Diana Feeney wants you to know something.
It’s not a big wish. She just wants you to know the name of the man she loved.
Actually, if she were to have any wish, it would be to roll back the clock a year. And then she would do anything to convince that man to forget about a haircut.
“The man went out for a haircut that day and never came back,” she says.
The next day, the newspaper ran a photo of a motorcycle on the pavement of an intersection in Central Peoria. The caption said there had been a wreck between a motorcycle and a car. But at press time, there was little other information available, including the motorcyclist’s name.
One day later, with friends and family at a hospital bedside, the motorcyclist died. Yet, as sometimes happens in a busy city always bustling with news, the rest of the story went unnoticed by local media. None mentioned his death.
A year later, Feeney still feels a hurt, a hole — from not just the pain of grief but also the omission of his name.
“His name wasn’t mentioned, like he was a nobody,” she says. “I want people to know his name. I want people to know who he was.”
Brian R. Biggs. That was his name.
And he wasn’t nobody. Not to the people whose lives he touched.
Biggs, 61, lived in East Peoria with Feeney, his partner for 32 years. They raised two sons: Nicklos, now 32, and Luke, 24.
He owned his own company, B.R. Biggs Truckin, in East Peoria. He wasn’t just a boss: When his employees got in jams, he’d help out with advances and loans.
“He’d give them the shirt off his back,” says Feeney, 61.
He also kept his family's home humming. He was essentially rebuilding the place top to bottom, finishing a last, major project last spring.
And he helped and supported Feeney when she went through a bout with cancer. Not too far back, when she seemed to have licked the disease and regained her strength, they decided to start seeing bit more of the world.
“I was finally at the point where I had my strength and could travel,” she says.
As empty-nesters, they found travel to their liking — sometimes by plane, but often by road. And in mid-June of last year, they planned a weekend jaunt to St. Louis. Everything seemed set by the morning of Thursday, June 14, except for one minor detail.
“Of course, he had to get a haircut,” Feeney says, her voice tinged with tension.
He hopped on his motorcycle and zipped over to his barber in Peoria. Afterward, shortly before 10 a.m., he headed home. He was motoring south on North Knoxville Avenue, approaching the intersection with McClure Avenue.
He never made it through.
A northbound SUV was stopped at a flashing yellow turn arrow, preparing to turn west onto McClure Avenue, according to a Peoria police report. As the SUV pulled across the southbound lane, the motorcycle slammed into the SUV, hurtling Biggs to the pavement.
To police, the driver said he thought the motorcycle had been speeding. But a witness said there had been no speeding: Biggs had been driving properly and safely.
The SUV’s driver was arrested and booked into the Peoria County Jail on a felony charge of driving on a revoked license. The next day, he posted $200 bail and went home.
Meanwhile, Biggs was at a Peoria hospital, his life on the line. Also there were Feeney and their sons, plus relatives and friends.
“I’m glad that I got to be there with him,” she says quietly. “But it was so very difficult.”
At first, doctors thought he was suffering a small brain bleed but eventually would be all right. But then things took a turn for the worse, and he needed brain surgery. Afterward, he showed no brain activity.
“So, we had to make the discussion, our kids and I, to let him go,” Feeney says, voice cracking. “It took seven minutes for him to die.
“It seemed like forever.”
Biggs, who liked to help people, helped even in death. His organs were donated.
Two days later, Feeney and their sons made preparations for his farewell.
“We spent Father’s Day in the funeral home, making arrangements,” she says.
After he was cremated, they held a celebration of life. And now a year has passed.
The motorist in the SUV, Yendis Liddell, 39, goes to trial next month. The state revoked his license in 2014 for driving without a valid license. If found guilty of driving on a revoked license, Liddell faces upward of three years in prison, which does not seem like long enough to a woman who lost the man she loves.
“His life was worth more than three years,” Feeney says.
Still, she has looked over Illinois statutes and realizes there is no harsher charge applicable. She says she might try to push for tougher driving laws.
But right now, she is busy pushing to honor Biggs. Saturday in Sunnyland, she and others will host the Brian Biggs Memorial Ride. Proceeds will go to Peoria Rescue Ministries, the faith-based social-service organization that Biggs supported.
“He donated to them monthly, plus on holidays,” Feeney says.
She hopes the event will recur each year and keep his name alive. She doesn’t want the last public notice of him to be a nameless photo in the news.
“I want people to know who he was,” she says, “and that he had a name.”
PHIL LUCIANO is a Journal Star columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, facebook.com/philluciano and (309) 686-3155. Follow him on Twitter.com/LucianoPhil.