Charles Brin loved Edgar Allan Poe's "The Telltale Heart." An actor and co-founder of KFAI Fresh Air Radio and longtime host of the weekly program "Spoken Word," Brin enjoyed adopting different characters with his memorably sonorous voice every Halloween week.
On Tuesday, at the request of Beryl Greenberg, Brin's co-host and life partner of 46 years, KFAI played a recording of him reading the story one last time. He died Jan. 29 at age 92, following a life rich with theater, music, laughter and an unflagging, gregarious curiosity.
Brin grew up near Lake of the Isles in Minneapolis, where his mother, Fanny, was a noted suffragist and peace activist. After leaving the University of Minnesota to pursue an acting career in New York, he won an Off-Broadway best supporting actor award for "The Dybbuk" in 1954. He also performed on Broadway alongside Tony Randall in "Inherit the Wind."
After moving back to Minneapolis in 1960 to care for his ailing mother, Brin developed another of his many passions — psychodrama, or the practice of using performance in therapy. He went on to co-found and direct the Minnesota Institute of Psychodrama.
Brin was also a violinist, painter and a gifted chess player, recalled his niece, the dancer and author Judith Brin Ingber.
"He was my dramatic, eccentric uncle and I adored him," she said. "He made a point to attend every local performance I did."
He also continued acting in later life, landing a few roles in locally shot films including "Grumpy Old Men"and the Coen brothers' "A Serious Man," in which he played a Hebrew-school teacher.
Brin and Greenberg were familiar figures at Seward Co-op and the surrounding neighborhood, where they lived for the past 22 years. He was famous for wearing two sets of glasses because he didn't like bifocals, and polling other patrons at restaurants about their meals before ordering his own.
"The whole place would know him before we even ordered," Greenberg said. "He interacted with everyone and made a lot of friends that way."
The two began their romance on a Monday in 1969, when both were habitués of the Minneapolis West Bank scene. Greenberg remembers the date because Brin was at the Mixers, a popular bar, with friends when they decided to call on her to check out a variety show called "Laugh-In" and she was known to have a television set.
Brin was preceded in death by his parents Fanny and Arthur, brother Howard and sister Rachel Helstein. In addition to Greenberg, he is survived by many nieces, nephews and friends. A celebration of his life that was held at the Illusion Theater on Feb. 1 filled the house.
"If Michelangelo had four souls, Charles had at least 12," Rabbi Sharon Stiefel of Mayim Rabim Congregation, which counted Brin as a member, said in the eulogy.
Brin was active through the week preceding his death, attending a pizza party at KFAI and playing his violin with the Minneapolis Northeast Orchestra.
"His way of slowing down still made the rest of us look like schlubs," said KFAI general manager Leah Honsky.
Greenberg said that Brin died peacefully at home, five days before his 93rd birthday. "We got out of bed, he was doing his thing, I was doing mine. I called out and said I wanted a glass of orange juice, and he didn't answer. That was the end. It was so fast. That was a blessing."