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The Legend of the Cambria GreenMan
September 27, 2013 - Jim Price
If you browsed the obituaries in the Altoona Mirror hardcopy edition (or on this website) during the past few days, you may have noted the name of Bryan Haluska of Patton, who passed away unexpectedly early on Monday at age 30. You might also have noticed a nickname listed, “Cambria GreenMan.”
For those unfamiliar with Haluska or his nickname, a local ‘superhero’ lived in our midst.
I first encountered Cambria GreenMan roughly two years ago. Exactly where I first encountered him I do not completely recall; it may have been during the inaugural 2011 Patched Together benefit concert at Pellegrine’s. It was hard not to notice Cambria GreenMan, as I later learned he was called; he was totally clad in a bright green jumpsuit with his head and face covered, topped with darker green shorts, a green ballcap and cape both brandishing the letter “G.” As with many people seeing this individual for the first time, my initial reaction was to wonder what this guy’s story was. Was he masquerading early for Halloween? Was he a promotional mascot for a product or service? Just what was this fellow all about?
I didn’t find out that day, but in subsequent days and weeks I began to see references to “Cambria GreenMan” surface on Facebook, and soon a friend request from GreenMan arrived. I accepted and friended him. In my travels to document live music events, I would see Cambria GreenMan show up in increasing frequency in his outfit, and learned that he was promoting himself as a local superhero. He showed up at live music events. I saw him and a sidekick named “Gray Matter” (you guessed it, clad in gray) in attendance at the 2011 Punxsutawney Groundhog Day celebration. He showed up at Altoona Curve baseball games at People’s Natural Gas Field; and if you run the words “Cambria Green Man” through Google Images, you may see a freeze-framed YouTube image of what looks like the green caped crusader running up into the stands at Pittsburgh’s PNC Park during a Pirates/Reds game.
As we communicated back and forth on Facebook and I saw his exploits online, I noted that GreenMan frequently showed up at festivals, community functions and charity events. I learned that he liked to promote and help out at charity events, and in fact he was very community-minded. He would show up, do photos with children and fascinated fans, shake hands and be involved.
And as I host trivia contests several nights a week at assorted bar and restaurant venues, GreenMan showed up as a contestant in my contest one night at the Thirsty Dawg Taverne in Patton. (As I recall, he wasn’t ‘super’ on trivia and didn’t fare well in the competition that night.)
Eventually I met GreenMan without his costume. I never actually asked his real name; perhaps I wanted to retain some of the mystique of his costumed alter ego and fought the urge to learn the identity of the man behind the mask. But we would sometimes joke about the coincidence that he and GreenMan were never in the same room at the same time, and he would comment that he never could arrive in time to see this character called Cambria GreenMan. I imagine he had that running joke with a number of people who knew his identity.
In recent months, as I delivered the monthly copies of the local music publication I write for, I would often run across the unmasked GreenMan at a favorite hangout, Pepperoni’s Pizza in Hastings. He would spend time chatting with shop proprietor and area musician Rick Ramsey. I would often spend 5 or 10 minutes chatting with both of them over a slice of pizza, and continued to learn more about this friend who donned the green superhero costume.
I was notified early Monday morning about GreenMan’s passing by another area musician, and it was only then that I learned the true identity of the caped crusader, Bryan Haluska.
Stunned by the news of the passing, I pondered about Haluska and Cambria GreenMan. And I came to the realization that Haluska was able to do something special in his life that many people hope to do during the course of their own lives: make a difference.
Through his Cambria GreenMan alter ego, Haluska was doing his part to make the world (or at least this corner of that world) a better place. He helped charity. And he made people smile. Here was a person who found a purpose and angle to approach life; bringing his superhero alter ego to fruition. And he did so to lift spirits, put smiles on people's faces, and bring some good into the world. He found a way to make his mark, and he made a difference. He became a local legend to those whose lives he touched.
Cambria GreenMan's passing serves as another reminder for us to enjoy families, friends, and the people we interact with in our day-to-day lives, while they are here. Enjoy smiles, laughter, good times, and even superhero outfits; and make memories with the folks you encounter in life. For those are the memories that live on when the unexpected happens in this journey called life.
I tip my hat to Bryan Haluska – “Cambria GreenMan” – for making a positive mark on this little corner of the world, and for brightening the lives of those he encountered while he was here. He made a difference, anonymously and his way. Maybe he never jumped over a skyscraper, stopped a crashing meteor, stopped evil monsters or bad guys, or achieved the speed of sound in his real-life travels. But by bringing joy to others, and working to make his community a better place through his support of charity, he was – in his own distinctive way – a real superhero that area residents he encountered will long remember. May we all find inspiration in his example, so that we too can make our own positive differences in the world in our own unique and special ways.
(A benefit for Bryan Haluska's surviving family takes place on Friday evening, September 27, from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. at the Patton VFW, 400 Magee Avenue in Patton. Entertainment will be provided by the Royal Nights. Donation at the door is $3, and canned food donations will be accepted for charity. Cash donations will also be accepted.)
The last photo I took of the "Cambria GreenMan" (Bryan Haluska); this was taken during the annual Kids Come First Benefit concert at the Cresson Sportsmen's Club on August 24. The bright sunlight that afternoon gave his green outfit a glowing quality.