Many saw Brian Loncar as an amusing character from local television commercials, the brash trial lawyer who implored viewers to “call in the strong arm.”
But those who knew the Highland Park resident personally saw a generous soul who loved life and would do anything for his family and friends.
“He loved people and genuinely wanted to help those that he could,” Loncar’s close friend Dr. Alex Black said.
Loncar died Dec. 4, one week after his youngest daughter, 16-year-old Grace, took her own life.
Black said he had never seen a more grief-stricken man. Nevertheless, less than a week later, Loncar had turned his attention to establishing a foundation in his daughter’s memory that would award a scholarship to Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing Arts, the school Grace loved.
“I was with him the afternoon before he died, and he seemed really positive and was looking forward,” Black said.
During his Dec. 9 funeral, Loncar’s sister Jillian Brade described her brother as a “force of nature” who “drove head-first into anything.”
Brade recalled the day Loncar met his wife, Sue. He called his sister, and told her he’d met the “most beautiful girl in the world.” He canceled his scheduled meetings so that he could spend the afternoon talking to Sue. The conversation lasted for hours.
The Loncars were married for 23 years and had two daughters together. They also had a combined four children from previous marriages, creating a dynamic that several friends compared to The Brady Bunch.
John McShane knew Loncar for 25 years. He said that Loncar had a “heart as big as Texas.”
“He had the image of the strong arm and all that but the overarching thing about Brian was kindness.” Black recalled how people were usually surprised when they met him.
“He wasn’t this loud guy that they thought he would be. He was smart, thoughtful, and always nice to everyone he met.”
Black said Loncar would do anything for his friends: fly across the world to spend time with them; pick up the tab when nobody was looking. His generosity extended to those who helped him as well. He was almost legendary for the large tips he left golf caddies, waiters, and valets.
Loncar was extremely open about his battles with alcoholism and depression. In his memory, Sue established the Grace and Brian Loncar Foundation to help other families dealing with teenage depression.
“We are determined to make something good come from our devastating circumstance,” she said in a statement released Dec. 8.
Black said he still can’t believe the Loncar family has had to endure these two tragedies in such a short time frame. Still, he’s hopeful that they will be able to overcome these trying times.
“It’s really tough for them right now,” he said. “But Sue is strong and I know they will get through it.”