CHANNAHON – Brian Feiner of Channahon was hands-on and independent; he did things his way.
So spending the last year of his life – Feiner was 48 when he died March 17 – battling the side-effects of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis – commonly known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease – seemed especially cruel.
Feiner could no longer rebuild cars or play country and classic rock songs on his guitar. He could no longer run his trucking company, B&K Transport. So Feiner spent those last few months rebuilding family relationships.
“He had five grandkids and I think the grandkids were one of the major reasons he pushed through and had a real positive outlook. He was much more family-oriented,” said Feiner’s daughter, Jenn Peterson of Morris. “He just loved those grandkids.”
Diann Moustis of Marseilles, Feiner’s mother, said Feiner – even as a boy – loved taking things apart and putting them back together. Through experimentation, Feiner taught himself plumbing, carpentry, troubleshooting lawnmowers. By 18, Feiner was pulling apart cars and rebuilding them.
“He didn’t let much stand in his way,” Diann said. “If he wanted to do something, then by golly, he was going to do it.”
Feiner’s son Dan Feiner of Joliet recalled his father’s 1972 Dodge Charger, which Feiner stripped to nothing and then sanded, rewired, reupholstered and repainted.
Although Feiner occasionally showed the Charger, Dan said, Feiner tinkered with it for the sheer pleasure of working the project, not accolades.
“He just learned from experience,” Dan said. “If he broke it, then he’d figure out how to fix it.”
Feiner approached music the same way. A former piano student, Feiner taught himself how to play guitar when he was a teen and then later taught his son, also named Brian, of Joliet how to play.
Feiner often woke the household at 7 a.m., cranking up a song he wanted to learn, Dan said. But Feiner also participated in his children’s interests.
“He even rode dirt bikes with us,” Brian said.
Feiner’s daughter Nicole Feiner of Coal City smiled when she recalled the times Feiner took her horseback riding, even though he never actually sat on a horse.
He acknowledged Nicole’s love by buying a horse for her, requiring Dan to forego a concert to build a fence for it and then accompanying Nicole whenever she rode.
“He just went out and watched me,” Nicole said.
Eventually Feiner, a truck driver who had worked for several cartage companies over the years, took apart that lifestyle and built up his own trucking company. Dan said he worked hard to make it successful.
“He was very motivated,” Dan said. “He didn’t like anyone telling him what to do and felt he could accomplish more without having a boss looking over his shoulder.”
That routine began coming apart in December 2013. Diann noticed some unsteadiness in Feiner at a family gathering and quipped that he had drunk too much, despite Feiner insisting otherwise.
In January 2014, Feiner was in a car accident and thought he had injured his back. Persistent symptoms eventually led to the diagnosis of ALS, and the disease moved fast.
“Within months, he was in a wheelchair,” Dan said.
In July 2014, Feiner sold B&K Transport and concentrated on enjoying his family. Looking back on March 20 – the day before Feiner died – Jenn sees a bit of the divine.
“It was a 70-degree day and he had taken my kids to a park in Joliet,” Jenn said. “I believe that God made that 70-degree day.”
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