Flying a passion for Kasson’s Brian Xavier
Brian Xavier first lived in Kasson when in first and second grade as his dad was the Senior High School principal in the old Kasson school building.
Since they did not live far from the school he enjoyed going to the movies at the Kasson State Theater on Sunday afternoons for six cents admission and ten cent popcorn even though his dad was not enthused about him going to the movies on Sunday afternoons.
Taking swimming lessons at the Kasson pool was a good memory and they lived in the same neighborhood as long time Kasson resident Barry Dibble, Xavier said. During Christmas vacation his first grade teacher, Miss Boogs, died so that was a vivid memory and a new teacher finished out the school year.
The family moved to Rochester when he started third grade as his father became the assistant principal at the Rochester Junior High. Since the students would call his dad “Beak” he earned the title “Little Beak” which he was not always happy about. When he was entering 10th grade his family moved to Albert Lea and he finished his high school days there.
Brian enrolled at Luther College for two years. A college counselor told him he didn’t think Brian was taking full advantage of the educational opportunities at Luther so thought it was best if he and the school parted ways.
Brian then enlisted in the Navy and had a 38-week electronic course on Treasure Island near San Francisco following his basic training. He was assigned to the LSD-17 USS Catamount ship for the next two years. It was a dock landing ship based in the Philippines and hauled supplies to Vietnam three times while he was on board.
After he left the Navy he enrolled at the University of Minnesota and earned a degree in electrical engineering.
When asked how he met Mary Esther, who became his wife, he said she was a nursing student at St. Olaf but was taking some classes at UofM in the summer and living in a house with Brian's sister, Martha, and six other St. Olaf students.
Brian said his roommate owned a Corvette, (which of course has limited seating) and said they should check out them out. Martha and Mary Esther went with the guys to an A&W and, during the ride, Mary Esther ended up sitting on his lap in the rear seat. Two months later they were engaged and were married the following summer, in 1968, after she graduated from college.
When Brian finished college, job opportunities were very limited but he finally received a telegram from Univac that they wanted to talk with him and he was hired to work on a new computer system. After a few years the company was opening a new operation in Clear Lake, IA and they made the move there.
Brian was a flute and piccolo player and he heard about an opportunity in the 451st Army Reserve Band in the Twin Cities. Former K-M Choir Director George Gentes, played in this band and helped Brian get into it. He was a member for 19 years. Asked if he ever played the Sousa march “Stars and Stripes Forever,” he said many times.
Brian became interested in airplanes and flying at an early age when the family lived close to the old airport in Rochester and he would ride his bike to watch the planes taking off and landing. At the time three airlines operated from the airport: Northwest, Braniff and Mid Continental.
In 1952 his family attended Plowville, (the farm site west of Kasson), when Presidential candidates Eisenhower and Stevenson both spoke, and he remembered seeing “Ike’s” plane at the airport in Rochester.
In 1980 Mary Esther bought five flight lessons for his Christmas present as she thought that would certainly satisfy his flying interests. He got his private pilot’s license that spring and started getting an interest in owning his own plane. His friends said the Charles City, IA airport was better than Mason City so he went along for a ride in a Piper Comanche and ended up purchasing it.
During the next years the family made several vacation flights to various places across the U.S. One time while flying back to Iowa from a reserve training weekend in the Twin Cities, the fog was so dense at his local airport that he could not land so tried another airport about an hour away.
When he got there the weather conditions were just as bad so he circled the airport several times and finally, realizing his fuel supply was getting low, he came in for a landing. He could only see a few lights on the runway but made it safely! Another close call was after a plane inspection and flying back to Mason City he did not have his wheels down and made a belly landing. However the damage to the plane could be repaired, he said.
When their daughters were attending college it was too much to pay for tuition plus own a plane so it was time to sell it. After the girls finished school he bought it back again.
Brian worked 27 years for Unisys (the company went through several company buyouts and name changes) and finally all employees in his area were laid off. He was able to find a position in Rochester working in the computer field. They moved to Rochester for a short time but in 1991 Mary Esther saw a house in Kasson, near the old Kasson school, that she really liked and they made the move. Brian continued to work for different companies in the computer industry for the next several years.
Life changed in 2002 when Brian suffered a stroke which affected his left side. After several months of being hospitalized and rehab they realized he could no longer navigate the many steps in their house so they moved to a one level townhouse in Kasson.
In 2013 Brian and his two daughters, Sara and Karen, flew to Ft. Meyers, FL, for an Incredible Adventure Experience flying a DC 3. He was unable to climb the steps into the DC 3 but managed with the assistance of a forklift, and was at the controls of the plane along with another pilot for the 2½ hour flight. One of his daughters was also along in the plane and the other was in a chase plane and took photos of them while they were flying.
In 2017 Brian suffered a second stroke which left him unable to speak. They were able to get to the ER at St. Marys Hospital and he started to recover his speaking ability again.
Shortly after that he broke his right wrist (his only functional wrist) so needed more rehab at Fairview Care Center for two months before coming back home.
The Xavier’s two daughters both live in Rochester and they have seven grandchildren. They treasure family time. Sara and Karen have said that their dad has inspired them to get out and try several new activities.
Brian mentioned that he had moved beyond the magic age of 75 last year as his mother and several relatives had passed when they reached that age! When the weather cooperates, you might see Brian enjoying riding along some of the streets in Kasson on his electric scooter.