at an Adecco Staffing Christmas party in Lakewood Ranch. Brad owned the business and Shawna handled marketing duties, though they never had met. It took a few years, but they began to date.
In 2007, they were at a restaurant. "He looked at me and said, 'I am going to marry you.' It just came out." Shawna said.
And they were married.
Their daughter, Elizabeth, came in 2009. Brad also has two adult, twin sons, Justen and Austen, from a previous marriage.
"I think of him being such a caring person," Shawna said. "I use the analogy of a farmer planting seeds. Brad would grow on you."
Although their daughter and their work took up much of the couple's time, they would get away to travel at times.
"We went to Alaska on our honeymoon, and later we also went to Costa Rica," Shawna said. "Brad loved to travel."
He also had a dry sense of humor. Sometimes when they were enjoying a few drinks with friends, the conversation would come around to the boat Brad used to own.
"He would say, 'I still have a boat,' and he would point to my diamond ring," Shawna said. "He would kid, 'I sold the boat so I could buy that.'"
He would then walk past his wife and give her a kiss on top of the head.
"When people would get to know him, they would learn how warm and caring he could be," she said.
She said he would send out invoices to some of his customers, and friends, who had a bill of $10 or $12. It would say "Please make sure you pay this so I can keep our business."
Those stories and more will be told 3-5 p.m. Friday, Jan. 21 at Waterlefe Golf & River Club's Lefe Room, 1022 Fish Hook Cove, Bradenton during a Celebration of Life. It would have been his 71st birthday.
Brad played golf with friends every Wednesday and Friday at Waterlefe. His golf round on Fridays always ended about 3 p.m.
"Waterlefe was his happy place," Shawna said. "We worked hard, and we enjoyed our pool time and being around the house.
"The Celebration of Life is very informal. It's kind of an open house where you can come and tell a story. I needed to have something casual, because my husband probably would have haunted me if we had something formal."
While Shawna didn't play golf with her husband, she said she "drives a mean golf cart."
After the Celebration of Life, Shawna will ease back into her life with her daughter. She told the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance she wouldn't be able to be the chair this year as she struggles to cope.
"I didn't want to be saying, "Can you hold off on things," she said. "I wanted to make sure the Alliance moves forward at the speed they need. I was so excited to be chairman ... that had been a goal of mine. I was excited to go forward. because there are so many new and exciting things happening with (CEO and president) Brittany Lamont coming on. Hopefully, it will be a seamless transition."
The Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance has announced Allison Imre, chair-elect, will take over as chair of the board immediately.