Teacher dies in crash

School staff calls Houston irreplaceable

— Longtime Christian Heritage School teacher Brian Houston died in a motorcycle accident Saturday near Grand Junction.

Houston, 47, was traveling east in the right lane of Interstate 70 when he drifted into the adjacent eastbound left lane as he rounded a curve on his motorcycle about 15 miles east of Grand Junction, according to the Colorado State Patrol. Houston sideswiped a semi truck driven by Forrest Sadler of Loma, 46, and was thrown from his motorcycle. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Sadler was not injured.

Brian Houston's wife, Chris--tel, said Sunday that a strong gust of wind blew her husband into the other lane.

Houston was in Grand Jun--ction to finalize paperwork on a Harley-Davidson, and he was returning home on his new motorcycle when the accident occurred at about 3 p.m. Two of his children, Jessi and Tyler, were following Houston in the family's van and saw the accident, Christel Houston said. Jessi, 18, is a senior at Christian Heritage. Tyler, 17, is a junior.

"They're strong, staying positive and trusting God, and are peaceful from all the prayers," Christel Houston said about her children. Brian and Christel Houston have two other children: Melodie, 11, is a sixth-grader at Christian Heritage, and 9-year-old Andrea is in third grade.

Betty Lockhart, a former Christian Heritage principal who hired Brian Houston 14 years ago, said two Christian Heritage graduates met Jessi and Tyler in Rifle to travel with them back to Steamboat.

The Houston family's Hayden home was filled Sunday night with friends from Christian Her--itage School and Euzoa Bible Church, where Brian Houston has played piano during services for more than 10 years.

"He was a gifted man who will be sorely missed by our church and the entire community," said Rob Ryg, pastor at Euzoa Bible Church. "It's one of those things that pulls the rug out from under you."

Christel Houston said her husband's passions were his family, his music and the school where he taught.

"He really poured his life into the Christian Heritage School," she said. "He was a committed mentor to the kids and to new teachers -- no matter what ups and downs the school went through, he was always consistent. He just loved teaching."

Principal Tim Calkins said replacing Brian Houston will be impossible.

"He was really the heart and soul of this school," Calkins said, citing Houston's involvement in numerous school activities including student council, student trips to Washington, D.C., and weekly chapel services. "(The list) just goes on and on -- Brian set the bell schedule. He is not someone we will be able to replace -- we can find another teacher, but there is no way we can replace Brian Houston."

"He did so much," Lockhart said. "We don't even know how to put up the flag without him."

Calkins said Brian Houston had worked at Christian Herit--age longer than any other teacher on staff and taught Bible, history and math classes to elementary, middle and high school students.

"He always told us what he believed, and he always made sure that we knew what we believed -- that was one of my favorite things about him. He made sure that as students, we knew why we believed what we did," said Rachel Van Baak, 17, a junior at Christian Heritage. Rachel was at the Houston home Sunday night.

Brian Houston's community involvement extended far beyond the walls of Christian Heritage. He and Christel directed the Columbine Singers, a local choir group, for eight years, and they worked with children through Strings in the Mountains and the Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp.

This spring, Brian Houston was playing piano at rehearsals for the production of "South Pacific" at Steamboat Springs High School. He also played regular shows at the Three Peaks Grill with his jazz trio, The Usual Suspects.

"At anything that needed music, he was in front of the piano," Christel Houston said. "He was very humble for as much creative talent as he had."

Brian Houston grew up in central Kansas. He and Christel met in college as music majors, and they married in July 1982 in Scott's Valley, Calif.

"We were really a team -- we did everything together," said Christel, who taught music at Christian Heritage. "We'd go to work together, play music together -- he was a real family man."

Brian Houston began riding motorcycles in high school, his wife said. Owning a Harley-Davidson was a dream of his "for years."

"When he finally made up his mind to do it, he was thrilled," Christel Houston said. "He was so excited to be riding that thing...he had to have been ecstatic to be on the road with his new bike. If you could pick a way to go, that was it. He was a happy guy all the way up to the end."

Friends and family held an impromptu gathering at in Brian Houston's classroom at Christian Heritage on Saturday night.

"That was a very healthy feeling that went on last night," Calkins said. "We'll probably have some more of that."

Calkins said several pastors will be available at Christian Heritage today to talk to families and students.

"It's going to be hard day," he said.

The state patrol said an investigation of the accident is ongoing and that no charges will be filed at this time. Brian Houston was wearing a helmet and eye protection at the time of the accident.

Christel Houston said a funeral service is being planned and may be held later this week. Call Yampa Valley Funeral Home at 879-1494 for more information.

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