He was remembered as a “gentle giant,” a man with a big heart, big into being a great friend and husband.
He was remembered for his kind nature, as a man who helped bake homemade treats for family during the holidays and made those he loved laugh.
Through smiles and tears, Brian Allen was remembered Friday at Jackson Lake Lodge, as family, friends and coworkers gathered to say goodbye to the 44-year-old who died May 21 in a rafting accident on the Snake River.
Allen had lived in Moran since 2017, when he and his wife, Amy, relocated from the Denver area after she took a job at the Grand Teton Lodge Company.
Allen worked for nearly 20 years as a cook, so by the time he moved to Wyoming he was eager to get out of the kitchen and join the rafting team. This year would have marked his second full season on the river.
His sister, Lisa Caldera, fondly recalled their childhood in Queens and Long Island in New York, her brother being the youngest of four siblings. She paused occasionally to gather her emotions as she read through the eulogy she prepared.
“We all know that Brian was known as a big man in terms of his physical stature,” she said. “Big sense of humor, big heart, big into being Dottie’s daddy, big into being a husband. And he left a big impact on those of us who were family and friends.”
Caldera recalled happy moments playing team tag, hanging out at the park or sitting on stoops. Once, the two of them were playing team tag and decided to hide in garbage bags and cans to evade discovery. They were thwarted by the sound of their own raucous laughter, but that didn’t stop them from having fun.
As a grown-up Allen would impress the family with his skills in the kitchen, preparing elaborate meals for the whole family. One Christmas the Allens made the whole family boxes of chocolates, candy and cookies — something Caldera counts as one of the most memorable gifts she has ever received.
Although there was sadness among the rows of white chairs at Jackson Lake Lodge, amid a sprawling view of the park he loved, Caldera emphasized that Allen’s life was filled with happy moments. The day, she said, should celebrate those moments.
“Let us not sit in pity and sorrow, but remember all the happiness brought to our lives because of Brian,” she said “Let us laugh over the joyous memories of our time spent together, the countless hours that we were with him, the road trips, holidays and just plain hanging out. Let us remember how he made us laugh with his quirky sense of humor that found a way to lift our spirits no matter the situation.”
Those who stood at the podium recalled his signature sense of humor again and again. Friends also talked about adventures they had with Allen, like Kent Clements, who is captain of the tight-knit rafting crew at the Grand Teton Lodge Company.
The two initially bonded over a mutual love of music, specifically the Wu-Tang Clan. But the fast friends also bonded quickly over their love of the river.
Allen, Clements said, took an interest in fly-fishing and, though largely self-taught, became quite good at it.
“Watching Brian cast a fly rod was like listening to Mozart,” he said, “if Mozart dropped the F-bomb every 10 seconds while he was playing.
“I don’t know what waits for us after this life,” Clements said. “But for Brian I hope it’s a beautiful river chock-full of hungry trout, a fly rod in one hand, a glass of bourbon that never runs dry in the other and a Marlboro Red about 9 miles long.”
Alex Klein, vice president and general manager for Grand Teton Lodge Company, suggested Allen’s life philosophy was a lesson for all who knew him.
“He was just happy with where he was, what he was doing and spending time with Amy,” Klein said. “He took great joy from that, and he didn’t need to be chasing that next dream. He just wanted to live in the moment and enjoy life.
“So that’s what I’m taking away,” he said. “I think we can all learn a little bit from how Brian approached life.”
Allen is survived by his wife, Amy, and his siblings, Caldera, Diane Madden and Robert Allen. He also leaves behind his dog, Dottie.
After the service, some of Allen’s ashes were scattered on the Snake River in a private ceremony. The remaining ashes were taken by his family to be scattered at a New York beach where his family spent their childhood summers — and where he first learned to love the water.
Read an obituary submitted by Allen's family here.