CVW has written several times about the close-knit community of Crescenta Valley. It seems that many of those who were born here may leave, but find their way back. It is a community that despite being just minutes from the city of Los Angeles, feels like a small town so when one of us experiences a tragic loss we all grieve.
Early Sept. 7 Brad Elze, 56, was involved in a fatal accident on Foothill Boulevard in Tujunga. CVW reported on the accident, asked for the public’s help with any information regarding the traffic collision and, as is the practice of this community, several people reached out to offer their help to the family.
It is certain Brad would have done this if the family facing this loss was not his own.
Brad was a Crescenta Valley hometown boy, who did marry the girl next door, raised his sons with an adventurer’s heart, supported his church, was involved in Boy Scouts, baseball, soccer and cared for his family and neighbors with a generous spirit.
“In 1991 I bought the house across the street and noticed this very muscular, good looking guy who drove a Harley,” said Kristen Elze of her husband.
It took some time but their friendship eventually turned to love and they were married on Sept. 26, 1998. They have two sons, Hayden, a CV High School student, and Lukas, who attends Valley View Elementary.
“People described him as a renaissance man,” said sister-in-law Kari Dunkley.
And that is a good description. He started out as a carpenter and framer and then worked as a mechanic.
He began at Hightower Motors then for Bob Smith Toyota. Kristen said her husband loved working at Bob Smith but then got a job as a mechanic with the City of Los Angeles.
“Mike Smith was so nice. He gave Brad his blessing and told him if he ever needed to come back he could,” Kristen said.
‘There was always an adventure,” Dunkley said of her brother-in-law.
“He flew hang gliders … for about 30 years that was a huge part of his life,” Kristen said. “He would fly cross-country.”
He also flew Ultralight aircraft, but once he became a father and there were sports practices and Boy Scout meetings, he flew less and less. But that didn’t mean his adventures stopped.
“Brad was the hands-on [Boy Scout assistant leader]. He was the adventurer, the one who brought the outdoors to the [kids],” Kristen said. “And my husband loved to hike. For the last few years he hiked almost every day of his life.”
As the assistant scoutmaster for Boy Scout Troop 391, he led the boys in getting their auto mechanic merit badge.
“He liked going camping, too,” Hayden added.
In fact, this Saturday Brad had planned a trip for the Boy Scouts to Lake Arrowhead for watersports.
In addition to all of this outdoor activity, he sewed.
“He created leather goods,” Dunkley said. “And took juice boxes and would make bags out of them.”
The boys knew their dad to be someone who never gave up and could fix anything.
“My dad taught me to never get up,” said Lukas. “If you think something is impossible, it’s not.”
“He said if there was a will there’s a way,” Hayden added.
Brad was the type of dad boys dream of. He took them hiking and camping, taught them how to ride motorcycles and build things, and was always involved in their sports from baseball to snowboarding.
“We have a bunch of Honda 70s. About five or six years ago he and all his buddies wanted to make a show bike. They made a hotrod,” Hayden said.
He and his son built bikes and entered them in Joe’s Minibike Reunion.
“He was best in show the last couple of years and then [last year] he came in second in all around and my bike came in fourth,” Hayden said.
“He helped his son build this bike,” Kristen said, quietly remembering her husband.
Most CV residents who have attended the Montrose Christmas Parade will know Brad as the lead minibike rider with the Montrose Minibike Club Santa’s 70s parade entry.
“He was the big guy on the bike who blew the whistle,” Kristen added.
“He was a wonderful guy,” said Matt Zakarian, Glendale police detective and CV resident. “He had a big heart and took care of everyone else.”
Both Zakarian and Brad went to CVHS together.
“I see a lot of him in his boys,” he said.
The family has not yet begun to heal from this recent loss. The boys are back in school and Kristen walks through the day automatically, sometimes being able to find some order in life and then sometimes lost in grief and concern for her family.
“I will now be their mom and dad the best I can,” she said.
But she worked part time and her husband was the main financial support of the family, including providing insurance.
“I am concerned how to support my children. We were reasonable about a lot of things that we did but health insurance and kids going to college … those are concerns,” she said.
Her church, Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has helped as have the community.
Both Kristen and her sister are so grateful for the overwhelming support from their community. Brad’s Boy Scout troop raised money for his headstone, a donor offered to pay the rest of the Club Soccer tuition so Lukas can continue to play, his music teacher has offered free lessons and people continue to show support.
“It has been such an outpouring,” she said.
A memorial for Brad is being held on Saturday at 10 a.m. at 4550 Raymond Ave. Brad is survived by his wife Kristen, sons Hayden and Lukas, and mother Florita. He was preceded in death by his sister Jeannie, brother Billie, father Bill and brother Tim.
In lieu of flowers donations can be made to the Brad Elze Educational Trust, 700 N. Brand Blvd., Ste. 560, Glendale, 91203.
A gofundme page has been created by friends for the family. To donate visit www.gofundme.com and search Brad Elze.