As parents, I think we can all agree that there is no greater love than the love we have for our children. On July 18, 1967, in Bellflower, California, Norman and Francis Van Laar brought their first baby boy into the world. There was something different about this boy – in addition to being a big butt at times, he was also very special, too.
It didn’t take Norman (aka Stormin’ Norman) very long to realize that Brian idolized him and wanted to be just like him. Norman drove trucks for most of his life, and before Brian could even talk, he just wanted to do whatever his dad was doing. Which, fortunately, meant he got a lot of seat time!
By the time Brian was born, his dad Norman had already been bucking and hauling hay for a variety of dairies around the Artesia and Chino areas of Southern California. Anybody that knew Brian’s dad knew that Norman had an unstoppable work ethic.
Almost exactly two years after Brian was born, he found himself being a big brother. Gary Van Laar was born in 1969, and the Van Laar family didn’t stop there. Brian ended up being a big brother to three siblings with the arrival of younger sister Doreen in 1970 and his baby sister Kari in 1972. All of the sudden, the Van Laar house became very busy. Friends of Norman and Francis would often use the phrase “four kids in five years” when describing Brian Van Laar’s energetic family.
The 70s were good to the Van Laar clan. Brian’s dad stayed busy hauling and selling agricultural commodities and, together with Francis, Brian’s mom, they held the home front down, which at times was no easy task! Being only two years apart, Brian and his little brother Gary were naturally competitive, so on many occasions the two would declare what they were going to be when they were grown. Of course, Brian would tell Gary that trucks and trucking was it for him, and Gary would remind Brian that he was going to be a police officer, saying, “I’ll be pulling you over!” Needless to say, just like their father, both of these boys became phenomenal truckers.
During the 1970s, Brian’s dad had an opportunity to buy a dairy in Idaho, and with a little bit of planning and preparation, the Van Laar family packed up and moved there. Brian’s family fit right in immediately. While following his father’s dream, Brian was always front and center on the dairy, every hour of the day, helping with every task his father needed him to do. But Brian’s heart and soul never left his passion for rolling down the slab in those trucks.
Just like any father’s dream, Brian always provided his dad Norman with a positive can-do attitude and would do whatever he could to help his family on a daily basis. People often say, “Good things come to those who wait,” and in Brian’s case, this came true when, in the early 80s, his father Norman decided to sell the dairy in Idaho and move to Marysville, Washington. This wasn’t just an average family move for Brian, now in his early teens, this was a dream come true!
After moving the entire family to Marysville, Norman bought a slick 1984 Peterbilt 359 and leased it on with Ron Nobach, owner of a very reputable trucking company based in their new home town. Ron Nobach was known to always have some of the coolest rides in the Pacific Northwest, pulling mainly reefer freight throughout the western United States. Brian would spend every extra second he had down at Ron’s truck shop, helping out around the shop or, for the most part, unloading and preloading trucks around the area locally.
The Nobachs have always treated the Van Laar family like family of their own. Norman primarily ran south to Los Angeles every week, and Brian couldn’t wait to be old enough to literally follow in his dad’s tire tracks. Thankfully, Brian’s goal came to him a little earlier than he thought, when Ron Nobach offered to sell Brian a beautiful blue ‘80 Peterbilt 359 all set up to go – and with all the papers carried! The problem at that time was acquiring insurance, since Brian was only 17 years old, but with a little creativity and signatures, they pretty much figured it out, and in 1984, Brian was out of the gate running!
Throughout the remainder of the 1980s, Brian put a lot of miles down between Marysville and Los Angeles, making a lot of friends and building a lot of relationships along the way. Brian would even hang out at Bill Frampton’s icehouse in Artesia on regular occasions. Brian knew every day that he made the right choice in life to become an owner operator, but he wanted to be bigger – he wanted more than one truck. By the time the early 1990s came along, Brian began to purchase more trucks.
By the mid-90s, several beautiful trucks were sporting the Brian Van Laar badge, and each of them were different. From Kenworth A models, to Peterbilt 359s and 379s, and even a few sharp Freightliners, Brian had a diverse little fleet. By this time, his younger brother Gary had begun his own trucking career, as well, and by the late 90s, 10-4’s very own Trevor Hardwick was driving for Brian, among other great drivers.
With the turn of the century came a whole new welcomed dynamic to Brian’s life. In 2002, Brian met a beautiful mother of three named Jodi, and the two began dating that year. Although both were very busy in their lives – Brian with his trucking outfit and Jodi with her three kids – Kailee now 26, Tiffany now 24 (aka Wiffy), and Corey now 22 – as well as working full-time for a local marine boating company. Brian loved the added confidence that Jodi brought to his day-to-day life so, in 2006, he asked Jodi to come join him in his office to help out with the paperwork and such. Jodi accepted Brian’s offer, and within six months, Brian realized that Jodi was capable of running the whole deal.
Around this time, after Sysco built a new distribution center in Post Falls, Idaho, things were really getting cranked up. Once Jodi came on board, over the next few years, things got very busy with the company, as several major hauls were added, including Farmers’ Fresh Mushrooms, who begged for Brian’s top-notch service. These expansions to their customer base literally doubled the size of Brian’s fleet to 14 trucks.
As if adding trucks wasn’t enough action for Brian, the couple were blessed with the news that they were expecting a baby boy in 2008. The news of Brian having a son absolutely made Brian’s life complete! Within this same year, Brian and Jodi also gained full custody of Jodi’s kids. It’s safe to say that Brian, Jodi, the three kids and baby Blake, still in mom’s belly, were all very excited and thankful for their new family, which was growing quickly in leaps and bounds!
Even prior to Blake being born, Brian already had big plans for his dream. During Jodi’s pregnancy, Brian bought two mini dragsters, among many other “dude” things, to share with his son. Brian always had a love for drag racing. During this time period, Brian also found his ultimate dream truck – a Viper red Peterbilt 379 with a 72-inch sleeper they nicknamed “Big Red” for obvious reasons.
By the time Blake was old enough to start kindergarten, he had already ridden more miles in Big Red than an average motorist drives in a year. Jodi would often meet Brian down at Donna’s Truck Stop in Arlington, Washington, to have Blake ride down to Seattle with his hero – his dad. Brian also absolutely loved and adored Jodi’s three children from a prior marriage. These three have always been, and will always be, Blake’s most caring siblings. The bottom line: Brian’s life was full of kindness, passion, determination and, most of all, love. Brian not only lived any father’s dream, but he also was any father’s dream.
At just 49 years old, Brian passed away in July of 2016 while in Sonoma, California, due to a massive heart attack he had in his sleep. This tragedy rocked the Marysville community, but worst of all, Brian’s family and, most of all, little Blake – Brian’s mini-me. Great family friend, and one hellacious trucker, Troy Hixon now wheels Big Red, and has brought his years of knowledge to the Van Laar family company. We at 10-4 would like to thank Jodi, Gary, Troy, Trevor and Alicia Hardwick for sharing Brian’s very special life with us.
One last thing. Blake, you are a fine young man, and you will always be everything your father dreamed of. You are, “Every Father’s Dream” and the inspiration for this story. Jodi wanted to end this article with a special CB call out to Brian in Heaven: “We all still love and miss you, Bri, more than you could possibly know. Big B, I got your “sonny” Little B tucked in my heart. Rest easy in the sunshine and know I will NEVER let him forget his daddy!”