The local sports world and many members of the Genesee County community mourn today after hearing of the unexpected passing of popular sportswriter, Brian Hillabush.
Hillabush, who spent nearly a decade at Batavia Daily News and some time at The Batavian, was found dead in his home Wednesday evening. No cause of death has been determined.
"I'm very shocked to hear about Brian and we will all certainly miss him," says Batavia Daily News managing editor Mark Graczyk. "He did great job as sports writer here. He always cared about people that he covered and will be missed by the people in the community.
"Brian loved and lived for sports, with his favorite teams being Duke, Yankees, and the Colts," said his girlfriend Aline Alibe Santos. "He loved his nephews and his family and had future plans to get married."
Hillabush had been attending Genesee Community College and was majoring in travel and tourism.
"He was an energetic, well-liked student. You could tell from his days at the paper that he was interested in learning about the facts and finding out as much as he could about topics he liked." says GCC instructor Amy Slusser. "He took interest in local geography and hometown destinations and wanted to promote Batavia as a tourism destination."
Hillabush was well known for spending hours each week at sporting events and had a strong following in high school sports.
"He was very good at his job," says Batavia hockey coach Paul Pedersen. "He went the extra mile to cover the high school sports and was very passionate about the ones in the area, being that he was a local kid himself.
"He would go every day, game to game, and that was his life. It was awesome and the articles showed the time he put into each one of them. (Our) team went to states in 2002-2003 and he followed us to all the games that were way out of town. Him and (Mark) Gutman were stapled to us. Not every reporter does that. It was nice and made the kids feel special."
"Brian was passionate about how he represented, reported and worked with the local sports," stated Notre Dame Football coach and longtime friend Rick Mancuso. "He loved the kids he interacted with and he loved what he did.
"His passion was what set him apart from other people. He really was an advocate for high school sports.He worked very hard in everything he did and had a vision for how high school reporting should be."
Brian's work was appreciated by many and he was one of the few reporters that went out of his way to cover cheerleading as well.
"The first person to always cover our acomplishments was Brian," says former Batavia cheerleading captain Jamie Turman. "As a cheerleader it wasn't often that you would be in the limelight, but Brian always made our winnings known to our community.
"He understood that even though we were cheerleaders, we were proud of what we had done and what we had acomplished. He was amazing in the sense that he made all althelets feel great about what they had done no matter how big or small. He even took the time to talk to us and to learn about cheerleading to try and put himself in our shoes."
Hillabush's vision for high school sports started with a focus on the Genesee Region but quickly expanded to all of Section V. He played a major role in the lauch of SectionVTalksback.com, which is an online high school sports forum that allows athletes from all over the section to interact and chat about their sports.
"He had a great vision in kicking off probably one of the most succesful high school sports sites that exists in SectionVTalksback. He really did a great job at what he did. He will be missed by many," added Mancuso.
Friends may call on Sunday from 3 to 6 p.m. at H.E. Turner & Co. Funeral Home, 403 E. Main St., Batavia, where services will follow at 6 p.m. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the family. Burial will be in Grand View Cemetery, Batavia.