Little did I know at the time how much this topic would mean to me.
As a child growing up in the Adirondacks and an adult building her life and business in the Finger Lakes, I’ve been blessed by beautiful surroundings at every turn. I’ve explored the mountains; I’ve captained an Adirondack guideboat through the lakes, I’ve painted the overpasses that inspire you to pull over and just breathe for a minute while you take in the scenery.
I’ve always felt a strong connection to my environment...but the importance of that connection was amplified when I met John Brahm III.
John Brahm, the owner and winemaster at Arbor Hill Grapery, was an amazing man. An energizer bunny, John’s omnipresent positivity was given away by his happy demeanor and big dimples.
His storied history in winemaking and business is one I’ll leave for others to tell, but for me, what stood out about John from the very moment I met him was that John understood connection.
And those connections ran deep.
Extending beyond his loved ones, John had a way of making every person he met feel like family in an instant. No one was unimportant in his presence. His kindness was unparalleled (though his wife, Katie, carries a phenomenal kindness of her own).
That sense of familial connection extended to the greater community. John served as a glue between businesses and people in his small town of Naples and the entire Finger Lakes region. Despite his insistence that I was “behind the times” because I hadn’t yet invested in a fax machine, John was amazingly innovative and forward thinking in his cultivation of new wines, food products, and businesses, and that creative energy and excitement over each of his endeavors spread to the community around him.
Finally, John nurtured an incredible connection to his physical surroundings. The environment provided his livelihood as a winemaster, food purveyor, and tourism destination. But his appreciation ran deeper than the vines: John truly appreciated the ground we walk on in the Finger Lakes, and had a firm desire to share that love with everyone.
John’s connections were spurred by something we all have, but sometimes (okay, most times), fail to make the most of:
No matter the to-do list, the time of year, or the pressures of the many balls John had to juggle, John always took the time.
Time to take a bride-to-be for a ride to admire the view from his antique truck when she stopped by the winery for her bachelorette.
Time to clue me in to a “special spot” on his property, then help me set up the perfect painting as part of last year’s Plein Air Festival.
Time to nurture connections to his people, to his art, and to his environment.
On March 2nd, John passed suddenly. The magic he had -- one you don’t find in too many people -- has undoubtedly left a gaping hole in the Naples community, in the Finger Lakes region, and, if you ask me, in the world as a whole.
But just as John would’ve wanted the show to go on at Arbor Hill and Brew and Brats (where Katie, his daughter Sherry and his son-in-law John will continue operations), we can also honor his memory by taking the time. By being present and kind. And by seeking to create greater connections to our own people, our own art, and our own environments.
John’s was a life rooted in connections. One we can all certainly learn from, and emulate in our own ways.